Can Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy Make A Heisman Push In 2023?

McCarthy will need to increase his touchdown totals to compete with players like Caleb Williams



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ESPN’s Todd McShay released a mock 2024 NFL Draft earlier this month, and Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was the No. 20 selection. While the thought of a 2024 mock draft in May of 2023 may induce eye rolls from some fans, Michigan supporters should be thrilled about the possibility of McCarthy playing his way into the first round of the NFL Draft. 

The Wolverines are expected to contend for the national championship in 2023-24, as they have the fourth-shortest odds to win the title (+1000) at FanDuel. Other mobile sportsbooks, like BetMGM, have Michigan similarly priced. The Wolverines are the Big Ten betting favorite (+175 odds) at BetMGM. 

If McCarthy plays to his athletic potential in 2023-24, the Wolverines will likely be in the mix to win a national championship. Should McCarthy excel on a top-5 team in 2023-24, he may also enter the discussion to win the Heisman Trophy and be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. 

Heisman Trophy potential

McCarthy is +3000 at FanDuel to win the Heisman Trophy, the same odds as teammate Blake Corum. Given Michigan’s love for running the football with Corum, it could be a challenge for McCarthy to stand above his teammate, but he’ll have his chances, especially if Michigan looks to manage Corum’s workload to keep him healthy all season. 

Last season, McCarthy threw for 2,719 yards, 22 touchdowns, and five interceptions. He was highly efficient leading Michigan’s aerial attack, and he added 306 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. 

To win the Heisman, McCarthy will need to improve his touchdown and yardage totals. Last year’s Heisman winner, USC’s Caleb Williams, threw for over 4,000 yards and finished the season with 52 total touchdowns. McCarthy doesn’t necessarily need to match those numbers, especially if he leads Michigan to the College Football Playoff again, but he won’t win a Heisman by barely eclipsing 25 total touchdowns. 

McCarthy’s potential Heisman campaign will likely come down to late-season success. Michigan’s early season schedule is underwhelming, but the Wolverines play at Penn State, at Maryland, and home against Ohio State to end the season. Three strong performances in those games could certainly thrust McCarthy into the Heisman conversation.

No. 1 overall pick a possibility

Williams is the Heisman favorite at FanDuel (+500), and the USC gunslinger is also the favorite (-350) to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. He’s a special talent, starting at Oklahoma early in his career and now leading USC to success. Williams can run the ball, but he’s also a strong passer with pinpoint accuracy. 

McCarthy also possesses some of those elite tools that make NFL scouts salivate. 

DraftKings lists McCarthy at +5000 to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 draft, and it makes sense that he’s at least on the odds board. NFL teams are always searching for franchise-caliber quarterbacks, and quarterbacks with size and speed often jump into the first round of the draft. 

“McCarthy is intriguing because of his 6-foot-3 frame, running ability, accuracy, and arm talent,” McShay wrote in his mock draft. 

If McCarthy stars in Michigan’s offense in 2023, showcasing efficiency and big-play ability, he could easily slide into the conversation as a top-10 pick. If Williams shows any flaws or suffers an injury, it’s not unreasonable to think McCarthy will join a crop of players (mostly quarterbacks) with the potential to go No. 1 overall. He’ll need a special season to vault to Williams’ level, but McCarthy has the skills to rise up draft boards in 2023.

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