Examining which teams have the best group of receivers
The wide receiver position is loaded with talent for the 2019 college football season. Led by Jerry Jeudy and Jaylen Waddle, Alabama's receiving corps ranks as the best in the nation for 2019. Hunter Renfrow expired his eligibility at Clemson, but coach Dabo Swinney's team features two All-America candidates in Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross. Oklahoma checks in at No. 3 among the best receiver units in the nation, followed by USC and Ohio State in the top five. In addition to these five teams and the returning talent, names like Colorado's Laviska Shenault, TCU's Jalen Reagor and Vanderbilt's Kalija Lipscomb add to a deep class of receivers for the upcoming year.
How did we come up with these rankings? A couple of factors were considered. Depth, overall talent, production, level of competition and projected output in 2019 all factored into the rankings for the receiving corps. While some teams may have experienced a down year last season, having a different quarterback or a change of scheme can make a huge difference. These rankings reflect projection for 2019, not solely what teams have accomplished in 2018. Note: This ranking also takes into account tight ends.
College Football's Top 35 WR Groups for 2019
The decision to start Tua Tagovailoa over Jalen Hurts allowed Alabama to take full advantage of a stellar receiving corps last season. Jerry Jeudy emerged as the No. 1 target for Tagovailoa, winning the Biletnikoff Award as college football’s best receiver after catching 68 passes for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns. Jaylen Waddle torched opposing defenses out of the slot, averaging 18.8 yards per catch as one of the top freshmen in college football. Henry Ruggs III grabbed 11 touchdowns on 46 catches, while DeVonta Smith added 42 receptions for 693 yards. Miller Forristall, Cameron Latu and Kedrick James will battle to replace Irv Smith Jr. at tight end.
There may not be a receiving duo more physically gifted than the one Clemson will have in 2019. Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross both check in at 6’4”, possess the speed to score from anywhere on the field and combined for 105 catches for 1,936 yards and 21 scores last fall. Cornell Powell, Diondre Overton and talented freshmen Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson will be counted on to help replace the production lost by Hunter Renfrow’s graduation, along with Amari Rodgers’ indefinite absence due to a knee injury.
Marquise Brown left early for the NFL, but the cupboard isn’t bare for Lincoln Riley’s high-powered attack. CeeDee Lamb is slated to become the No. 1 target for quarterback Jalen Hurts after catching 65 passes for 1,158 yards and 11 scores last fall. There are other proven options in the form of tight end Grant Calcaterra (26 catches in 2018) and receivers Lee Morris and Charleston Rambo. Additionally, Jadon Haselwood, Theo Wease and Trejan Bridges — three top-100 prospects in the 2019 class — will compete for snaps this offseason.
The Trojans lost a couple of receivers due to transfer this offseason, but the frontline talent is still as good as any in college football. Amon-Ra St. Brown is back after leading the team as a true freshman in catches (60), and Michael Pittman Jr. returns after averaging 18.5 yards per catch. Junior Tyler Vaughns has 11 touchdown catches over the last two years. Sophomore Devon Williams and freshmen Kyle Ford and Drake London round out the key contributors. Five-star recruit Bru McCoy returned to Los Angeles after spending the spring at Texas. He’s applied for a waiver to play right away in 2019.
5. Ohio State
It’s a close call between Michigan and Ohio State for the No. 1 receiving corps in the Big Ten. Coach Ryan Day’s team lost three (Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon) of its top receivers from last season, but this unit won’t miss a beat in 2019. K.J. Hill (68 catches for 865 yards) is back as the No. 1 target, with Binjimen Victor (16.9 ypc), Chris Olave (16.4 ypc) and freshman Garrett Wilson back as big-play threats. Austin Mack caught 26 passes before suffering a season-ending injury last year but is expected to return to full strength this fall. Luke Farrell, Jeremy Ruckert and Rashod Berry provide a solid trio of tight ends for quarterback Justin Fields.
Jim Harbaugh handed the offensive keys to Josh Gattis, who plans to utilize more tempo and plays to get the ball to playmakers in space. Tarik Black is back to full strength after dealing with a foot injury in 2018, joining Donovan Peoples-Jones and Nico Collins to form a big-play trio. Ronnie Bell and promising freshman Mike Sainristil provide depth. And Harbaugh won’t forget about the tight end position, which features Sean McKeon and Nick Eubanks.
The Gators showed marked improvement on offense in coach Dan Mullen’s first year. Provided the offensive line quickly finds four new starters, this unit will have chance to take another step forward in 2019. Quarterback Feleipe Franks returns his top six statistical options from 2018 at wide receiver this fall. Van Jefferson paced the team with 35 catches last year, with Josh Hammond (28), Trevon Grimes (26), Freddie Swain (14) and Tyrie Cleveland (18) providing steady options on the outside. All-purpose threat Kadarius Toney (25 catches last year) could have a breakout year with more touches. Kyle Pitts, Kemore Gamble and Lucas Kroll are the top options at tight end.
8. Oklahoma State
As usual, there’s no shortage of offensive firepower in Stillwater. Tylan Wallace had a breakout year for the Cowboys in 2018, catching 86 passes for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns. He should be among the nation’s best receivers and an All-America candidate once again in 2019. Dillon Stoner (48 catches for 603 yards), Tyrell Alexander, Landon Wolf and South Alabama transfer Jordan McCray will help fill the void left by Tyron Johnson (declared early for the NFL).
9. Washington State
Washington State’s high-powered offense shouldn’t miss a beat despite losing quarterback Gardner Minshew. In addition to Mike Leach’s track record on this side of the ball, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one of the Pac-12’s top offensive lines and receiving corps in place for the new quarterback. The Cougars return four receivers with at least 40 catches last year, and this group will only get deeper with the continued development of Calvin Jackson and Renard Bell this offseason. Dezmon Patmon led the offense with 816 receiving yards last fall, while Davontavean Martin and Easop Winston tied for the team lead with eight touchdown receptions.
10. Texas A&M
Finding a tight end to replace Jace Sternberger is the top priority for coach Jimbo Fisher’s receiving corps this offseason. Freshman Baylor Cupp could be the answer here, with sophomore Glenn Beal also expected to be in the mix. The Aggies bring back plenty of talent at this position, but more consistency is needed out of the receivers. Quartney Davis (45 receptions), Camron Buckley (34) and Jhamon Ausbon (31) led the way on the stat sheet last fall. Kendrick Rogers recorded three touchdown catches over the final two games in 2018 and will be looking to become a bigger factor in ’19.
19. Virginia Tech
21. Florida State
25. Notre Dame
28. Penn State
29. Texas Tech
31. Boise State
32. Oregon State