Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II was the only Big 12 player was selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He was also the only player selected in the top 47 picks (Joe Mixon, No. 48).
Despite the historically bad lack of high-end prospects, the conference lost a ton of big-time players, among them All-Americans at receiver, running back and defensive end.
Here are some of the biggest Big 12 stars gone from last year and the players who are replacing them.
Patrick Mahomes, QB – Texas Tech
Replacement: Nic Shimonek
Patrick Mahomes terrorized Big 12 defenses last year, throwing for an FBS-best 5,052 yards, including one game with an FBS-record-tying 734 yards. He capitalized on the huge season with a top-10 selection in the draft.
His replacement is Nic Shimonek, a former Iowa transfer who sat out 2014, appeared in one game in 2015 and attempted 58 passes last year.
"He’s a really good thrower, loves the game, very cerebral, studies like crazy, and [he’s] gonna play at a very high level.” said head coach Kliff Kingsbury. “He’s got a great supporting cast, and you want to see him succeed because of all the work he’s put in, and the patience, and determination he’s shown.”
Dede Westbrook, WR – Oklahoma
Replacement: Jeffery Mead
Dede Westbrook (80 receptions, 1,524 yards) was the only Oklahoma receiver with more than 32 catches or 400 yards last season. He had more than twice as many catches and touchdowns (17) as any other player.
Their leading returning receiver Nick Basquine was lost for the season with a torn Achilles, leaving a pile of little-used upperclassmen and inexperienced youngsters. Baker Mayfield isn't worried and doesn't appreciate the questions.
"Y'all are going to have to show some respect for my receivers," Mayfield tweeted on Aug. 9. "People saying I don't have help, say what you want about me. Not my guys. But the great thing about that is, we're just going to show the world in less than a month."
One of the players who could "show the world" on Sept. 2 vs. UTEP is senior Jeffery Mead. He doesn't have the explosiveness of Westbrook and won't sniff 1,500 yards but can be a reliable 50-60-catch weapon.
Jordan Willis, DE – Kansas State
Replacement: Reggie Walker
Reggie Walker — whom I have repeatedly gushed over this offseason — was a Freshman All-American last year after an 10.5-tackle for loss and 4.5-sack season. They're similar numbers to what Jordan Willis — a third-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals — had as a sophomore in 2014 before he turned a corner in 2015.
Walker will be aided by a strong secondary, led by D.J. Reed and Duke Sheeley, that will give him plenty of time to disrupt the pocket.
D'Onta Foreman, RB – Texas
Replacements: Chris Warren III and Kyle Porter
D'Onta Foreman took advantage of Chris Warren's injury last year to record 2,028 rushing yards, the 23rd-highest total in FBS history. With Foreman now with the Texans, the attention is back on Warren to provide a similar punch for the Longhorns.
Warren, however, still can't stay on the field. He's not only missed 12 games to injuries in two seasons, he went down with a hamstring injury during the first spring practice and suffered a concussion during fall camp. Though he did return to practice, the repeated injury run-ins are becoming a huge issue.
Another injury — or coach's decision — may put Kyle Porter in the No. 1 role. A four-star member of their 2016 class, Porter ran for 205 yards last year.
Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, RB – Oklahoma
Replacements: Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson
Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine combined for 5,543 total yards and 46 touchdowns the last two years. Lincoln Riley and Baker Mayfield proved how well they know how to use multiple all-purpose backs.
Now they try to prove it again with two different, unproven backs in sophomores Abdul Adams and Rodney Anderson.
"[Anderson is] our most seasoned guy and understands things a little better than some of our younger guys,” said running backs coach Jay Boulware said. “I'm really pleased with where he's at right now. After our first day in pads, he's looked really good.”
Both are former four-star recruits (Adams in 2016, Anderson in 2015) who were ranked among the top running backs in the class. Anderson had one carry in two appearances as a true freshman before missing all of 2016 with an injury, while Adams played well as a true freshman last year, averaging 5.3 yards on 53 carries (283 yards).