It has not been a banner year for the Big 12 early on. Its early favorite – Oklahoma – has two losses in the middle of September (albeit to quality teams) and up and coming Texas lost to a Cal squad which could not handle San Diego State the week before. Toss in Baylor’s off-season scandal and an uninspiring middle class and the prospect of adding Houston looks pretty good right now. Despite on-field sluggishness, a few stars are standing out in the devy community.
Premier Conference Performers
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WR KD Cannon, Baylor Bears
Nine receptions for 213 yards and two touchdowns
Even though we’re still entwined in the throes of the 2016 fantasy football season, there’s constant chatter about the 2017 rookie draft class. This mostly revolves around the running back class, a gifted and deep group which makes draftniks weep with joy. The receivers are ultimately overlooked, especially when you get into the second tier. KD Cannon was one of the few Baylor stars to stay put this off-season – possibly because he has his eyes on the NFL after 2016 – and he has emerged from the shadow of Corey Coleman to become the Bears clear top offensive playmaker. A smooth accelerator who has added nuance to his game, Cannon may not be a true elite speedster (perhaps a 4.40 guy) but he is football fast and can blow the top off any defense. His skill-set will always be coveted and he could go ahead of more heralded receivers come April.
WR James Washington, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Nine receptions for 296 yards and two touchdowns
Only a long weather delay seemed to slow down James Washington this past Saturday. He and Mason Rudolph made sweet music together as they eviscerated the Pitt Panther secondary. Despite playing what could be described as yard ball at this point, Washington is essentially unstoppable in single coverage and has incredible ball skills despite a rather modest 6’0”, 205 pound frame. Technique should come in time; at this point I am mostly interested in his tool-kit and he has talent in spades. He’s one of college football’s true playmakers and a top five receiver in the 2017 class. Turning 21 in April, he is also a very young prospect for the ageists out there.
QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech Red Raiders
26/36 for 470 yards and five touchdowns; 12 carries for 37 yards and one touchdown
Another week, another dominant statistical performance from Patrick Mahomes. The Red Raiders system, of course, lends itself to big numbers. However, Mahomes has consistently improved his play with each season and has shown an ability to make plays both under duress and on the move. Quarterbacks coming from spread systems seem to be less of a concern for NFL franchises given how much they have adopted similar philosophies, which is one of the big reasons why I like Mahomes as a draft prospect despite system red flags.
RB D’onta Foreman, Texas Longhorns
21 carries for 157 yards and two touchdowns
Despite being less heralded than his twin brother, it has been D’onta Foreman who has emerged as the better player. A rocked up 250 pounds with breakaway speed and light feet, Foreman has ingrained himself in the 2017 mix while at times carrying the Texas offense. He’s later to the party than a lot of 2017 backs but may end up going higher than many of them.
RB Terence Williams, Baylor Bears
12 carries for 79 yards and one touchdown
The mysterious departure of Johnny Jefferson has opened the door for an expanded role for Terence Williams, and he has looked great as the apprentice to Shock Linwood. Another supersized Big 12 back, Williams brings a different element to a Baylor offense which is often typecast as finesse. 2017 should really offer a chance for him to shine as Linwood moves on and he presumably assumes the feature back role.
RB Samaje Perine, Oklahoma Sooners
17 carries for 60 yards
It is not as though Samaje Perine has been a disappointment. He has just been overtaken by backfield mate Joe Mixon and has not quite built on his game as he did from his freshman to sophomore season. Still an absurdly powerful runner, Perine wins with balance, toughness, and surprisingly agile feet yet has remained mostly a meat and potatoes two down player. There’s potentially more to his game than we have seen, but as of now he looks like a committee back at the next level, albeit an effective one with numerous plus traits.
RB Mike Warren, Iowa State Cyclones
23 carries for 95 yards
The season has been miserable for Iowa State. They’re winless and were not at all competitive against Iowa or TCU. These factors tend to conspire against a lead back. However, Warren has not done himself any favors, averaging only 3.6 yards per tote after averaging 5.9 as a freshman. There’s still time to turn around his campaign but with college football all of a sudden becoming littered with talented runners, he needs to turn it around fast, lest he become another forgotten name buried in obscurity.
WR Collin Johnson, Texas Longhorns
Two receptions for 16 yards
I felt Collin Johnson was seriously overlooked in the 2016 class. Senior season injuries tend to cause prospects to plummet unfairly, and such a fate struck Johnson as he missed the entire 2015 campaign. Despite the lost season, he was an early enrollee in Austin, which has paid dividends early. While not a featured player, he’s been able to find the field for a young yet talent-laden team. With supreme size and excellent movement skills, he’s a better prospect – in my humble opinion – than the more ballyhooed Devin Duvernay. We’re unlikely to see a true breakout until 2017 at the earliest. But with Texas finally looking to have an offensive foundation in place, the pieces are in place (copyright Brett Favre) for Johnson to emerge as one of the Big 12’s best weapons.