1. Baker Mayfield, junior QB, Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield was the conductor for the train, leading the Oklahoma Sooners to an 11-2 overall record, 8-1 in the Big 12 and a Big 12 Championship. He threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns while running for 405 yards and seven touchdowns. With the strength of the Sooners this year, Mayfield could drive them to a potential spot in the College Football Playoff, and possibly a spot for himself in New York at the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
2. Patrick Mahomes II, junior QB, Texas Tech
With as explosive of a player as Patrick Mahomes is, and the offense that Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury runs, Mahomes could put up absurd numbers in 2016. Mahomes threw for 4,653 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2015. The statistics look promising for Mahomes, but the success of the Red Raiders this year will depend on how many points the defense gives up.
3. Samaje Perine, junior RB, Oklahoma
The Sooners may have the best 1-2 punch in the backfield this year with Samaje Perine and sophomore Joe Mixon. Both running backs were in the Top 10 of the Big 12 rushing statistics last year, but Perine took the bulk of more carries, recording 1,349 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns on 226 attempts. Not being able to zone in on just one running back, and the play of Baker Mayfield, primes Perine for a stellar junior year.
4. Mike Warren, sophomore RB, Iowa State
Although Iowa State usually struggles to actually win games and make an impact in the conference, Mike Warren broke out as a freshman and showed he could play. Warren rushed for 1,339 yards and five touchdowns, finishing third in the Big 12 in rushing stats. The Cyclones will struggle once again this year as a team, but Warren will shine.
5. James Washington, junior WR, Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy’s mullet may be the talk of the town right now in Stillwater, Oklahoma, but what that “party in the back” shouldn’t cover is what James Washington brings to the field for the Cowboys. Reeling in 53 catches for 1,087 yards and 10 touchdowns last year, Washington helped guide the Cowboys to a 10-3 overall record, 7-2 in the conference and just one game shy of a conference title. With junior Mason Rudolph under center this year, Washington looks to be a big factor at wideout for Oklahoma State this year.
6. Byron Pringle, sophomore WR, Kansas State
I know, I know. Byron Pringle hasn’t even played a snap of Big 12 football, so how can he be so high, or even crack, this list? But there is no doubt in my mind that Pringle will make waves, both for the Wildcats and in the Big 12 this year. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Pringle has the frame to be like what Josh Doctson was for TCU last season. Pringle was the ninth-best wide receiver in community college last year and with Jesse Ertz (presumably) back at the helm for K-State, Pringle provides a huge offensive threat for the Wildcats.
7. Shock Linwood, senior RB, Baylor
Yes, there actually is some good news coming out of Baylor this year. Not much, but some. Linwood rushed for 1,329 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2015, as Baylor finished in fourth place in the Big 12. With Seth Russell back at quarterback and Linwood returning, the Bears might enjoy one more year of prominence. But for Linwood’s sake, I’d say it’s a good thing this is his final year at Baylor.
8. Mason Rudolph, junior Quarterback, Oklahoma State
I already outlined his top target in Washington, but Rudolph shows a lot of potential for Oklahoma State the next two seasons. He threw for 3,770 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore. The Cowboys are already a contender in the conference this year, as the media has projected them to finish third. But with Rudolph having a full year under his belt, the finish could be even higher.
9. Joe Mixon, sophomore RB, Oklahoma
As stated earlier, the Sooners have the best backfield in the conference. Mixon is one part of that two-headed monster. Although he only rushed for 753 yards and seven touchdowns last year, he was just one more threat the Sooners could run out on the field. And with all the defenses keying in on stopping Perine, Mixon will be a sneaky attack for Bob Stoops.
10. Winston Dimel, sophomore FB, Kansas State
This one might come off as a little bit of a homer pick, but hear me out. Dimel ran for only 86 yards and six touchdowns last year while reeling in eight catches for 261 yards and two scores receiving. But that was all while sharing the position with Glenn Gronkowski last year. Now Gronkowski has departed for the NFL and the position is all Dimel’s. The pop-pass seems to be K-State’s go-to play for Dimel, but the Manhattan native could do even more this year as the only fullback his father, co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel, will use.