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Mailbag: Defending the top 25 player list

As always, lots of responses to my list of the Big 12's top 25 players in 2011.

Here's the list.

And here's what you all had to say.

Dave in Maryland wrote: I think most of your picks are defendable, with the exception of Klein as number 7. I believe you violated your own rule: "Each player's personal role or meaning to his team is irrelevant. This is not a 'most valuable' list. It's the Big 12's best players". Klein may develop into a great QB, but I'd say that last season he was simply above average and did not make mistakes. If you were to hold a draft of the BigXII-ish QBs at the end of the season to play one more game, RG3, Weedon, Jones, Doege, Tannehill and possibly Franklin would all be drafted before him. Klein was arguably the 7th best QB in the Big 12 last season, not the 7th best player.

David Ubben: I'd totally disagree with you on that, Dave. How many guys in this league, much less quarterbacks, could take the kind of beating Klein did last year and keep going, and keep maintaining the production Klein did? The guy was getting beat up every single week and never flinched.

Additionally, he wasn't even practicing much of the second half of the season and still progressed as a passer. That makes me pretty optimistic about his 2012.

Klein may have been the seventh best passer in the Big 12, but he was easily the seventh-best player, and maybe deserved to be even higher.

Bobby in Tulsa wrote: Great list! Just curious your thoughts on Jamell Fleming. I could see maybe not making your top 25 but not even on honorable mention? What was your thought process on him? His stats and importance to the team was as important as any DB in the Big 12. Thanks. Great job, as always.

DU: It's really, really tough to grade cornerbacks in this league. I'll say that for starters. The offenses, receivers and schemes are so good that life is pretty hard out there for DBs in general.

When it comes to Fleming, I thought he underachieved a bit this year, but in retrospect, you were probably right that he deserved honorable mention. He wasn't better than Nigel Malone or Carrington Byndom this year. I feel strongly about that. But he was as good as anyone else.

For me, the lasting image of Fleming this year was those losses to Baylor and Oklahoma State when it looked like OU's secondary wasn't even playing.

He was better than that, but I probably could have contrasted that with how Oklahoma's defense struggled without Fleming in the loss to Texas Tech. That game is probably different with Fleming on the field.

So, point to the people on this one. Fleming deserved honorable mention.

J.R. in Beckley, W. Va., wrote: hey, i have an interesting question , after the top 25 player polls for the Big12 and Big East ...Griffin and Smith were the #1 players in each conference ...with that being said , who ya got between those 2 guys ? maybe even compare and/or contrast ?

DU: Well, I don't think it's even close between the two, but Smith would have probably been somewhere in my top 10 this year if I had been including West Virginia players.

Griffin is a much better athlete and a better passer than Smith, and they both had comparable weapons this year. Consider, too, that Tavon Austin helped Geno's numbers quite a bit after the catch, while Griffin's biggest asset was hitting receivers on deep balls every week.

Smith's a great player. Don't be surprised to see him at No. 1 on this list. But he wouldn't have been close just yet. Give me Griffin and Brandon Weeden by far over Smith. Landry Jones is close from a big-picture perspective, but last year, Geno was better.

Adam in Washington, D.C., wrote: David, No complaints with your top 25, I just wanted to point out I don't think you go far enough with just what Griffin means to the Baylor program. I'm not sure anybody really can, but it has gone from having a wonderful talking point to taking on a life and identity of it's own. He is discussed at every turn in regards to the draft. His career will be scrutinized from day 1 in the NFL and he will ALWAYS carry that Baylor logo. In 15 years, when Baylor has maintained success in college football (which I strongly believe they will) you will be able to look back and identify a single individual who so instrumental in resuscitating a lifeless program. This kind of stuff just doesn't happen. But he made it happen.

DU: You're preaching to the choir on that one, Adam. It's hard to put into words what Griffin means to the program now and what he'll mean over time. You simply couldn't ask for a better ambassador for your school.

Alex Okafor in Austin wrote: I didn't make your "just missed" list?

DU: Getting around this league and talking to people, you just didn't hear the kind of fear from quarterbacks and OCs about Okafor that you did about some of the other defensive ends in this league, all the defensive ends I put on the list and honorable mention ahead of Okafor.

Texas had a lot of great pieces on the defense, but simply put, Okafor didn't inspire the same kind of respect from people around the league like Frank Alexander, Ronnell Lewis and Jamie Blatnick, or even his teammate, the less-experienced but more physically gifted Jackson Jeffcoat.

Britt Fisher in Austin, Texas, wrote: You really put Moore on there, what he did to eric stevens was disgusting. Also how did Eric Ward not make your list.

DU: Sorry, I just never bought that Damontre Moore's hit on Eric Stephens was dirty. A bit late, yes, but he wasn't trying to hurt him. Moore is a heck of a player.

Also, Ward wasn't even close to the list. Have you been watching Big 12 receivers this year? Ward was probably just inside the league's top 10 if I was ranking receivers.