Chris Fowler has “never seen a stranger race” for the Heisman Trophy before. The ESPN broadcaster shared that sentiment during an appearance on “The Paul Finebaum Show” on Friday as he discussed this year’s front-runners for college football’s most prestigious award.

There’s only been 1 time that a defensive player has won the Heisman — Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson in 1997 — but Fowler believes there should be “strong consideration” given to some this year. And he has 1 particular defender in mind.

“Will Anderson at Alabama, a guy that leads the nation in sacks and tackles for a loss, and has been a leader as a sophomore,” Fowler said. “You know how reluctant [Nick] Saban is to lavishly praise, especially a sophomore, but he has been unbelievable in saying what Anderson has meant to that defense. A defense that really needed leadership.”

However, Fowler also noted that Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is “going to be the top pick” among defensive players, considering he’s played so well down the stretch.

Of course, the Heisman may end up going to an offensive player, as it does the overwhelming majority of the time. And Fowler believes the top 2 choices on that side of the ball will be Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.

“Stroud has more weapons to work with than Bryce Young does. I mean the fourth receiver at Ohio State has gone down to become Alabama’s best receiver,” Fowler said. “But the embarrassment of riches that Stroud has to work with lead to the numbers he’s produced.”

Fowler went on to note that he believes Ole Miss QB Matt Corral is the “best quarterback athlete” that he’s seen and that he could have ended up as the Heisman front-runner if he had stayed healthy.

With so many options, it will be interesting to see who the Heisman voters give the award to this year.