Standout quarterback play and high-powered offenses are usually an annual storyline in the Big 12. And with the return of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, that theme should continue into 2017. Mayfield is one of the frontrunners to win the Heisman Trophy this fall, while Rudolph is supported by the nation’s No. 1 receiving corps. The Big 12 has depth at quarterback with the continued development of Kansas State’s Jesse Ertz and the arrival of Will Grier at West Virginia. Iowa State’s Jacob Park, Texas’ Shane Buechele and Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek are breakout picks for 2017.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2017. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, previous production, 2017 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the Big 12 for 2017.
Ranking the Big 12's Quarterbacks for 2017
10. Peyton Bender, Kansas
The Jayhawks averaged only 20.3 points per game last season, but coach David Beaty has a few reasons to be optimistic in 2017. The arrival of coordinator Doug Meacham should provide a needed spark and direction for the offense, the overall talent level on this side of the ball has improved, and Bender is a potential upgrade at quarterback. The former Washington State signal-caller spent 2016 at Itawamba Community College and threw for 2,733 yards and 21 scores last fall. He’s the frontrunner to start over sophomore Carter Stanley and redshirt freshman Tyriek Starks.
Related: Big 12 Football Predictions for 2017
9. Jacob Park, Iowa State
Park is projected as one of Athlon’s top breakout quarterbacks for 2017. In his first year with the Cyclones, Park provided a spark for the offense late in the season. After close losses to Kansas State and Oklahoma, Iowa State won two out of its last three games. Park threw for 1,791 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall and finished 2016 by throwing for a career high of 371 yards in a loss against West Virginia.
8. Nic Shimonek, Texas Tech
Patrick Mahomes will be missed, but Shimonek will keep Texas Tech’s offense performing at a high level. While Shimonek doesn’t have Mahomes’ mobility, he’s a classic gunslinger with one of the Big 12’s top receiving corps at his disposal. Shimonek threw for 464 yards and six scores in limited snaps last year.
7. Zach Smith, Baylor
Arizona graduate transfer Anu Solomon and true freshman Charlie Brewer are pushing for snaps, but the guess here is Smith holds onto the starting job. After Seth Russell was lost for the year due to injury, Smith filled in as Baylor’s top quarterback for the final four games, including a 31-12 victory over Boise State in the Cactus Bowl. He finished 2016 with 1,526 yards and 13 touchdowns.
6. Kenny Hill, TCU
The Horned Frogs need more week-to-week consistency from Hill to return to the top 25 in 2017. In his first year of snaps at TCU, Hill threw for 3,208 yards and 17 touchdowns and ranked second on the team with 609 yards and 10 rushing scores. However, Hill tossed 13 picks and averaged only 7.3 yards per attempt.
5. Shane Buechele, Texas
After a promising freshman season, Buechele heads into 2017 locked into a battle for the starting job with true freshman Sam Ehlinger. Even though new coach Tom Herman has promised a competition, Buechele should emerge as the starter. And after throwing for 2,958 yards and 21 touchdowns last fall, Buechele should benefit from the arrival of Herman and develop into one of the Big 12’s top quarterbacks this fall.
4. Will Grier, West Virginia
The Mountaineers received good news this offseason when Grier was ruled eligible for the entire 2017 season. The junior should give the West Virginia offense more big-play ability in the passing game after sitting out 2016 due to NCAA transfer rules. Grier played in six games at Florida in 2015 and guided the Gators to a 6-0 mark, including wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. Over those six contests, Grier threw for 1,204 yards and 10 scores and chipped in two rushing touchdowns. Look for Grier to push for All-Big 12 honors.
3. Jesse Ertz, Kansas State
Ertz battled through a shoulder injury last season to lead Kansas State to a 9-4 record in his first full year at the controls. With a full offseason to recover, Ertz should be able to execute better in the passing attack after throwing for 1,755 yards and nine scores in 2016. While Ertz won’t post huge totals through the air, he’s likely to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards for the second year in a row. On 183 carries last fall, Ertz rushed for 1,012 yards and tied for the team lead with 12 touchdowns on the ground.
2. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Loaded. That’s the easiest way to describe Oklahoma State’s offense for 2017. Not only is Rudolph back under center and ranked as one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, the Cowboys return college football’s No. 1 receiving corps and a rising star at running back in sophomore Justice Hill. Rudolph threw for 4,091 yards and 28 touchdowns last fall and only tossed four picks on 448 attempts.
1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Top receiver Dede Westbrook is gone, but Oklahoma’s offense will continue to fire on all cylinders with Mayfield under center and Lincoln Riley calling the plays in his first season as head coach. Mayfield set a new FBS record by posting a 196.4 quarterback rating in 2016 and led all signal-callers by completing 70.9 percent of his passes last year. Additionally, Mayfield finished 2016 with 3,965 passing yards and 40 touchdowns. He’s passed for 7,665 yards in two seasons with the Sooners.