We’ve hit the end of the Big 12 season, and in fitting fashion Oklahoma State’s trip to Norman will ultimately decide the conference champion. The Sooners are holding on to slim playoff hopes while a Cowboys win would give them a spot in a fairly strong bowl. Elsewhere in the league, Charlie Strong is out at Texas while Tom Herman is in; the highly coveted former Houston coach gets his turn at rebuilding a moribund Texas program. He will get to do so with a talented young core. Say what you will about Strong: he added a lot of talent over his final two seasons and the talent is there to make quick strides. Shane Buechele in particular will be a boon to Herman’s chances. While he experienced the usual ups and downs of a college football freshman, Buechele appears to be locked and loaded as the Texas signal-caller for at least the next two seasons. Not having to start over at the quarterback position is a huge help.
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Premier Conference Performers
QB Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech Red Raiders
30 of 46 for 586 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions
Patrick Mahomes has quietly been one of the nation’s best signal-callers, routinely having to post absurd numbers to simply keep the Red Raiders competitive given their embarrassing defensive performances. His 2017 draft decision still looms; he will assuredly be peppered with concerns regarding the offense he plays in. While they’re valid, I am more encouraged by Mahomes’ ability to improvise within the offense and throw from many different platforms. I’d be comfortable investing in him in the late first or early second.
WR Keke Coutee, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Eight receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns
Hey, another Texas Tech receiver. The prolific passing offense of the Red Raiders spreads the football out enough to get a variety of receivers involved, and Keke Coutee was this week’s beneficiary, aiding him to a 200+ yard and multiple score effort. I’d be lying if I said I knew anything about his game, but his monster performance puts him in this article for one week, which I am sure is the pinnacle of his existence.
WR Shelton Gibson, West Virginia Mountaineers
Three receptions for 161 yards and two touchdowns
Shelton Gibson has not exploded in 2016, as many had expected. He has, however, continued to show his flair for the big play, posting 23.2 yards per catch after notching a 24.0 clip in 2015. His rolling numbers are still plenty good; he’s closing in on his first 1,000 yard season and now has 17 touchdowns over the past two seasons. I don’t know if Gibson is anything more than a complementary receiver at the next level, but he does not get discussed nearly enough when dissecting the 2017 wide receiver class, presuming he declares.
WR Ishmael Zamora, Baylor Bears
12 receptions for 155 yards and one touchdown
Baylor has collapsed of late, but it has not stopped Ishmael Zamora from stepping in as the clear number two receiver and the ideal running mate to KD Cannon. Zamora looks huge against Big 12 defenders and can physically dominate when his game is running hot. He’s operated mostly as a possession receiver during 2016, though he has the ball skills to make plays downfield as well. It seems unlikely he declares for 2017, though he could take advantage of a rather uninspiring class and make the leap. If he returns, he should be one of college football’s more productive receivers and potentially one of its top receiving prospects as well.
WR Collin Johnson, Texas Longhorns
4 receptions for 51 yards
I’ve been pretty smitten with Collin Johnson ever since the recruiting process, and he has slowly but surely worked his way up the depth chart and has finished the season on a high note despite struggles of the Texas passing game. A mammoth of a man at 6’6”, he still moves with grace and has shown the ability to win at the catch point. If he can gain a physical edge which can separate receivers from the rest of the pack, he could be an extremely dangerous weapon in Austin and one of the league’s better receivers. The 2019 receiver class has had some excellent early returns and Johnson is one of its better prospects.
WR Allen Lazard, Iowa State Cyclones
4 receptions for 103 yards
It is not his play which lands Allen Lazard on this list. He’s been a consistent bright spot for a bad football team and has made next level plays throughout the course of his career in Ames. His decision to return for his senior season, however, knocks him down a smidge; losing a year from your assets is a fairly big deal given how short careers and win-windows can be. Lazard had the look of a strong day two pick in 2017. While the 2018 class does not look too daunting, he will have to contend with some interesting prospects to be one of the first receivers taken. His ranking may largely depend on the decisions of other draft-eligible receivers who still need to make up their mind (guys like Courtland Sutton/James Washington/the aforementioned Ishmael Zamora could shift the balance of power between the two classes). I still trust in Lazard long-term and would be excited to own him in devy leagues. He’s just going to make you wait an extra year, and is unlikely to improve his draft stock to the degree of someone like Corey Davis, whose decision to return to school looks wise at this point.