2019 Preseason Award Projections: Thorpe Award

By Charlie Campbell
Send Charlie an e-mail here: [email protected]
Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell for updates.

Heading into the 2019 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and the next fall’s stars could be the headline players next May for the 2020 NFL Draft. We also will project the winners of the postseason awards that are given out to the best of college football.

The Jim Thorpe Award is given to the top defensive back in college football. Last year the Thorpe Award went to Georgia cornerback DeAndre Baker.

Thorpe Award Winner:

Grant Delpit, LSU

Prior to Minkah Fitzpatrick winning it in 2017, the majority of recent Thorpe Award Winners were players who were among the nation’s leaders in interceptions or very productive in that category. Desmond King was second in the nation with seven picks the year he won it, and a previous winner was Gerod Holliman from Louisville, who had 14 interceptions in his final season before being a seventh-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. However, Fitzpatrick and last year’s winner DeAndre Baker did not have prolific seasons producing interceptions, so it appears that the Thorpe voters are taking into more account a player’s cover skills and how well he defends the pass. It would not surprise me, or any college football observers, if Delpit is among the very best defensive backs in college football this fall, and he is a strong candidate to win the Thorpe Award.

Delpit really could have won the award a year ago, as he was all over the field for the Tigers and impossible to ignore. He recorded 74 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, five sacks, nine passes batted and five interceptions on the year. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder has excellent instincts to go along with a good combination of size and speed. It could be hard for him to duplicate that tremendous stat line as a junior, but if he comes close to it, he could easily win the Thorpe Award, as one could argue that it would be righting a wrong from 2017. If Delpit is consistent to last year, he will win a lot of postseason honors and the Thorpe Award could be one of them.

Thorpe Runner-Up:

C.J. Henderson, Florida

Henderson was really impressive as a freshman in 2017, showing excellent coverage skills with ball skills. He totaled four interceptions with four passes broken up and 22 tackles on the year. As a sophomore, Henderson was even better, totaling 38 tackles with two sacks, seven passes broken up, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. The 6-foot-1, 186-pounder has excellent size to go along with speed, cover ability, and ball skills. He could produce a big junior year and end up winning prizes like the Thorpe Award.

Thorpe Dark Horse:

Shyheim Carter, Alabama

Carter was very good for Alabama during the 2018 season and played better than his stats illustrated. He took over the star position that had previously been played by Minkah Fitzpatrick. Like Fitzpatrick, Carter showed an ability to play safety and slot cornerback. He totaled two interceptions, 10 breakups, one forced fumble and 27 tackles in 2018. Carter could be even better in 2019 with his increased experience and development from the Crimson Tide coaching staff. It wouldn’t surprise me if he puts together a massive year and gets a lot of accolades, including the Thorpe Award.

Honorable Mentions: Alabama CB Trevon Diggs, Utah CB Jaylon Johnson, Mississippi State CB Cameron Dantzler, Clemson CB A.J. Terrell, Virginia CB Bryce Hall, Ohio State CB Shaun Wade, Florida CB Marco Wilson, LSU CB Kristian Fulton, Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah, Notre Dame CB Troy Pride Jr., Michigan CB Lavert Hill, Clemson S Isaiah Simmons, Alabama S Xavier McKinney, Michigan S Khaleke Hudson and Indiana S Marcelino Ball.

Fantasy Football Rankings - May 23

2025 NFL Mock Draft - May 21

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

NFL Picks - Feb. 12