College Football Draft Kit: Wide Receivers

College Football Draft Kit: Wide Receivers

This article is part of our College Football Draft Kit series.

The 2019 season is fast approaching, so we're rolling out our position-by-position previews to get you acclimated with the game's top players and help you dominate your drafts. Next up is wide receiver, a position headlined by the likes of 2018 breakout players like Colorado's Laviska Shenault and Purdue's Rondale Moore. When targeting receiver in drafts, it's key to look at scheme context, role, and skill. A talented receiver who plays in a plodding, run-first offense may be a future NFL player, but he can be outdone from a fantasy perspective by a lesser receiver who has a high-volume role in a pass-happy, up-tempo system, for instance. The following list is comprised of players who rate highly in all of the aforementioned factors. 

Editor's Note: The following article also appears in Rotowire's annual Fantasy Football Magazine, coming to newsstands in July of 2019.

1.Laviska ShenaultColorado / Junior

A turf toe injury derailed what was otherwise an outrageously productive breakout season for Shenault, who started his true sophomore season with 60 catches for 780 yards and six touchdowns through his first six games, adding a whopping five rushing touchdowns in that same span. The surgically-repaired toe limited Shenault in the spring, but it should be resolved by the fall, in which case Shenault has to be one of the most coveted assets in college fantasy football. The upside he displayed early in 2018 was league-winning stuff comparable to past wideouts like Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon.

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The 2019 season is fast approaching, so we're rolling out our position-by-position previews to get you acclimated with the game's top players and help you dominate your drafts. Next up is wide receiver, a position headlined by the likes of 2018 breakout players like Colorado's Laviska Shenault and Purdue's Rondale Moore. When targeting receiver in drafts, it's key to look at scheme context, role, and skill. A talented receiver who plays in a plodding, run-first offense may be a future NFL player, but he can be outdone from a fantasy perspective by a lesser receiver who has a high-volume role in a pass-happy, up-tempo system, for instance. The following list is comprised of players who rate highly in all of the aforementioned factors. 

Editor's Note: The following article also appears in Rotowire's annual Fantasy Football Magazine, coming to newsstands in July of 2019.

1.Laviska ShenaultColorado / Junior

A turf toe injury derailed what was otherwise an outrageously productive breakout season for Shenault, who started his true sophomore season with 60 catches for 780 yards and six touchdowns through his first six games, adding a whopping five rushing touchdowns in that same span. The surgically-repaired toe limited Shenault in the spring, but it should be resolved by the fall, in which case Shenault has to be one of the most coveted assets in college fantasy football. The upside he displayed early in 2018 was league-winning stuff comparable to past wideouts like Michael Crabtree and Justin Blackmon.

2. Rondale Moore / Purdue / Sophomore

Moore gained national attention with his 12 grabs for 170 yards and two touchdowns to knock Ohio State from the undefeated ranks last season, but he was far from a one-game stud. Moore earned a 33 percent target share in 2019 and made the most of it, turning a nation-leading 103 catches into 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns. While quarterback David Blough is gone, Elijah Sindelar has plenty of experience under center and shouldn't have any issues keeping Moore as an elite producer.

3. Jerry JeudyAlabama / Junior

Jeudy on his own merit is good enough to be considered one of the top receivers in the fantasy landscape, but adding in that he's Tua Tagovailoa's top target takes him to another level. He's coming off an efficient and explosive season in which he caught 65 percent of his targets with a 13.4 percent touchdown rate and a 12.6 YPT mark. Alabama's depth at receiver makes it difficult to project a massive usage increase for Jeudy, but even just a repeat of last season's totals would keep him as a Top-10 fantasy producer. 

4. Tylan Wallace / Oklahoma State / Junior

Wallace finished in the top three in receptions, yards, and touchdowns in the Big 12 in his breakout sophomore campaign and enters this year as one of the elite receivers in the fantasy landscape. He benefits Oklahoma State's up-tempo (79.2 plays per game) and pass-heavy offense, but Wallace brings his own skills to the table, too. Wallace averaged 9.78 yards per target, which is all the more impressive considering his target volume was seventh-most in the nation. And his 18 catches of 25-plus yards ranked second. Wallace is one of the top high-volume, high-efficiency receivers in the nation.

5. CeeDee Lamb / Oklahoma / Junior

Among receivers with at least 75 targets, no receiver had a better YPT mark than Lamb's 13.3. Of course, having Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray as his quarterback helped, but Lamb has been immensely productive since he was a true freshman in 2017. He has caught 70 percent of his targets with 18 touchdowns and a 12.5 YPT in his first two seasons while sharing targets with Marquise Brown. Lamb now becomes the No.1 in a Jalen Hurts-led, Lincoln Riley-designed offense, and even if Hurts isn't what Murray or Mayfield were, Lamb is a top-tier fantasy option.

6. Jalen Reagor / TCU / Junior

Few teams rely on a single receiver the way TCU relies on Reagor, who owned a 36 percent target share in 2018. Reagor's efficiency (7.98 YPT) was dragged down by inconsistent quarterback play but that stands to change with Alex Delton or Justin Rogers taking over behind center. Reagor, a former long-jump champion, has game-breaking explosiveness and can get open at every level of the field. He's a lock for triple-digit targets, and if the TCU quarterbacks can simply get the ball in his vicinity, Reagor will be able to build on his breakout sophomore campaign.

7. Marquez StevensonHouston / R-Junior

Stevenson was already in an excellent position with a 25 percent market share of D'Eriq King's passes. Adding in a Dana Holgorsen offense that threw the ball at the 17th-highest clip in the nation in 2018 -- nearly 40 spots higher than Houston -- is a massive boon. Stevenson had a strong 65 percent catch rate to go with a. 8.8 YPT over 116 total targets, and those marks are both set to improve within the new system. It's possible that Stevenson and King produce similar numbers to what David Sills and Will Grier mustered during Holgorsen's time at West Virginia.

8. Cedric Byrd / Hawaii / Senior

Byrd projects to be the top receiver in a Hawai'i offense that averaged the 12th-most pass attempts per game last season and is looking to replace John Ursua's target volume. Byrd already saw 111 targets as the No.2 option in the offense, converting that into 76 catches for 939 yards and nine scores. He and teammate JoJo Ward are projected starters in one of college football's most potent offenses, but Byrd gets the edge thanks to a role that portends a higher catch rate -- 64 percent -- compared to Ward's 49 percent while still allowing for a high touchdown rate. 

9. James Proche / SMU / Senior

Proche will conclude his SMU career a four-year standout, and after a breakout 2018 season he's one of the top fantasy wideouts going into 2019. Whether it's Texas transfer Shane Buechele or William Brown, who showed promise last year as a true freshman, the quarterback position should do its part to see a second straight big season from Proche, who's firmly on the NFL radar after posting 190 catches for 2,724 yards and 24 touchdowns over his prior three seasons, including 93 receptions for 1,199 yards and 12 touchdowns last year alone. 

10. Damonte Coxie/ Memphis / Junior

Coxie was superbly productive in 2018, his redshirt sophomore season and first season as a starter for Memphis. His 72 receptions for 1,174 yards and seven touchdowns last year might undersell his effectiveness a bit, as he averaged 9.9 yards per target in an offense that averaged 8.2 yards per pass attempt. He should see his share of offensive production increase in 2019 as Memphis attempts to pick up the slack left with the departures of running backs Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard, who combined for 3,214 yards and 34 touchdowns from scrimmage last year. 

11. Collin Johnson / Texas /Senior

Johnson is Texas' top returning receiver and has an established rapport with Sam Ehlinger. They connected on 68 of 109 targets for 985 yards and seven scores in 2018, and with Lil'Jordan Humphrey gone, Johnson is projected for a larger target. Johnson is a big-framed receiver (6-6) that makes him a matchup problem; however, Texas has a penchant for running it in the red zone with Ehlinger, which has led to disappointing numbers in that area for Johnson. Still, Johnson has an assured role and the skill to find the end zone even if he's underutilized in the red zone.

12. Tee Higgins / Clemson / Junior

For as much as Justyn Ross understandably draws attention, it'd be unwise to overlook Higgins, who possesses his own array of highly positive indicators. Higgins has checked the boxes each step of the way since arriving to Clemson as a five-star recruit, and through his age-19 season he owns 76 catches for 1,281 yards and 14 touchdowns on just 121 targets (63.8 percent completed, 10.6 YPT). He and Ross will need to share the spotlight, but Trevor Lawrence could throw 40 touchdowns this year, so both wideouts should feast. If healthy, Higgins basically can't fail.

13. Tyler Johnson / Minnesota / Senior

A dreadful passing game in 2017 limited Johnson to just 35 catches for 677 yards and seven touchdowns on 71 targets. Not only did his catch rate jump from 49.2 percent to 59.2 percent last season, but Johnson also drew 60 more targets over the course of the season, turning in 1,000-plus receiving yards for the first time in his career. He also tied John Ursua for the most red zone touchdowns (10) in the nation last year, but ultimately opted to return to school for his senior season. He should be featured in Minnesota's offense again in 2019 before moving on to an NFL career.

14. Antonio Gandy-Golden / Liberty / Senior

The leap from FCS to the FBS level didn't seem to bother Gandy-Golden last season as he racked up 10 touchdowns and more than 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. A massive target at 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Gandy-Golden is a matchup nightmare who can use his size when he needs to, but speed and route running are part of his repertoire as well. With Hugh Freeze installing his pass-first offense -- Ole Miss ranked 16th in passing play percentage in 2016 -- it's easy to imagine Gandy-Golden adding another 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown season to his ledger.

15.  Rico Bussey / North Texas / Senior

Michael Lawrence and Jalen Guyton were billed as the top receivers in the Mean Green receiving corps entering last season, but it was Bussey who stole the show as the leader in receptions (68),yards (1,017), and touchdowns (12).  Bussey and the Mean Green lost brilliant offensive coordinator Graham Harrell to USC, but they still have quarterback Mason Fine and the new offensive coordinator had a promising track record from his time at Eastern Washington, where his offense averaged 43.1 points per game. Bussey's role, talent, and team context make him a bankable fantasy asset. 

16. Amon-Ra St. Brown/ USC/ Sophomore

St. Brown is a smaller, more explosive receiver than his brother Equanimeous, and if his 2018 true freshman season is any indication then he's likely the better of the two. St. Brown established himself as the arguable top wideout at USC even while competing against more experienced former top recruits in Tyler Vaughns and Michael Pittman, turning 84 targets into 60 receptions for 750 yards and three scores. To produce like that with an age disadvantage portends great things from St. Brown, and the obstacles posed by Vaughns and Pittman could be offset by growth from quarterback J.T. Daniels, in which case all three could thrive.

17. JD Spielman / Nebraska / Junior

Spielman didn't experience a major breakout during his first season under coach Scott Frost as many believed, but he did a significant uptick in both receptions (66 from 55 in 2017) and receiving touchdowns (eight from two in 2017) despite playing one fewer game. With Stanley Morgan Jr. out of the picture in Lincoln, Spielman should be headed for a larger target share in 2019. Adrian Martinez heads into his second season under center, which likely portends to an improved offensive attack and, potentially, additional production for Spielman.

18. Justyn Ross / Clemson / Sophomore

Ross has two years remaining before heading to the NFL, but until then, he'll be terrorizing college defenses. The 6-foot-4, 210 pounder dominated on a per-target basis in the regular season last year, averaging 12.2 YPT with six touchdowns on 34 grabs. Then he reached new heights in the Playoff, torching Notre Dame and Alabama for a combined 301 yards and three touchdowns on 12 targets. He's now set to enter this year as a full-time starter opposite Tee Higgins in a Trevor Lawrence-led offense, meaning he'll have increased targets from perhaps college football's most talented quarterback. Look out. 

19. Warren Jackson / Colorado State / Junior

Preston Williams and Bisi Johnson are off to the NFL, and with their exit a void of 254 targets gets blasted open in the Colorado State offense. Jackson served as the third wideout last year, catching 32 of his 49 targets for 405 yards and four touchdowns. Auburn transfer Nate Craig-Meyers figures to take a good stab at targets up for grabs, but Jackson's 6-foot-6 frame gives him the ability to bully in the red zone. Quarterback Collin Hill is probably a bit better than his numbers from last year, so the passing game should offer useful volume despite the departure of quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels.

20. Chase Claypool / Notre Dame / Senior

Miles Boykin's incredible combine showing and subsequent selection as a third-round NFL draft pick indirectly reflects well on Claypool, whose good-not-great production might otherwise be easy to take for granted. At a listed 6-foot-4, 227 pounds with Notre Dame's three other top-four pass catchers graduating from last year, Claypool projects as a workhorse candidate in a passing game that should stabilize under a full season of quarterback Ian Book, who offered a huge passing upgrade over incumbent Brandon Wimbush. After catching 50 passes for 639 yards and four touchdowns on 78 targets last year, Claypool is a candidate to see 100 targets in 2019.

21. JoJo Ward / Hawaii / Senior

In a Hawaii offense built largely on tempo and quick strikes, Ward stood out for his ability to contribute downfield production in a passing game otherwise founded on slot targets John Ursua and Cedric Byrd. Ward's YPR average of 17.0 led the team, and his big-play ability afforded a high touchdown total of nine on a modest 51 receptions. The graduation of Ursua creates a deficit of 152 targets in the offense, and while Ward isn't guaranteed any particular cut of that since he plays a slightly different position, it's generally hard to imagine anyone but Byrd earning more targets than Ward should for Hawaii this year. 

22. Gabriel Davis / UCF / Junior

Davis broke out in 2018, catching 53 passes for 815 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 targets in a season that could have been bigger if not for an in-season injury that limited him a bit during November. He started faster than he finished, scoring in five of the first six weeks before scoring only twice in the remaining seven games. The gruesome season-ending injury to quarterback McKenzie Milton also played a role, which unfortunately carries over to 2019 with Milton expected to miss the year. If Darriel Mack can improve from his 2018 debut, though, then Davis may recapture his early-2018 standard. 

23.  Bryan Edwards, South Carolina / Senior

Edwards might be better than he gets credit for, and with star wideout Deebo Samuel off to the NFL there's an opportunity for Edwards to prove it in 2019. The three-year standout and former standout recruit has a WR1 build at a listed 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, and for his career he's turned 285 targets into 163 catches for 2,229 yards and 16 touchdowns. With quarterback and fellow senior Jake Bentley around for the entire ride, the hope is that their extensive history allows them to hit the ground running in what could be a breakout season for both.

24.  KJ Hamler / Penn State / R-Sophomore 

Hamler was a bright spot in what was an otherwise disappointing wide receiver group during 2018. The speedster racked up 713 yards and five touchdowns on 41 grabs, an average of 17.4 yards per catch. The healthy return of Justin Shorter could help ease the burden of Hamler, though the Nittany Lions will have a new signal-caller under center, Sean Clifford, for the first time since 2015. The Nittany Lions roster plenty of talent at the skill positions, which should open the field for Hamler to utilize his blazing speed again in 2019.

25. K.J. Hill / Ohio State / Senior

Hill is Ohio State's top returning receiver after the Buckeyes sent three wideouts to the pro ranks. Interestingly, though, Hill had a larger target share than both Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon, showing that he has the full confidence of the coaching staff. Put another way, Hill's  was 67 catches for 831 yards and six scores flew under the radar. Ohio State's offense may be less skewed to the pass overall, however, as Justin Fields' running ability will be featured. With that, Hill could be the top receiver for the Buckeyes this season but fail to drastically improve on his 2018 numbers.

26. Henry Ruggs III / Junior / Alabama

It's easy to overlook Ruggs when considering Alabama's incredible wide receiver rotation, in which Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle steal a great deal of the spotlight, but Ruggs is a dangerous receiver in his own right. His first 90 career targets resulted in 58 receptions for 970 yards and 17 touchdowns including 11 touchdowns on 69 targets last year. It's somewhat concerning that his role ceded space to Smtih and Waddle toward the end of the year, but a leg issue he played through in November may have contributed to that outcome.

27. Tre Walker / San Jose State / Jr. 

Hartley may not be a household name, but his 2018 season caught the attention of serious fantasy players. He was targeted 61 times, turning those looks into 39 catches for 714 yards and five touchdowns. What's more, he was just third on the team in targets, and the two players ahead of him in that pecking order -- Josh Oliver and Tre Hartley -- are gone. This leaves Walker as the true No.1 target in the Spartan offense when he was already posting that kind of production  as the No.3. 

28. Elijah Moore / Mississippi / Sophomore

Mississippi is starting over at receiver after sending its top three pass-catchers to the NFL, and Moore is a building block of this new-look receiving corps. He's likely ticketed for slot work at 5-foot-9 but he'll be an important reliable target for first-year starter Matt Corral. Moore already showed he can thrive in that role, catching 36 of 50 targets for 398 yards and two scores as a true freshman. Look for Moore and fellow wideout Braylon Sanders to head up the Rebels' receiving corps, with Moore the more appealing option in PPR thanks to his projected high-volume role. 

29. Tyler Vaughns / USC / r-Jr.

Big things were expected from Vaughns in 2018 following a highly impressive true freshman season in 2017, but he regressed in most aspects. Despite a 15-target jump from the prior year, Vaughns saw his yardage drop from 809 to 674, yielding an ugly 2018 average of 6.6 yards per target. His recruiting pedigree and excellent freshman year remain distinctly positive indicators, though, so a bounce back of some sort should be the expectation, particularly if 2018 freshman quarterback J.T. Daniels improves. It's worth noting Vaughn's dominant game against Notre Dame in the final week, where he caught 12 of 14 targets for 120 yards and a touchdown.

30. Kalija Lipscomb / Vanderbilt / Senior

There may not be an SEC receiver who draws a higher share of his team's targets in 2019 than Lipscomb, who is coming off a season in which he was targeted on 31 percent of Vandy's pass attempts. Only Kentucky's Lynn Bowden (32 percent) had a higher rate in-conference.  Lipscomb isn't always explosive (7.5 YPT) but he's a threat to score with nine receiving touchdowns, including six in the red zone. If either Riley Neal or Deuce Wallace can provide replacement-level quarterback play, Lipscomb will be locked in for another high-volume season.

31. Taj Harris / Syracuse / Sophomore

Syracuse's up-tempo, pass-first system always makes it fertile ground for finding relevant receivers. Last year, the Orange churned out four different 500-yard receivers, including Harris, who pulled down 40 receptions for 565 yards and three touchdowns. The offense loses leader Jamal Custis, and while Sean Riley and Nykeim Johnson both provide reliable targets, their skill-sets are best left for the slot while Harris (6-foot-2) can take on the Custis role on the outside.Given that the offense will be more pass-heavy Tommy DeVito instead of Eric Dungey, the stock is trending up for all Syracuse pass-catchers, especially Harris.

32. Nico Collins / Michigan / Junior

Collins' status warrants monitoring toward the summer and fall after sitting out the spring with an undisclosed surgery, but if healthy he looks like an imminent star. At a listed 6-foot-4, 218 pounds he carries a WR1 frame, and as a true sophomore last year he turned 54 targets into 38 receptions for 632 yards and six touchdowns. That includes nine catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns on 13 targets against Ohio State and Florida. If you can produce against them then you can produce against anybody. The run-heavy Michigan offense limits him otherwise, but at least Collins has a stable quarterback situation with Shea Patterson back. 

33. Seth Williams / Auburn / Sophomore

Auburn's quarterback situation may be unsettled, but there's no doubt who the top receiver on The Plains is: Williams. As a true freshman in 2018, Williams turned his 43 targets into 26 catches for 534 yards and five touchdowns -- that  comes out to 12.4 yards per target and 20.5 yards per catch in an offense that averaged 7.6 YPA as a whole. With Ryan Davis and Darius Slayton -- who combined for 44 percent of the target share last season -- gone, Williams is in line for a massive target volume to match his outsized talent.

34. Corey Sutton / Appalachian State / Junior

Sutton's chemistry with quarterback Zac Smith led to a breakout 2018 season and there's more in store for 2019. He had a Sun Belt-leading 10 touchdowns and averaged 9.9 yards per target while drawing 27 percent of the Mountaineers' targets -- nearly double of any other Appalachian State receiver. Sutton's role isn't going anywhere and at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, he will present a mismatch to Sun Belt corners on upwards of 100 targets. 

Editor's note: Sutton was arrested on a marijuana possession charge in June and could face discipline from the program.

35. Tamorrion Terry / Florida State / Sophomore

The lone bright spot in Florida State's offense in 2018 was Terry, a freshman with a relatively modest recruiting pedigree (three-star) by FSU's standards who managed to make an instant impact. He caught 35 passes for 744 yards (21.3 YPR) and eight touchdowns. He accounted for 23 percent of the team's receiving yards despite having just 18 percent of the team's targets. With Nyqwan Murray gone, Terry steps into a clear No.1 role for a Seminoles offense that almost has to improve by default after a dreadful 2018. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
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