Our 2013 NCAA Football season preview continues on with the best wide receivers in the country, which is an exciting group of players, who are loaded with talent. While there is no player that stands out like Calvin Johnson once did during his days at Georgia Tech, there are a lot of players who will be making plays on Sundays in the near future, and who will become household names during the course of the 2013 college football season. There are several players who have produced beyond expectations throughout their college careers, others who need a bounce back season in 2013 after struggles in 2012, and others who may become breakout stars this season. Let’s get to the list:
Marqise Lee – Junior, (6’0 195lbs) USC – Lee is an explosive playmaker who has made a highlight reel a mile long during his first two seasons at USC. Lee may not be tall, but he is a burner, who can beat a defense deep or take a short reception a long way by running after the catch. His numbers were ridiculous during his sophomore season, as he caught 118 passes for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns. He was just as impressive as a true freshman in 2011 when he caught 73 passes for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is also one of the best return men in the country, and has returned a kickoff for a score in each of his first two seasons. With Matt Barkley now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, Lee will work with a new starting quarterback for the first time since his freshman year, and it may take some time for the two to get in synch. However, in what will likely be his final year as a Trojan, expect a huge season and a lot of highlights out of the dangerous Lee.
Sammy Watkins – Junior, (6’1 205lbs) Clemson – Watkins was incredible as a freshman at Clemson during the 2011 season, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, he looked like the next big college football superstar. During his sophomore season in 2012, Watkins took a major step back, as off the field issues forced him to miss three games. Teammate DeAndre Hopkins, a first round pick with the Houston Texans became quarterback Tajh Boyd’s favorite target, and Watkins struggled catching just 57 passes for 708 yards and 3 touchdowns. In what will be Tajh Boyd’s senior season, he needs Sammy Watkins to step up both on and off the field, and become the scoring threat that he was as a freshman. Watkins needs to turn into his old self on the field and prove that he is a changed man off the field, if he wants to again catch the attention of NFL scouts. He has the talent, he has the skill, I think 2013 could be a big year for Watkins and Clemson.
Amari Cooper – Sophomore (6’1 200lbs) Alabama – As a true freshman, Cooper helped the Crimson Tide win the BCS Championship, and proved to be the best wide receiver to play for Alabama since Julio Jones. Cooper caught 59 passes for exactly 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns on a team that won games by running the ball and playing defense. Quarterback A.J. McCarron will be a senior in 2013, and although Alabama will still lean heavily on the running game, I expect head coach Nick Saban to allow McCarron to throw the ball more to impress NFL scouts. This bodes well for his talented sophomore wide receiver, Cooper should get targeted a lot more in 2013, which will give him the opportunity to make more big plays for the Crimson Tide offense.
Mike Evans – Sophomore (redshirt), (6’5 225lbs) Texas A&M – The best big wide receiver in the country quickly became Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s favorite target in 2012, and he proved that he is a reliable one, as Evans caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and 5 touchdowns. Evans is an interesting prospect, because he has elite size, which is an attribute that many of the top receivers in the country lack in 2012. He is a reliable target in the red zone, who also can produce by running after the catch, plus he is a great athlete for his size. Fellow redshirt sophomore “Johnny Football” should look for Evans downfield early and often during the 2013 season, expect him to produce.
Brandon Coleman – Junior, (6’6 220lbs) Rutgers – Another huge target with a lot of upside, Coleman showed flashes as a freshman in 2011. He caught only 17 passes, but those receptions went for 552 yards and 6 touchdowns, so the Scarlet Knights knew he had big-play-ability. As a sophomore in 2012, Coleman showed that he was a more reliable target who still had the ability to score from anywhere on the field, as he caught 43 passes for 710 yards and 10 touchdowns. In two seasons at Rutgers, over a quarter of Coleman’s receptions have ended up in the end zone for six points. Coleman has to prove that he can produce more steadily, and that he can be more of an every-down threat, but all of the tools are there for a huge season in 2013 .
Jordan Matthews – Senior, (6’3 205lbs) Vanderbilt – Matthews was one of the most reliable wide receivers in the country as a junior in 2012, when he caught 94 passes for 1,323 yards and 8 touchdowns. He is not a burner, but runs excellent routes and has great hands, he does have quickness which he surprises defensive backs with. He performed well against some of the best defenses in the country, catching at least 8 passes for over 100 yards against Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. A tough receiver, he will go up and get the ball in traffic, and take the big hit to benefit the team.
Dorial Green-Beckham – Sophomore, (6’6 220lbs) Missouri – Dorial Green-Beckham was one of the most hyped true freshman recruits in the country last season, but he battled through injuries, and finished the 2012 season with just 28 catches for 395 yards and 5 touchdowns. The good news for Missouri fans is that most of Green-Beckham’s production (21 catches, 267 yards, 4 touchdowns) came in the Tigers final five games. If anyone in the country has the potential to develop into a Calvin Johnson level wide receiver in 2013, it is Green-Beckham, who has a scary combination of size and athleticism for the position. Superstar potential.
Austin Hill – Junior, (6’3 210lbs) Arizona – Hill blossomed into a big time playmaker during his sophomore season in 2012, catching 81 passes for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns, while dominating the best programs on the Wildcat’s schedule. Hill had huge games against Stanford (11 catches, 165 yards, 2 TDs), USC (10 catches, 259 yards), Oklahoma State (5 catches, 124 yards), and Nevada (9=8 catches, 175 yards, 2 touchdowns). Hill has a great combination of size, speed and hands. Hill is a name who most of the nation is not currently familiar with, but they will be shortly, especially if he can perform the way that he did in big games more consistently.
Malcolm Mitchell – Junior, (6’1 190bs) Georgia – Mitchell came into Georgia unsure of which side of the ball he would be playing on, in 2011 he mostly played wide receiver, while as a sophomore in 2012 he played both cornerback and wide receiver. Finally in 2013, Mitchell can focus on playing wide receiver, as he will be the number one target for the Bulldogs offense. Over the past two seasons, Mitchell has caught a total of 85 passes for 1,237 yards and 8 touchdowns. He has loads of talent, and now that he gets to focus on the offensive side of the ball, he should become an explosive target for senior quarterback Aaron Murray and the Georgia offense.
Donte Moncrief – Junior, (6’2 215lbs) Ole Miss – The Rebels should have a feisty young team this season, and star receiver Donte Moncrief is one of the main reasons, he has developed into an excellent weapon for wide receiver Bo Wallace. Moncrief caught 66 passes for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2012, he uses his strength well, and will be an excellent number one receiver for their offense. Ole Miss is a team to watch this season, they will be exciting to watch, although it may not translate to wins in the SEC. Strong young nucleus coming together for the Running Rebels.
Cody Hoffman – Senior, (6’4 215lbs) BYU – One of the most productive receivers in the country in 2013, despite spotty quarterback play, Hoffman caught 100 passes for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns as a junior. He has great size, excellent hands and runs great routes, which sounds like the total package for a wide receiver. However, Hoffman lacks deep speed, which will likely hurt his stock in the eyes of NFL Draft scouts. He will have an extremely productive 2013 season at BYU, and if he has improved his downfield speed, he could develop into an excellent NFL prospect.
Devin Street – Senior, (6’4 190lbs) Pittsburgh – Street is a very talented player, who put up big numbers as a junior at Pitt (73 catches, 975 yards, 5 touchdowns) despite poor quarterback play. He really needs to fill out and get stronger, Street has the frame to pack on size, but has not added the muscle and weight that could turn him into a truly elite prospect. Plays a finesse game and gets frustrated when a good defender gets physical with him at the line of scrimmage. Very talented player with a lot of upside, just needs to add strength and bulk before I can move him higher up this list.
OTHERS TO WATCH:
DeVante Parker – Senior (6’3 205lbs) Louisville, Shaq Evans – Senior (6’1 210lbs) UCLA, Allen Robinson – Junior (6’3 205lbs) Penn State, Tevin Reese – Senior, (5’10 170lbs) Baylor, Jared Abbrederis – Junior (6’2 190lbs) Wisconsin, Kasen Williams – Junior (6’2 215lbs) Washington, Ryan Grant – Senior (6’1 190lbs) Tulane, Brandon Carter – Junior (5’11 195lbs) TCU, Deontay Greenberry – Sophomore (6’3 200lbs) Houston, Quinshad Davis – Sophomore (6’4 205lbs) North Carolina, Nelson Agholor – Sophomore (6′ 185lbs) USC, DaVaris Daniels – Sophomore (6’2 190lbs) Notre Dame, Marquez North – Freshman (6’4 215lbs) Tennessee, Demarcus Robinson – Freshman (6’2 200lbs) Florida