In this week's Big 12 roundtable, we break down our top 25 conference player ranking, which will conclude Friday with the league's top five players.
Who, so far, is ranked too low?
Brandon Chatmon: Oklahoma defensive lineman Charles Walker will outperform his No. 14 ranking. True enough it sounds crazy to say a player who has not started a collegiate game is better than the 14th-best player in the Big 12. Yet the Big 12 coaches may agree with me considering he landed on the coaches' All-Big 12 second-team after not starting a game a year ago. Walker managed six sacks and 10 tackles for loss in a complementary role last season so I'm expecting him to be even better this season. I wouldn't be surprised if he is battling for Defensive Player of the Year honors in December.
Mitch Sherman: Iowa State receiver Allen Lazard rated behind only James Washington in receiving yards per game in 2015 among returning players. Yes, ahead of KD Cannon and Kavontae Turpin, both of whom found a spot above Lazard. Lazard also tops all returning receivers in the league with his 56 catches. And he did it all at Iowa State, which naturally contributes to his underrated status.
Max Olson: You could make a valid case we're underestimating Shock Linwood by putting him at No. 15. He has rushed for more than 3,400 yards and 34 touchdowns over three seasons. As long as he's healthy this season, Linwood should end up being one of the most productive backs the Big 12 has ever seen.
Jake Trotter: It feels like the group ranked 17th-through-20th (KaVontae Turpin, Steven Parker, Elijah Lee, Jordan Sterns) could easily be ranked 11th-through-14th. Parker and Turpin especially feel like they should probably be top 15.
Who outside the top 10 could top this list at the end of the season?
Chatmon: I don't see anyone outside the top 10 jumping up to take the top spot, particularly with the star power on the offensive side of the ball in the form of Baker Mayfield, Patrick Mahomes, Mason Rudolph and Samaje Perine. Yet it wouldn't be surprising to see Walker catapult himself into the top five or see Texas tackle Connor Williams make a similar leap to find himself alongside the conference's top offensive skill players.
Sherman: Sure, earlier I questioned Turpin's place among the hierarchy of receivers in the rankings. But his ceiling is higher than the rest, save for Washington. If TCU manages its quarterback situation well and matures into a high-powered offense again this fall, Turpin may fit into Josh Doctson's former role as the go-to receiver. If so, you've seen what can happen. And that's not to mention his impact on special teams. Few players in the Big 12 are more electric.
Olson: I went back and checked. Last summer, we left Baker Mayfield out of our preseason top 25. The year before that, we definitely didn't consider Trevone Boykin. So maybe the safest bet for a big move from outside the top 10 is an overlooked quarterback. I'll go with TCU's Kenny Hill, even though he hasn't won the job yet. He's matured from the highs and lows of that season at Texas A&M, he's surrounded by skill talent and he's playing in a great scheme.
Trotter: It's difficult to see any non-quarterback making that big of a jump, and we didn't have a quarterback ranked 11-through-25. So I'll go with Kenny Hill as well. Who knows, he might not even win the starting job at TCU. But he also possesses the kind of upside to become a top-five Big 12 player.
Who has the biggest gripe about being left off?
Chatmon: Baylor's Travon Blanchard is a overshadowed performer for the Bears. Andrew Billings, Shawn Oakman and Xavien Howard made it easy to overlook Blanchard's importance to Baylor's defense but I'm thinking the junior nickel back, who makes plays all over the field, will rise to the forefront for Baylor's defense this fall.
Sherman: I could go with the defensive players as a whole, considering only three snuck into the top 17. But this is the Big 12, where offense reigns. Nevertheless, TCU defensive end Josh Carraway came on strong enough at the end of last season to deserve a spot here. He notched 4.5 sacks in the Horned Frogs' finishing stretch against Oklahoma, Baylor and Oregon. Carraway was a first-team All-Big 12 pick at a premier position last year and looks set to serve as an anchor up for what ought to be a much-improved defensive unit this fall.
Olson: Jake hit on this with the Take Two the other day, but I won't be surprised if West Virginia receiver Shelton Gibson ends up in our postseason top 25. He's a playmaker and he doesn't get enough attention. He averaged 24 yards per catch last year and caught touchdowns in six of West Virginia's first seven games. He's got a dependable quarterback who can get him the ball. Gibson should be a 1,000-yard guy this season and put together a really fun highlight reel.
Trotter: I argued earlier in the week that I felt West Virginia wideout Shelton Gibson was one of the 25 best players in the conference. In his first season as a stater, he finished sixth in the league in receiving, despite playing in a passing game that was up and down all season. I think he could be in for a big year.