Ranking the Big 12's best players: No. 7

The official list of the Big 12's top 25 players is locked away in a vault in an undisclosed location, but we're revealing the list day by day here on the blog. Here's a refresher on my exact criteria.

We're inside the top 10 now, so things should heat up a little bit. Have a gripe with the list? Let me know in the mailbag.

No. 7: Daniel Thomas, RB, Kansas State

2010 numbers: Thomas carried the ball 298 times for 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also caught 27 passes for 171 yards and completed 4 of 8 passes for 105 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Most recent ranking: Thomas was ranked No. 2 in our preseason list of the Big 12's top 25 players.

Making the case for Thomas: His big year in 2009 gave way to an encore in 2010 that established Thomas as the Big 12's best running back. Unlike the other running backs on this list, DeMarco Murray and Kendall Hunter, Thomas isn't supported by a top-notch passing game. Oklahoma State and Oklahoma ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in passing offense in 2010, both averaging more than 340 yards passing per game.

Kansas State ranked ninth, with fewer than 180.

And yet, Thomas averaged less than half a yard less per carry than Hunter and nearly a full yard more than Murray. Defenses stacked the box to keep Thomas from beating them, and he did it anyway, enough times to carry the Wildcats back to a bowl game for the first time since 2006. Thomas is a balanced back with deceptive straight-line speed, and definitely the most instinctive back in the conference with the best vision. As impressive as his 1,585 yards were, the most in the Big 12 on the most carries with the most touchdowns, it's amazing how much more productive he could have been if the passing game had supported him a little more and softened up defenses so he had more room to operate.

The rest of the list: