College Football: Wide Receivers to watch in 2018 – by Andy Moore

We’ve looked at the Quarterbacks and Running Backs to watch this season in the NCAA, and with the College Football season kicking off last weekend, now is the prime time to run through the WRs who are set to make a splash in 2019.

(Whilst I mention last weekend, how good did Hawaii QB Cole McDonald look in their season opener!?)

A.J Brown – Ole Miss

Brown is probably the receiver you’ve heard most about ahead of the 18/19 season. Marooned in an Ole Miss side that is still banned from the postseason, he’s the consensus best WR in the College game after catching 75 passes for 1,252 yards and 11 TDs last year.

With two years of eligibility left there is no guarantee that we’ll see him enter the 2019 draft, but if he can replicate the form that saw him name a Preseason First-Team All American by Sports Illustrated earlier in the summer, he could be making the jump to the big leagues very quickly.

Brown’s power and physical statue make him a matchup nightmare at the college level, with Daniel Jeremiah singling out toughness as an underrated attribute that the Mississippi native has in common with some of the game’s best. But, perhaps less evidently, it is Brown’s RAC ability that will have NFL scouts watching with interest. His power and fleet of foot, regularly prevent opposition defenders being able to bring him down and helped him make three catches of more than 70 yards last year.

AJBrown
Photo Credit: AP PHOTO/ROGELIO V. SOLIS

In Jordan Ta’amu, the Rebels have a quality signal caller under centre this year and Brown will look to make the most of that. The one thing he still has to prove is his big game ability, this season will give the future pro chance to do that against LSU, Auburn and Mississippi State. However, it’ll be the matchup with Alabama in Week 3 that will really draw attention where last season Brown caught the ball once for six yards and was largely shut down as Ole Miss were blown out 66-3 by the Crimson Tide.

I’ve no doubt we’ll be talking about Brown all season, the attributes are all there and the first round tag is already stuck squarely on his chest. If he can develop his partnership with Ta’amu even further, there is absolutely no reason why you won’t be seeing the powerful 6ft 1” pass catcher in the big leagues next year.

David Sills – West Virginia

18 touchdown catches saw Sills roar onto NFL radars across the country last year. However, 12 months earlier he was still throwing the ball as a well-touted QB recruit. Sills emerged from High School in 2015 as a four-star prospect according to Rivals, with his ability in the pocket earning him particular praise.

Fast forward to August 2018 and Sills is the second highest rated receiver in college football after a huge season catching passes from Will Grier. Last year the Mountaineer Senior caught the ball 60 times for 980 yards on the way to leading the nation in scores. With both quarterback and receiver returning for another season, the question is, can they repeat their productivity in the year they will both be drafted?

All the evidence says yes, West Virginia don’t have a particularly tricky schedule and with a lot of their core talent returning for their senior season expectations will be high in Morgantown. Sills will undoubtedly face tougher coverage after his break out season, but the experts argue he has the attributes to overcome this.

Sills
Photo Credit: Ben Queen/USA TODAY Sports

Sills has a ton of deep threat ability, picking up 477 of his 980 yards on passes of 20 yards or more. This is highlighted by his speed and acceleration from the line which makes him a particular threat when facing up against man coverage. He’s also productive from the slot, from which he caught 5 touchdowns last season, making him a versatile addition to an NFL roster.

However, there are still certain areas for improvement, after all the First Team All-American was playing a completely different position just two seasons ago. Sills himself has detailed how his preseason workouts have been focused on honing the intricacies of his craft such as route running and catching in traffic.

Those improvements could and should lead to a huge year for the Mountaineers and Sills himself, don’t be surprised to see him go in the first round of next year’s draft, possibly even beating out Grier to the first WV player off the board.

Felton Davis III – Michigan State

Davis isn’t a high profile player in the same category as Brown or Sills, but at least some of you should be learning his name in next year’s draft. The 2017 breakout even suffers the insult of lacking a Wikipedia page at the time of writing! That isn’t to say he isn’t one to watch, last season saw him produce in a big way, catching 55 passes for 776 yards and 9 TDs in 13 games.

Prior to that, Davis hadn’t produced a lot at the College level, a stat line of just 1 TD and 14 catches across two seasons for Michigan State wasn’t pulling up trees by any means. However, last year’s breakout has him slated as a third-round pick in some very early mock drafts.

Felon
Photo Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The game that announced Davis onto the scene last year was the Spartans matchup with Iowa in week four, from just nine catches he racked up 114 yards and 2 TDs as his teammates rebounded from a loss to Notre Dame to beat the Cyclones 17-10. In that performance, and across the rest of the season, Davis’ size and athleticism put him a class above his peers – his 22 yard TD showcasing his ability to lose his man effortlessly in the red zone. Add to that an ability to come good for his team when most needed and the NFL is certainly beckoning.

However, there are some glaring needs for improvement in Davis’ game which make the other two WRs on this list higher rated than him. Firstly, he has a tendency to drop routine targets, not something that is to be worried about immediately but scouts will be certainly looking for that to improve this season. Secondly, Davis appears to struggle against the stronger opponents he comes up again, going into a pro-league with the likes of Patrick Peterson, Jalen Ramsey and Minkah Fitzpatrick lining up in the secondary, he desperately needs to improve that.

So there you have it, 3 WRs with real quality to watch next year, and I’m certain we will see them lining up in NFL offenses this time next year.

by Andy Moore – @AJMoore21

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