The wide receiver position is probably the most deep and talented of any position coming in to the 2010 season. This year’s group of juniors come from the talented high school class of 2008, which featured stars such as Alabama’s Julio Jones, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd, Ohio State’s DeVier Posey and Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin. The high school class of 2008 may produce the best group of NFL wide receivers the league has ever seen.
- Michael Floyd, Notre DameHow does a receiver who caught just 795 yards in 2009 end up being the best receiver in college football? Answer: When the player broke his collarbone in the third week of the season and missed just five games. Not to mention the fact that he was playing opposite Golden Tate, who set every Irish receiving record known to man. Floyd has a rare blend of size (6-foot-3, 220-pounds), leaping ability and speed. He is also a precise route runner and is not afraid to go over the middle. Though he has had a history of injuries during his time in South Bend, he’s proved to be tough and will catch absolutely anything.
- Jonathan Baldwin, PittsburghThe 6-foot-5 behemoth reminds Panthers fans of Larry Fitzgerald. But, Baldwin has even better leaping ability and much more speed. His combination of size and strength makes opposing cornerbacks lose sleep at night. Baldwin averaged nearly 20 yards per catch in 2009, totaling 57 receptions for 1,111 yards and eight touchdowns. He did all that despite playing second fiddle in Pittsburgh’s offensive attack to freshman running back Dion Lewis. If Baldwin can stay healthy and academically eligible and the Panthers can find a quarterback, he will become the next great pass catcher coming out of “Wide Receiver U.”
- Ryan Broyles, OklahomaBroyles hauled in 89 catches, including 15 touchdowns, from Landry Jones and Sam Bradford in 2009. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Broyles managed to become the favorite receiver of a Heisman Trophy winner (Bradford) and his understudy (Jones). With DeMarco Murray back at running back and a more mature Jones under center, Broyles is poised to become the best receiver in what is left of the Big 12 conference.
- DeVier Posey, Ohio StateThe 6-foot-2, 200-pound Posey emerged as Terrelle Pryor’s favorite receiver in 2009. Posey hauled in 52 passes, including seven touchdowns in 2009 and even threw for another. The next closest Buckeye, Dane Sanzenbacher, caught just 27 passes. If Terrelle Pryor continues to develop as a passer and Jim Tressel takes off the offensive handcuffs (three Buckeyes, including Pryor, had over 100 carries last season), Posey will become one of the Big Ten’s leading receivers.
- Bert Reed, Florida StateReed enters life after Bowden as one of college football’s most underrated receivers. He hauled in 58 catches for 710 yards in 2009 and was also Florida State’s top punt returner. Although durability is a concern, Reed is undoubtedly one of the ACC’s most electrifying players. With a more pass-oriented attack in 2010 led by Ponder, Reed’s play making ability will put him at the forefront of the revamped Seminole receiving corps.
Best of the Rest: Derek Moye, Penn State- The only reason Moye isn’t in the top five is because Penn State is breaking in a new quarterback in 2010. Likely starter Kevin Newsome is more Michael Robinson than Daryll Clark, and offensive coordinator Jay Paterno will lean more on senior running back Evan Royster. Moye is absolutely huge (6-foot-5 and 200-pounds) and has some of the longest arms you’ll ever see in a wide receiver. He also has sub-4.5 speed and tremendous route running ability to boot. If Penn State can somehow find a passing quarterback with the sophomore Newsome or true freshmen Paul Jones or Robert Bolden, Moye will become their favorite target instantly.Julio Jones, Alabama- Its hard not to put Jones on any top five list based on raw talent alone. Jones measures 6-foot-4 and weighs in at nearly 220-pounds and also has legitimate 4.4 speed. But, Jones has yet to live up to his hype in Tuscaloosa. He was Alabama’s leading receiver in 2009, but he managed just 42 catches for 573 yards and four touchdowns. If he finds a way to put it all together, Jones has the ability to be a top five NFL Draft pick and one of college football’s most exciting players.
Dark Horse: James Cleveland, Houston- The University of Iowa transfer racked up one of the best seasons of any wide receiver in college football in 2009. Cleveland brought in 104 balls for over 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns. With Houston’s high flying offense and Heisman Trophy candidate Case Keenum’s rocket arm, Cleveland could put up even more astounding numbers in 2010. Blessed with good size (6-foot-1, 205-pounds) and speed, Cleveland could solidify himself as one of college football’s top receivers in 2010.