Despite lacking depth, the wide receiver position has some top-end talent led by Western Michigan's Corey Davis
The wide receiver landscape for college fantasy football will look a little different in 2016. Productive wideouts now in the NFL include Corey Coleman, Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Will Fuller and Sterling Shepard. But there are still plenty of appealing targets remaining, you just may have look beyond the Power Five programs to find them.
To help college fantasy diehards, Athlon Sports has positional rankings to assist in your preparations for the upcoming draft season. Below is the scoring system used to comprise these rankings.
Passing Yards, 25 yards = 1 point
Passing TD = 4 points
Rushing Yards, 10 yards = 1 point
Rushing TDs = 6 points
Receptions = 0.5 points per reception
Receiving Yards, 10 yards = 1 point
Receiving TDs = 6 points
2016 College Fantasy Football WR Rankings
1. Corey Davis, Western Michigan
The only question mark surrounding Corey Davis entering his senior season is how defenses will attack him and the Western Michigan offense without his trusted running mate, Daniel Braverman, who opted for the NFL after his junior year. There are zero question marks about Davis’ talent, as he posted his second consecutive 1,400-yard season in 2015, including seven straight 100-yard games to close out the year. Just a two-star prospect coming out of high school, Davis is near the top of the list regarding the best wide receivers in all of college football and should be selected close to the top of any fantasy draft due to the lack of depth at the position this season.
2. Gabe Marks, Washington State
Marks made the surprising decision of coming back to school for another season after catching 104 passes and scoring 15 touchdowns last year, but that gives fantasy players yet another top-flight option at the wide receiver position. Marks heads into his senior season without counterpart Dom Williams occupying attention on the opposite side of the field, but that shouldn’t deter you one bit from selecting him. Washington State's offense continually produces 1,000-yard receivers and with Luke Falk throwing to him, Marks should top last year's stats.
3. Richie James, Middle Tennessee
Just an obscure redshirt freshman before the season, Richie James wound up finishing second in the entire country in receptions in 2015 with 108, including at least six in every game played. James wound up being one of two 1,000-yard receivers for the Blue Raiders, but Ed’Marques Batties has since graduated leaving James as the offense’s primary target for 2016. James should at the very least match last year’s totals, and will add in a rushing score or two as he is one of the more versatile athletes in college football.
4. Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
Do NOT, I repeat, Do NOT forget about Lucas when heading into your fantasy draft. Lucas wound up playing in just four games last year due to a season-ending knee injury, but just look at what he did in the first three games of 2015: 19 receptions, 342 yards (18.0 ypr), five TDs. Lucas was clearly taking well to the new up-tempo offense installed by head coach Philip Montgomery, so over the course of a full season he should top 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards fairly easily.
5. James Washington, Oklahoma State
Is Washington on the verge of becoming the next Dez Bryant or Justin Blackmon? If so, Washington should be in for quite the season, as both of the aforementioned players topped 1,450 receiving yards in their best years at Oklahoma State. After a slow start last season, Washington closed strong with nine touchdown catches in the last six regular season games, including five in consecutive weeks against Texas Tech and TCU. Washington is well positioned to post the best season of any Oklahoma State receiver since 2011.
6. Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois
Prior to the 2015 season opener, Golladay was an unknown commodity following his transfer to Northern Illinois from FCS program North Dakota. That all changed after Week 1 when Golladay caught nine passes for 213 yards against UNLV. It turned out that wasn’t a fluke either, as the junior had 144 yards and two touchdowns the following week against Murray State. Golladay wound up finishing his first season at the FBS level with 1,129 yards and 10 touchdowns, all with NIU rotating three quarterbacks throughout the year due to injury. With starting quarterback Drew Hare back under center, Golladay should best his 2015 numbers.
7. Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky
Taylor finished third in the country last season with 1,467 yards receiving on 86 receptions, and second in touchdown catches with 17, finishing behind only Baylor’s Corey Coleman. Taylor won’t have his record-breaking quarterback Brandon Doughty throwing him the ball this year, but Western Kentucky will be running the same offense that set numerous school records in 2015. Expect to see a slight decline in Taylor’s numbers, but he will still rank in the top 10 of most receiving categories by season’s end.
8. Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
It’s not often we see Virginia Tech receivers ranked this highly, but Ford is fully deserving of being in this spot. The junior closed 2015 on a fantasy rampage, catching a touchdown in each of the final four games and recording three consecutive 100-yard performances. Ford wound up setting the school records for touchdowns (11), yards (1,164) and receptions (75), and could potentially become the school’s all-time receiving leader by the end of the year. New head coach Justin Fuente is an offensive-minded coach and should help the Hokies put up more points in 2016, meaning another good season is likely from Ford.
9. Thomas Sperbeck, Boise State
Sperbeck did not hit his stride until the second half of the season where he finished with 43 receptions for more than 560 yards in the final four games, including a 20-catch, 281-yard effort against New Mexico. Not surprisingly, Sperbeck’s increased production coincided with the improvement of freshman quarterback Brett Rypien who didn’t start until Week 4. Getting to the century mark in receptions would not be a total stretch for Sperbeck in 2016, making him a perfect pick in PPR leagues.
10. JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
The man they call JuJu will get his no matter who is the quarterback, but having either Max Browne or Sam Darnold develop into a credible starter in 2016 will help USC’s No. 1 target immensely. Smith-Schuster was one of the most consistent receivers in college football last season with 80 or more yards receiving in 10 games, though he did not record a touchdown in three out of the last four as USC struggled down the stretch. Topping last year’s numbers will be tough with an inexperienced quarterback throwing him the ball, but Smith-Schuster is too good to see his numbers fall dramatically.
11. KD Cannon, Baylor
Cannon announced earlier this month that he underwent minor knee surgery, but all signs point to him being ready for the start of the regular season. His freshman year numbers were slightly better than last season, but Cannon should be more productive as a junior with Corey Coleman departing early for the NFL. The lack of proven depth behind Cannon should only increase the amount of targets headed his way.
12. Courland Sutton, SMU
Fantasy players and draftniks alike are drooling over Sutton’s potential after what they saw from him as a freshman. The large (6-4, 215) target put up 49 catches for 862 yards and nine touchdowns in his first season, though he did struggle down the stretch with zero scores in the final four games. SMU’s offense is expected to drastically improve in Year Two of the Chad Morris regime, and Sutton’s projections of more than 1,100 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns are a direct reflection of that.
13. Shelton Gibson, West Virginia
Gibson is a trendy selection this upcoming season with most believing the West Virginia offense will improve dramatically in 2016, due in large part to last year’s bowl victory over Arizona State in which the Mountaineers piled up nearly 700 yards of total offense. I am not 100 percent on that bandwagon as Arizona State ranked dead last in pass defense, but it’s hard not to see an improvement coming with nearly everyone returning in the passing game. Gibson is far and away the best of the bunch at receiver, and 1,200 yards is in the realm of where he should finish at this fall.
14. Ronnie Moore, Bowling Green
Like you will see with many players on this list, Moore will be the new lead receiver for Bowling Green with the losses of both Roger Lewis and Gehrig Dieter, a pair that combined for 179 receptions and more than 2,500 yards in 2015. Despite finishing third on the team, Moore put up No. 1 receiver-like numbers with 72 catches for 954 yards and six scores. New head coach Mike Jinks has said he will be keeping the Air Raid attack, which should allow for Moore to top that elusive 1,000-yard mark and haul in around 80 passes in 2016.
15. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
As a true freshman, Kirk made an instant splash on the field for the Aggies with more than 200 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Arizona State. Kirk would go on to lead the Aggies in catches (80), receiving yards (1,009) and touchdowns (7) in what turned out to be a down season for the Texas A&M offense. Assuming incoming transfer quarterback Trevor Knight is an instant improvement behind center, Kirk should put up similar numbers as a sophomore.
16. Zach Pascal, Old Dominion
Pascal was one of the hottest receivers towards the end of the 2015 season, closing the year with four 100-yard performances in the last five games, along with five touchdowns in the last three games alone. He did all of that even though the quarterback snaps were shared between David Washington and Shuler Bentley for much of the season. Assuming a clear-cut starting QB emerges, Pascal should easily top 1,000 yards and possibly double-digit touchdowns.
17. Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Many will think this ranking is too low for a talent like Ridley, but he comes in at No. 17 for two reasons. First off, Alabama’s receiving corps is potentially the best in the country with Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster all returning. Not to mention the Crimson Tide also added graduated transfer Gehrig Dieter, who had more than 100 receptions last season for Bowling Green. Are there enough balls to go around? And who will be throwing those passes? Alabama will be breaking in a new starting quarterback for the fourth consecutive season and while there is a track record for success, it is difficult to predict exactly how the new signal-caller will perform. Ridley will top 1,000 yards receiving, but his upside appears to be more limited than those ranked ahead of him.
18. Fred Ross, Mississippi State
Ross is back for his senior season after being named to the All-SEC team in 2015, setting the school record with 88 catches for 1,007 yards and five scores. He also closed last season on a tear with 48 receptions and four TDs in the final five games. Ross headlines the Mississippi State offense in 2016 as the Bulldogs lost fellow wideouts De’Runnya Wilson and Fred Brown, as well as arguably the best player in program history, quarterback Dak Prescott. Because of the inexperience of the receivers behind him, Ross should see an increase in targets, but how effective the new quarterback(s) will be likely determines Ross' fantasy outlook.
19. D.J. Thompson, Southern Mississippi
Thompson will assume the No. 1 receiver role in a Southern Miss offense that put up nearly 40 points and more than 500 yards per game in 2015. Even as the No. 3 target last season, Thompson put up career highs with 55 catches for 779 yards and six touchdowns. The senior will assuredly set new career bests across the board this fall as he takes on the lead role in an offense that will continue to air it out often.
20. Trent Taylor, Louisiana Tech
Louisiana Tech’s version of Julian Edelman, Taylor led the Bulldogs with 99 receptions for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns in 2015, including seven 100-yard games. Matching those numbers this season will be difficult, however, as the Bulldogs will be starting over at the quarterback position yet again – this time without the services of a graduate transfer. Seeing Taylor’s reception totals drop a few notches is a distinct possibility, but he is still the primary target in a pass-first offense.
21. Devonte Boyd, UNLV
Boyd’s production last season was hampered by subpar play out of the quarterback position as starter Blake Decker was in and out of the lineup for much of the year. Enter junior college transfer Johnny Stanton, who immediately upgrades the position and will be throwing to potentially the best set of receivers in the Mountain West conference in Boyd and Kendal Keys. Boyd will easily top 1,000 yards receiving in 2016 and could very well hit double-digit touchdowns.
22. Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma
Westbrook is the clear leader in the clubhouse to assume the No. 1 receiver role from the departed Sterling Shepard, but can he stay out of trouble long enough for that to happen? The former JUCO transfer was arrested in May on a trespassing charge, but based on the comments by head coach Bob Stoops at Big 12 media day, he expects Westbrook to be a playmaker for the Sooners this upcoming season, leading me to believe he is in good standing with the staff. Westbrook is the fastest of the Oklahoma receivers and should become the team’s new deep threat on offense.
23. Rodney Adams, South Florida
Surprise, surprise, another USF player makes the college fantasy rankings this year. Rodney Adams is an explosive athlete as shown by his 18 yards per catch average and his stats will only improve as quarterback Quinton Flowers continues to develop. Double-digit receiving touchdowns are certainly the expectation and Adams will surely add in a few more either in the return game or as a rusher on jet sweeps.
24. KeVonn Mabon, Ball State
The bad news for Ball State is Jordan Williams, the Cardinals’ leading receiver each of the past two seasons, has exhausted his eligibility. However, this should open up things for Mabon, who has posted 129 receptions the past two years, including a career-high 70 catches in 2015. Don’t let Mabon’s low touchdown totals (2) scare you off – the Cardinals were breaking in freshman quarterback Riley Neal, who should be improved in his second season.
25. Anthony Miller, Memphis
Miller likely takes over as the No. 1 receiver in 2016 as he led the Tigers last season with three 100-yard games and five touchdown grabs. Doubling those stats is feasible, but remains uncertain as Memphis no longer has the services of possibly the best quarterback in school history in Paxton Lynch. Junior college recruit Riley Ferguson should keep the offense afloat, but matching last year’s totals doesn’t seem likely. Around 70 catches and close to 1,000 yards is the expectation for Miller.
26. Steve Ishmael, Syracuse
The clear No. 1 wideout for the Orange, Ishmael will benefit greatly from the wide-open spread attack favored by new head coach Dino Babers. The junior posted 570 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in 2015 despite Syracuse using three quarterbacks throughout the season. Fifty or so receptions and double-digit touchdowns are the expectation here.
27. Travis Rudolph, Florida State
There could potentially be a youth movement at wide receiver for the Seminoles with sophomores George Campbell and Auden Tate deserving of more snaps, but Rudolph’s role as the No. 1 option appears to be safe in 2016. With improved quarterback play, which is expected, Rudolph is projected to top 1,000 yards receiving with at least eight touchdowns.
28. Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska
Last season, Westerkamp posted the highest numbers by any Nebraska wide receiver since 2008 with 65 catches for 918 yards, the latter number placing him second on the school single-season list for receptions. With what should be an improved Nebraska offense in head coach Mike Riley’s second year, there is no reason Westerkamp can’t reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2016.
29. Damore’ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss
Stringfellow is the odds-on favorite to take over the No. 1 receiver role with Laquon Treadwell off to the NFL. The former Washington transfer finished fourth on the team in receiving in 2015 with just 36 catches, but has similar measurables to his predecessor and closed last season on a high note with three touchdowns in his last three games.
30. Jehu Chesson, Michigan
Chesson emerged as the big-play threat in Michigan’s offense late last season, finishing the year with three 100-yard performances in the final four weeks, including a 200-yard, four-touchdown effort against Indiana. The Wolverines have a major question mark at quarterback, but assuming this gets resolved relatively quickly, Chesson’s numbers shouldn’t see much of a decline, if at all. The senior also is used quite often on reverse sweeps, which could lead to a rushing score or two.
31. Allen Lazard, Iowa State
32. Zay Jones, East Carolina
33. Artavis Scott, Clemson
34. Penny Hart, Georgia State
35. Josh Atkinson, Tulsa
36. Mike Williams, Clemson
37. Antonio Callaway, Florida
38. Tre’Quan Smith, UCF
39. Austin Duke, Charlotte
40. Corey Jones, Toledo
41. Jalen Robinette, Air Force
42. Tanner Gentry, Wyoming
43. Chance Allen, Houston
44. JoJo Natson, Akron
45. Jerico Richardson, Nevada
46. John Ross, Washington
47. Nicholas Norris, Western Kentucky
48. KaVonte Turpin, TCU
49. Sebastian Smith, Ohio
50. Thomas Owens, FIU
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2