No player in the history of the SEC has had a more productive career or single season than Matthews. Matthews left Vanderbilt after catching more passes (262) for more yards (3,759) than anyone in SEC history and it’s not really even close. No player in the SEC has ever caught 100 passes in a season and Matthews posted 112 receptions as a senior with mediocre QB play. His 1,477 yards that season are third in league history trailing only Josh Reed (1,740) and Alshon Jeffery (1,517). He helped the Dores to three straight bowl games and was the singular focus of every defense he faced yet still managed to destroy every major SEC receiving record.
9. Torry Holt
NC State, 1995-98
One of the greatest receivers to ever play the game on any level, Holt capped his outstanding Wolfpack career with an ACC Player of the Year award in the first year of the BCS. Over his final two seasons in Raleigh, the in-state product caught 150 passes for 2,703 yards and 27 touchdowns, finishing eighth in the Heisman voting in 1998. Holt set all types of NC State and ACC records during his college career and he went on to become one of the NFL’s greatest wide receivers. No one in the ACC ever had a better game during the BCS Era than Holt when he posted 255 yards against Baylor in 1998.
8. Sammy Watkins
A freakish athlete with the ability to score on any play from anywhere on the field, Watkins helped lead Clemson to a 32-8 record during his three seasons. He finished No. 2 all-time in ACC history with 240 receptions, No. 3 all-time with 3,391 yards receiving and tied for eighth all-time with 27 receiving touchdowns. And he did all of this in just three seasons, while bringing an ACC title back to Clemson for the first time in decades. His 5,129 all-purpose yards are ninth all-time in league history. His 101 receptions in 2013 would have been a single-season ACC record if not for Duke’s Jamison Crowder. His 1,464 yards in his final season is second all-time to Torry Holt (1,604) and his 82 catches and 12 TDs in 2011 were both ACC records for freshmen.
7. Braylon Edwards
Not many players have three consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns but that is what the Detroit native did at Michigan. He was uncoverable during his time at Ann Arbor, setting school records in every major receiving category. His 39 career touchdowns remain a Big Ten record. Edwards claimed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as a senior in 2004. The consensus All-American finished 10th in the Heisman voting that season as well.
6. Justin Blackmon
Oklahoma State, 2009-11
Blackmon’s numbers are inflated due to an elite offensive system., but make no mistake, he is the one of the greatest pass-catchers to ever play. He posted back-to-back seasons with at least 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns, earning consensus All-American honors twice. He also became just the second player in NCAA history to claim two Biletnikoff Awards. Blackmon won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2010 and capped his illustrious career with a Big 12 championship and Fiesta Bowl MVP performance against Stanford in '11. He is one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five for the Heisman Trophy (5th, 2010) during the BCS Era.
5. Percy Harvin
If Peter Warrick invented the all-purpose position in the late '90s, Harvin glorified it in the mid-2000s. A true dual-threat offensive talent, Harvin burst onto the scene as the SEC Freshman of the Year. He played a key role in the Gators' 2006 BCS National Championship run, totaling 82 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against Ohio State. He capped his college career with 14 touches for 171 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the 2008 BCS National Championship Game against Oklahoma. Few have combined speed, strength, production and winning like Harvin did. He nearly topped 2,000 yards both rushing and receiving, and, if not for nagging injuries his entire career, he might have been more decorated.
4. Peter Warrick
Florida State, 1995-99
The phrase all-purpose wasn’t en vogue when Warrick broke onto the scene so the FSU superstar might deserve credit for the invention. And if not for an incident at Dillard’s department store that resulted in a two-game suspension, Warrick likely would have won the Heisman Trophy. The two-time consensus All-American could do it all. His joystick, open-field moves made him dynamic in the passing game, on special teams and he was one of the first wideouts used in the running game. His Sugar Bowl MVP performance — and touchdown catch — in the 1999 national championship game (six rec., 163 yds, three total TDs) will go down as one of the greatest national title performances in NCAA history.
3. Michael Crabtree
Texas Tech, 2007-08
No player has been as productive in just two seasons as the Dallas native. As a redshirt freshman, Crabtree set NCAA freshman records for receptions (134), yards (1,962) and touchdowns (22) and won the Biletnikoff Award. He also won Big 12 Newcomer and Offensive Player of the Year honors and still owns the single-season league record for receptions and yards as just a freshman. He became the first player in NCAA history to win a second Biletnikoff Award when he caught 97 passes for 1,165 yards and 19 touchdowns for the 11-2 Red Raiders the next year. He finished fifth in the Heisman balloting in ’08 — one of just four wide receivers to finish in the top five during the BCS Era.
2. Calvin Johnson
Georgia Tech, 2004-06
Appropriately nicknamed Megatron, no player has demonstrated the combination of size and speed that Johnson brought to the Ramblin Wreck offense. The Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek prospect was the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2004 before earning back-to-back All-American honors in 2005-06. He owns school records for receiving yards and touchdowns during his time at Tech and claimed the Biletnikoff Award as well as ACC Player of the Year honors in 2006.
1. Larry Fitzgerald
After redshirting, Fitz dominated college football for two full seasons. He became the first Pitt Panther to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, owns the school record with 34 touchdowns (in just 26 games) as well as the NCAA record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception (18). As a sophomore in his final season at Pitt, he caught 92 passes for 1,672 yards and 22 touchdowns, winning Big East Player of the Year honors and the Walter Camp and Biletnikoff awards. His second-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting is the highest by any wide receiver during the BCS Era and he is the only one in to finish in the top three.
Just missed the cut:
Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Troy Edwards, Louisiana Tech
Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
Roy Williams, Texas
Jeremy Maclin, Missouri
Charles Rogers, Michigan State
A.J. Green, Georgia
Lee Evans, Wisconsin
Marqise Lee, USC
Brandin Cooks, Oregon State
Dwayne Jarrett, USC
College Basketball If there's one place Nolan Smith would be treated like a celebrity, it would be Durham. Smith went to the most famous school in the area, and was a star on the Duke basketball team. He...
NBA The Chicago Bulls made the inevitable into reality early Thursday, firing five-year head coach Tom Thibodeau. The move came after multiple seasons of frigidity and acrimony between Thibodeau and his...
NBA Few people thought the Houston Rockets could make it this far. They were counted out after falling into a 3-1 hole against the Los Angeles Clippers, only to surge and make a historic comeback in the...
College Football Only five months removed from having not one but two teams snubbed from the inaugural College Football Playoff, the Big 12 Conference has some big decisions to make about its future. After...
NBA, Overtime By now Riley Curry has made her way into America's hearts. The daughter of Warriors star Steph Curry is one of the best things about post game press conferences these days. Journalists...
College Football, News The 2015 college football season is still a few months away, but it’s never too early to project how the upcoming year will play out on the field. Athlon Sports has released its top 25 for...
College Football, News Michael Vick was first. Then Vince Young. Then it was Tebow, RG3, Johnny Football and Super Mariota. The super quarterback is a relatively new phenomenon in college football that changed...
College Football, News When putting together Athlon Sports' college football magazine and preseason Top 25 each year, a huge part of the process is scheduling. Non-conference games, crossovers, home-road splits...
College Football, News There was tangible growth for Kentucky in Mark Stoops second season in Lexington. Despite a disappointing second half that still left the Wildcats at home during bowl season, Stoops was able to...
College Football, News Another year. Another coach for Pittsburgh football. The Panthers got three full seasons out of Paul Chryst before he returned to Wisconsin, but that’s better than a stretch in 2010-12 when...
College Football, News Al Golden has been at Miami four seasons and has yet to elevate the Hurricanes back to the ACC's elite. He has loads of talent — the Canes had seven players drafted in April —...
College Football Tarik Cohen has the physical ability many of us would kill to have. The North Carolina A&T running back one-ups himself by doing a backflip while catching two footballs in mid-air. Boss....
Overtime Ahh, photography. It can catch a split-second moment in time and turn it into a hilarious photo that can be interpreted the completely wrong way. And sports provides more of these moments than most...
College Football USC football stockpiled talented quarterbacks during its run of dominance in the 2000s, when current head coach Steve Sarkisian was an assistant to Pete Carroll. Sarkisian is emulating...
College Football, News Good news, everyone: Schedule-shaming works. Those two weeks during the SEC schedule in November aren’t nearly as embarrassing as they used to be. Sure, every league team didn’t try...
College Football, News The 2015 college football season is still a few months away. However, the news cycle never stops, and there’s plenty to keep the conversation going this summer. Athlon Sports is counting...
NBA This past January, the Atlanta Hawks looked to be leaders of an NBA revolution. Without a superstar or even many years together, they were working from a blueprint of selflessness and intelligence...