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The Five Most Valuable Players for Oklahoma State in 2017



Late last Thursday evening, I was laying in a hotel room in Charlotte, North Carolina wondering if Thorbjorn Olesen would in fact become the first man with the nickname Thunderbear to win a major championship in golf. I picked up my phone to check it one final time before going to sleep — aside: I’ve deleted Twitter from my phone in non-major weeks, and I’ll never go back — and it was absolutely on fire.

Pardon My Take had fired off a tweet about how James Washington was going to miss the first four games of the season, and there were flames coming from my USB-C port. But what I realized in the very moment that I thought Washington was done for a significant portion of the season is that I didn’t care as much as I thought I would.

Easy to say now, I suppose, but my rationale was that if you’re going to lose a superstar, that’s the one to lose. You can replace, what, 85 or 90 percent of what he does with other wide receivers and still fulfill something close to your potential. Look, I’m not saying I want No. 28 to miss a significant amount of time, only that there are worse players to go without for the first third of the season.

In fact, let’s take a look at a few of those. I’ve put together a list of who I think are the five most valuable players of 2017 for Oklahoma State. That is, the five they can least afford to lose.

1. Mason Rudolph

This would be like if Bryan Cranston had been seriously injured during the final season of Breaking Bad. I mean, you can keep going, and it might be all right. But it could have been something spectacular. Time to cook, Mason.

2. Justice Hill

I think I would rather lose Washington for the season than Justice for six games. Also, how funny is it that this time last year we (myself included!) were writing off some freshman starting in the Big 12, and now he’s the second-most important player to Oklahoma State’s success?

3. Tre Flowers

We talk a lot about Oklahoma State’s relative youth at cornerback, but what happens if Tre Flowers goes down? You’re left with a safety who hasn’t played the position before in college (Ramon) and two other seniors who totaled 12 tackles last year. After that it’s all underclassmen. I think the gap between Flowers and the rest of the guys at that position is wide — maybe not as wide as at QB or RB — but it’s up there.

Plus, it seems like No. 31 is going to be the soul of the defense this year in the same way Jordan Sterns was last season. And if not him, then it will probably be this next guy.

4. Chad Whitener

He is the Mason Rudolph of the defense, although not as valuable because guys like Justin Phillips and Patrick Macon exist. Nevertheless, losing No. 45 would be a huge blow to a defensive unit that needs all the maturity it can get. It was interesting talking to him at Big 12 Media Days. He talked about how steep the learning curve is for somebody like Patrick Macon who, to me, is more physically gifted. I think it points to the fact that at Whitener’s position, experience is invaluable.

“I feel more mentally prepared this year because there’s a lot that goes into it, especially more than you would think coming from high school,” said Whitener earlier this fall. “You think football is the biggest thing, but coming up here you have so much more to worry about. I’m much more mentally prepared for everything this year.”

5. James Washington

I wanted to put Brad Lundblade here because I think he’s important, and I think the gap between him and backup Johnny Wilson is vast.

“It’s great, especially having my center with me for four years,” said Mason Rudolph recently. “Brad (Lundblade) is tremendous and very knowledgeable. He can see safety rotation and all the different looks that we get from our defense and other defenses.”

But I have to go with The President. Carson brought this up on our podcast on Thursday. Losing Washington might not seem like a big deal because of the plethora of riches you have at WR, but he’s probably your best player. Any time you lose your best player, by definition you’re not going to be as good as you would have been with him.

Plus, I think he opens up the field in ways the other NFL talents OSU has at WR are just not able to. As much as I want to think losing No. 28 for an extended period of time would not be a big deal, losing No. 28 for any amount of time probably would be a pretty big deal.

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