The 2010 Top Heisman Contenders
Jacory Harris, Dion Lewis, & Terrelle Pryor
Jacory Harris, Dion Lewis, & Terrelle Pryor
Posted Dec 13, 2009

Mark Ingram is so 2009. Most of the top players are going to leave early win an NFL rookie salary cap looming, but the 2010 Heisman race should be more interesting (if Ingram doesn't run away with it). Here's an early look at the top 20 contenders along with those who should be in the race, but won't be.

The Early 2010 Heisman Look

By Pete Fiutak 

- 2009 Early Heisman Look (But note that it was done before several NFL declarations)

No defensive player has a chance (proven by Ndamukong Suh), it would take something amazing for a non-BCS player to be in the mix (proven by Case Keenum), and wide receivers need not apply (proven by Golden Tate). The Heisman goes to the top quarterback or running back on the top teams, period.

The 2010 Heisman race could be a bit thin. The 2011 NFL collective bargaining agreement will almost certainly have a hard rookie salary cap that could cut rookie salaries in half, if not more, meaning that everyone who has any thoughts of being a top 100 pick, even if more development is needed, would be crazy to stay around for another year. Even so, there are just enough good-looking underclassmen who have to come back to make the chase worth paying attention to.

The Top 20 Heisman Candidates In 2010 Will Likely Be ...
The best players who'll likely be back for another year.

1. Mark Ingram, RB Alabama
They reigning Heisman winner was only a sophomore and he just might be scratching the surface of how good he could become. Think Ron Dayne with a bit more pizzazz.

2. Case Keenum, QB Houston
Ignored at the end of the 2009 Heisman race after being among the front-runners for a long stretch, he'll have the buzz, the receivers, and the head coach to be in New York.

3. Jacory Harris, QB Miami
If Miami is as good as it's supposed to be next year, Harris will be the marquee name. He would've been in the 2009 Heisman mix had Miami won the ACC title.

4. Terrelle Pryor, QB Ohio State
He's due to become the superstar everyone has waited for. He'll have the talent around him to finally live up to the hype.

5. Kellen Moore, QB Boise State
He got ten first place votes, likely all from the greater Boise area, but he was the nation's most efficient passer this year with 39 touchdowns and just three interceptions. More will take notice next season.

6. Dion Lewis, RB Pitt 
Hook up all 120 head coaches up to a lie-detector and ask them if they'd rather have Lewis, who finished third in the nation in rushing, or Mark Ingram, and you'd likely get a 50/50 split.

7. Jake Locker, QB Washington
He chose to come back for his senior season instead of being the possible No. 1 pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. Now the spotlight will be on all season long, and if he plays like a No. 1 pick, he could be on the way to New York both in early December and late April.

8. LaMichael James, RB Oregon
LeGarrette Blount will be off to the NFL, but Jeremiah Masoli will steal rushing yards and touchdowns. Even so, James will be one of the IT Players of 2010.

9. John Brantley, QB Florida
Tebow was a legend and an all-timer who'll be impossible to replace. Brantley will make more money in the NFL.

10. Jacquizz Rodgers, RB Oregon State
All Quizz has done is run for 2,630 yards and 31 touchdowns, and catch 103 passes for 756 yards and two scores, in his first two seasons.

11. Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri
After bombing away over the second half of the season, Gabbert should grow into the Big 12's most dangerous passer.

12. Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech
He'd be higher but Darren Evans is coming back and Tyrod Taylor always takes yards away.

13. Jeremiah Masoli, QB Oregon
Remember, Dennis Dixon probably would've won the 2007 Heisman if he hadn't blown out his knee. Masoli is the type of quarterback  who could be the right combination of leader and stat-producer to get to New York.

14. Christian Ponder, QB Florida State
Ponder was having a monstrous season before getting hurt. He could become special now that Jimbo has the full-time gig.

15. Garrett Gilbert, QB Texas
Remember, Vince Young couldn't be replaced, either. Gilbert might be the most talented quarterback Mack Brown has ever coached.

16. Josh Nesbitt, QB  Georgia Tech
His passing numbers will keep him from ever winning the Heisman, but if he cranks out another ACC title and comes up with a huge rushing season, he could be a fringe finalist.

17. Matt Barkley, QB USC
He's way too talented to have a dud of a career. Relax ... he was a true freshman.

18. Landry Jones, QB  Oklahoma
Oklahoma quarterbacks have flourished under Bob Stoops. Josh Heupel, Jason White, and Sam Bradford were all Heisman-worthy, and in time with a stronger line in front of him, Jones could be the same type of player.

19. Taylor Potts, QB Texas Tech
The Texas Tech quarterback always puts up huge yards and Heisman stats, but Graham Harrell didn't even get an invite two years ago and there's no guarantee that Potts will be the man. Even if he is the starter, the clock will be ticking on how long he'll last before he's pulled.

20. Jerrod Johnson, RB Texas A&M
The stats are going to be amazing. A&M could be one of 2010's breakthrough teams if the light goes on in Year Three under Mike Sherman.

21. A.J. Green, WR Georgia  
A wide receiver had to be put on here somewhere. Green might not be Julio Jones talent-wise, but he'll have better stats. Over the first five games of 2009, Green was a Heisman-worthy receiver.

The Major Heisman Contenders Who Won't Be Around
They're nuts if they choose to come back for another year instead of making lots of money in the NFL, but if they come back, they'll all be among the top 20 Heisman prospects.

1. Ryan Mallett, QB Arkansas
2. Jahvid Best, RB California
3. John Clay, RB Wisconsin
4. Ryan Matthews, RB Fresno State
5. Jonathan Dwyer, RB Georgia Tech
6. DeMarco Murray, RB Oklahoma
7. Noel Devine, RB West Virginia
8. Jevan Snead, QB Ole Miss
9. Evan Royster, RB Penn State

The Great Players Who Won't Be In The Heisman Hunt Because of Where They Play
These players will deserve to be ranked among the best in 2010, but won't be in the Heisman race because they don't play for the right teams.

1. Donald Buckram, RB UTEP
2. Bernard Pierce, RB Temple
3. Andy Dalton, QB TCU
4. Dwight Dasher, QB MTSU
5. Colin Kaepernick, QB Nevada
6. Brynn Harvey, RB UCF
7. Vai Taua, RB Nevada
8. Darius Marshall, RB Marshall
9. Trevor Vittatoe, QB UTEP
10. Ryan Lindley, QB San Diego State