Athlon tabbed Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller as its top pick for the honor, ahead of Boyd, South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and 2012 Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M.
Athlon notes that the historical odds are stacked against Manziel winning his second award. There has been no repeat Heisman winner since Ohio State's Archie Griffin in 1975, and just one in 77 years.
Athlon's top 20 includes 11 quarterbacks, six running backs, two wide receivers, and Clowney.
In his thumbnail preview of each player's chances, Athlon's Braden Gall wrote:
2. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: Few players posted numbers comparable to Johnny Heisman, but Boyd was one of them. He led the ACC in passing efficiency (165.59) and total offense (339.2 ypg) and was fifth and seventh in each category nationally. He scored 46 total touchdowns (36 pass, 10 rush) and has a host of elite weapons returning. More importantly, this team should be the preseason favorite in the ACC with Boyd under center and Chad Morris calling the plays. He is one of few players who will have the numbers, the marquee showdowns (vs. Georgia, at South Carolina), the potential championship and the offensive support to win the Heisman.
18. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: When it comes to raw upside and physical talent, Watkins is second to none nationally. But staying healthy and focused has been an issue for the electric play-maker, causing him to miss four games in his first two years. With DeAndre Hopkins off to the NFL and his quarterback Boyd returning, the sky could be the limit for the star wideout. Consistency will be the name of the game for the junior-to-be.
Joining Miller, Boyd and Manziel in the top 20 are quarterbacks Marcus Mariota of Oregon, Aaron Murray of Georgia, Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, Taylor Martinez of Nebraska, Brett Hundley of UCLA, A.J. McCarron of Alabama, Devin Gardner of Michigan, and Derek Carr of Fresno State.
Running backs named to the list were Ka'Deem Carey of Arizona, Todd Gurley of Georgia, T.J. Yeldon of Alabama, Duke Johnson of Miami, and Lache Seastrunk of Baylor.
Southern Cal's Marquise Lee joined Watkins as the only wide receivers on the list.
Athlon also included Boyd on its list of the top 50 quarterbacks of the BCS era, at the No. 49 spot.
Texas' Vince Young topped the list, followed by Florida's Tim Tebow, Southern Cal's Matt Leinart, Stanford's Andrew Luck, Baylor's Robert Griffin III, and Virginia Tech's Michael Vick.
Other former ACC players on the list include No. 8 Chris Weinke of FSU, No. 11 Russell Wilson of NC State (and Wisconsin), No. 18 Ken Dorsey of Miami, No. 20 Philip Rivers of NC State, No. 27 Matt Ryan of Boston College, No. 32 Joe Hamilton of Georgia Tech, and No. 45 Tyrod Taylor of Virginia Tech.