THE LOOKOUT LIST: WR
By Simon Carroll
You won’t find Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or Rondale Moore on this list. Here we pinpoint ten not-so-familiar names that will make a big impact this season:
Jalen Reagor, TCU Horned Frogs
Reagor made an instant impact for the Horned Frogs in 2017, acting as a big play threat on limited opportunites. In 2018 he exploded – only one more touchdown (9) than the previous year but almost double the yardage (1,061 yards). He also added three more touchdowns on the ground with a whopping 13.1 yards per carry.
A shade under six foot, Reagor isn’t made for redzone duty. But what he does bring is athleticism and lots of it – elite speed, acrobatic catches and elusiveness on every play. In an offense with underwhelming Quarterback play he shone last season. And with Gary Patterson expecting a much better season in Forth Worth, Reagor stands to improve his game even further.
Tyler Johnson, Minnesota Golden Gophers
Looking for a wide receiver with an all-round game? Look no further than Tyler Johnson, who has developed nicely from a redzone threat in his sophomore year to a dangerous wide reciever wherever he lines up and in any situation.
He heads back to Minneapolis as a senior with serious ambitions of being the best wideout in the Big 12. Obviously guys like KJ Hill, KJ Hamler, Nico Collins & Donovan Peoples-Jones may have something to say about that. But Johnson really can do everything. 20 Touchdowns and 2,000 yards in his career shows how lethal he can be with the ball in his hands. Out of the 78 receptions he had last year, 61 of them went for either a first down or a touchdown.
Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt Commodores
Vanderbilt, perennially the doormat of the SEC, have themselves a pair of playmakers on this offense. Ke’Shawn Vaughn (previewed on the RB Lookout List) is joined by wide receiver Kalija Lipscomb. 6’1” and 200lb, Lipscomb is a possession receiver who simply does not drop the football. Utilised predominantly from the slot for two seasons, he showed last year he can also make plays on the outside.
His sticky hands have drawn comparisons to Jordan Matthews, a former Commodore who has had a lengthy NFL career. If Lipscomb is to break the 1,000 yard barrier as a senior, he’ll have to do it the hard way: Vandy will have an unseasoned QB under center in either Mo Hasan or Deuce Wallace.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC Trojans
As far as freshman seasons go, Amon-Ra St.Brown made quite the statement. He was a little inconsistent as expected but showed he was a versatile wide receiver that had the playmaking ability to cause headaches for defenses. Texas certainly saw enough of him in week 3, St.Brown racking up 167 yards from just 9 catches:
We quickly saw the chemistry between himself and Quarterback JT Daniels last year. And this is expected to grow even more under new Offensive Co-ordinator Graham Harrell. If spring practice is anything to go by the shackles have well and truly been taken off. With the playbook being opened up and Daniels expected to take the next step, then it’s only logical to assume that St. Brown will make the leap as well.
Justin Jefferson, LSU Tigers
Justin Jefferson might be my favourite wide receiver on this list. Considering last year was his first real taste of action he showed subtle nuances to his game that some receivers never master at the college level. Jefferson went for 875 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2018; not huge stats but when his number was called he made plays. His forte is getting separation at the top of his routes – particularly on deep crosses and comebacks, but also finds that little space to operate on the sidelines and at the back of the endzone, where his terrific footwork is displayed.
Whilst not a huge YAC guy he never settles and always looks for the extra yard. He can make contested catches and isn’t afraid of the physical side of the game either; a complete skillset that should develop further in his junior year with Joe Burrow back at Quarterback. There have been a lot of great wide receiver talent to come out of LSU and Jefferson might just be the next one.
Damonte Coxie, Memphis Tigers
Great name = great wide receiver right? Well in this case it does. Coxie came out of Anthony Miller’s shadow in Memphis last year posting almost 1,200 yards and 7 touchdowns. He helped the Tigers to another strong showing in the AAC, losing to #7 ranked UCF in the championship game. A similar body type to Miller, Coxie is listed at 6’3” and 200lbs and it shows on his game tape: a Quarterback’s best friend who can high-point the football and catch in traffic.
That’s not to say that he isn’t athletic – far from it. He has the quickness to go with the physical traits but more impressive is his technique – crisp routes, good footwork and of course strong after the catch. He’s a handful for any cornerback and will look to impose himself on the conference even further in 2019.
Rico Bussey, North Texas Mean Green
So I got excited about Mason Fine in my QB Lookout List and the love for the Mean Green doesn’t end there. Taking advantage of Fine’s arm and Graham Harrell’s play-action offense in 2018 Bussey become the ultimate deep threat, going for over 1000 yards and 12 touchdowns at an average of 15.0 yards per catch. To show what he can do, check out a couple of his catches on this remarkable 98 yard drive from North Texas to beat UTSA with just 67 seconds left:
If you were able to peel your eyes off those sexy black uniforms you’d see that Bussey beats his man off the snap every time. He has the speed to get open but also the wiggle in tight spaces and a sure set of hands on the sidelines or for contested catches. The Conference-USA simply doesn’t have the defensive backs to keep a lid on him. And despite Harrell moving on to USC Bussey should be the go-to reciever in this offense as a senior.
Nico Collins, Michigan Wolverines
Listed at 6’4” and 218lbs, Collins is an intimidating sight for Big 10 defenses. Not as productive last year as the other receivers on this list, his measurables and big-game performances give a glimpse to the potential we could see on Saturdays in 2019. He finished very strongly last season with a dominant showing against Ohio State. And with a more comfortable Shea Patterson back at Quarterback he should make a huge leap this year.
He’ll also benefit from playing opposite Donovan Peoples-Jones as defenses look to spread their resources to combat a promising aerial attack. He won’t be taking the top off a defense any time soon, but hit him up in the redzone or on third down and he’ll bring the ball in for you. In a make or break year for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, Collins’ growth will play a key role in their success.
Marquez Stevenson, Houston Cougars
Taking a redshirt in 2017 following two years of injury problems, Marquez Stevenson exploded onto the scene last year. Rather like Rico Bussey, Stevenson benefitted from having an electric Quarterback throwing to him in D’Eriq King. He also had a talented co-ordinator in Kendal Briles, creating a dynamic offense for him to thrive in. Briles has moved on but King is still there and with Dana Holgorsen taking control of the Cougars there shouldn’t be much in the way of a dropoff.
Stevenson is electric in his own right – one of the fastest receivers in college football – and with almost 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage last year he showed his athleticism translates to the field. He’s a key part of any trick play that this offense cooks up and can line up in the backfield too. Give Stevenson the ball in space and he’ll do the rest.
James Proche, SMU Mustangs
Ever since the 1987 death penalty, SMU have been overlooked as a college football program. But something they do on a regular basis is churn out NFL-quality wide receivers – see Emmanuel Sanders, Cole Beasley, Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton for examples. Next on that list could very well be James Proche, who went for 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns last year.
He’s a productive three year starter and it’s probably fair to compare his game to Beasley’s in that he’s played a lot of slot receiver and he catches literally everything thrown his way; PFF had him hauling in 93 of 96 catchable passes last year. Coming back for his senior year was smart as he’s now unquestionably the go-to target in this offense. And he will be crucial for Shane Buechele, who projects to be the starting quarterback after transferring from Texas. If these two click then Proche could explode and SMU could be in the mix for the AAC Championship. Don’t be surprised if you see him on Sundays in a couple of years.
previously the founder of nfl draft uk, simon has been covering college football and the nfl draft since 2009. based in manchester, simon is also co-creator & weekly guest of the collapsing pocket podcast.