1. Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)
Having also starred in several other 2016 projects (including another Best Picture nominee, Hidden Figures), Ali had a real breakout year. That helped boost his profile and net this nomination, but it was his moving SAG acceptance speech after he won Best Supporting Actor that I think will put him over the top.
2. Dev Patel (Lion)
The star of the eight-time Oscar winning Slumdog Millionaire may seem like a veteran to voters (who did not nominate him for that awards behemoth in 2008), which will help his case here. He's the emotional center of a very moving film, and he recently won the BAFTA, making him very competitive in this close race.
3. Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)
Seventh nomination (1 win).
Though it is a relatively stock role (gruff lawman about to retire gets one last case), Bridges uses all the charm and wisdom he's accrued from decades in the industry to bring nuance to the part. Had he not won his first Oscar with Crazy Heart just seven years ago, he might be more of a threat, but he's still one to keep an eye on as an upset feels possible (especially considering this might be the only place to award the much admired Hell or High Water).
4. Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)
Playing the newly orphaned nephew to Casey Affleck's character, Hedges won stellar notices and a spot in this lineup for his breakthrough performance. Should he win, he would be the youngest male acting winner of all time (narrowly eclipsing Timothy Hutton who won for Ordinary People in 1980).
5. Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)
Just as he did with Revolutionary Road in 2008, Shannon sneaks in at the last second to nab a nomination after virtually no precursor support all season long. He's clearly well respected and will likely contend more seriously for a win in the future, but this is not his year.