It’s all about making the catches in the clutch and keeping the chains moving.
Drops aren’t an option. Elite receivers do their damage out of the slot or on the edge. Rather they’re hauling in a screen pass, or a deep fade down the sidelines, gaining yards after the catch is vital.
Often times they require double coverage. Stretching the field on a defense, building chemistry with the quarterback and effective blocking all goes a long way with the success of a wide receiver.
These 20 individuals built a buzz and showed last season what it takes to be a star wideout. Now they’re all riding that big wave of momentum into spring ball and building on their legacies.
20. Ali Jennings, Old Dominion: In two seasons at West Virginia he played in 16 games and generated 26 catches for 240 yards and two touchdowns. However, Jennings transferred to Old Dominion last year and captured his first 1,000-yard campaign. Jennings also averaged over 17 yards per reception. He caught a touchdown against UTEP and Marshall. The Virginia native hauled in a season-high, 13 passes for 172 yards against Western Kentucky. Jennings stockpiled 146 receiving yards on four catches in the victory over Middle Tennessee State. His best performance was a jaw-dropping, 252 receiving yards and three touchdown catches in the win over Charlotte, which were both season-highs.
19. Puka Nacua, BYU: The former four-star prospect played in six games in two seasons at Washington. During that span Nacua generated 16 receptions for 319 yards and three touchdowns. However, the Utah native transferred to BYU last year and led the team in receiving yards. Nacua caught four balls for 102 yards in the win over South Florida. He also stockpiled a season-high, 168 receiving yards and a touchdown against Baylor. Not to mention Nacua went over the century mark in receiving yards in victories over Virginia and Idaho State. Nacua caught six touchdowns over the Cougars’ final six games of the regular season, including two at Georgia Southern.
18. Tyrese Chambers, Florida International: The Baltimore native had no stars behind his name out of high school. However, Chambers racked up 1,074 receiving yards on 45 catches last season. Not to mention he averaged nearly 24 yards per reception. Chambers generated six touchdown catches through the Golden Panthers’ first six games. He hauled in six passes for 175 yards and a score against Central Michigan. Chambers racked up a season-high, 201 receiving yards and two touchdowns on three catches against Charlotte. In the season finale at Southern Miss, Chambers eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards and caught a touchdown.
17. Isaiah Neyor, Texas: The former Wyoming wideout led the Mountain West in touchdown catches last season. Neyor caught two touchdowns apiece against Northern Illinois, San Jose State and Colorado State. The Texas native hauled in six passes for a season-high, 126 yards and a score against Boise State. Neyor also eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards in the win over Utah State. He had at least one touchdown catch in each of Wyoming’s final six games. The former two-star prospect finished the season with second-team, All-Mountain West honors. Now Neyor will be playing alongside Xavier Worthy this fall, forming one of the best receiver tandems in the country.
16. Dante Cephas, Kent State: The Pittsburgh native captured his first 1,000-yard season last year. Cephas finished second in the MAC and 16th in the FBS in receiving yards. He caught 10 balls for 151 yards and a score at Maryland. Cephas also had 100-yard games against Buffalo, Ohio, Wyoming and Northern Illinois twice. His 13 catches for 186 yards and three touchdowns were all season-highs in the win over the Bulls. The former three-star prospect averaged 88.6 receiving yards per game, which ranked 26th in the nation. For his heroics Cephas earned first-team, All-MAC and will arguably be the best wideout in the league this fall.
15. Jacob Cowing, Arizona: The former two-star prospect racked up 1,354 receiving yards at UTEP last season, which ranked ninth in the FBS. Cowing’s 104.1 receiving yards per game was 10th-best in the country. He also averaged nearly 20 yards per catch. The Arizona native ripped off a 53-yard touchdown run in the victory over Southern Miss. Not to mention Cowing had a touchdown catch in each of the Miners’ first four games. Cowing went over 100 yards receiving against Boise State, New Mexico, Old Dominion, Louisiana Tech, UTSA, North Texas and Rice. He generated a season-high, 11 receptions in the win over the Owls. Cowing finished the year with first-team, All-C-USA honors.
14. Jalen Cropper, Fresno State: The Californian led the Bulldogs in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches last season. The impressive part was the fact that 10 of Cropper’s 11 touchdown receptions happened through Fresno State’s first seven games. He hauled in a jaw-dropping, 14 passes for 141 yards and a score in the victory at UCLA, which were both season-highs. The following week Cropper generated 10 catches for 108 yards and four scores in the win over UNLV. Over the Bulldogs’ final two games he combined for 16 catches, 188 total yards and a touchdown. The former three-star prospect finished the season with second-team, All-Mountain West honors.
13. Jayden Reed, Michigan State: Last season he captured his first 1,000-yard campaign, and finished fourth in the Big Ten in touchdown catches. Reed caught four balls for 181 yards and two touchdowns against Youngstown State. He racked up 127 receiving yards and scored two touchdowns, including a punt return against Western Kentucky. Reed returned another punt for a score against Nebraska. The Illinois native generated eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Maryland. Reed also caught two touchdowns in the bowl win over Pittsburgh. Over the Spartans’ final four games he caught five touchdowns and finished the season with third-team, All-Big Ten honors.
12. Nathaniel Dell, Houston: The former Juco put together a monster season in 2021 and finished 12th in the FBS in receiving yards. Dell hauled in 90 passes, and tied for eighth in the country in touchdown catches. The Florida native averaged 94.9 receiving yards per game. He had 100-yard receiving games against Grambling State, SMU, South Florida, Memphis, Cincinnati and Auburn. Not to mention Dell caught two touchdowns in the victory over Connecticut. The cherry on top to Dell’s amazing year was capping it off with first-team, All-AAC honors. Over the past two seasons with the Cougars Dell has 119 catches for 1,757 yards and 15 touchdowns.
11. Dontay Demus, Maryland: The Washington D.C. native got off to a fast start in 2021. Demus caught six balls for 133 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening win over West Virginia. The following week Demus racked up 128 receiving yards and caught a touchdown in the victory over Howard. He shredded Kent State’s defense with four catches for 108 yards and a score. Demus racked up 24 catches for 445 yards and three touchdowns through the Terrapins’ first four games. Unfortunately he suffered a season-ending knee injury on a kickoff return in the first half against Iowa. If Demus returns back to form as expected, he has the potential to become the Big Ten’s Receiver of the Year this fall.
10. Mitchell Tinsley, Penn State: The former Juco put up video game numbers at Western Kentucky last season. Tinsley’s 14 touchdown catches ranked fifth in the FBS. The Missouri native’s 1,402 receiving yards were eighth-best in the country. Tinsley also averaged 100.1 receiving yards per contest. The speedy wideout generated 127 receiving yards against Michigan State. He caught 11 touchdowns over the Hilltoppers’ final eight games. Tinsley eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards and scored two touchdowns apiece against Rice, Florida Atlantic, UTSA and Appalachian State. After carving up opposing defenses throughout 2021, Tinsley finished the year with second-team, All-C-USA honors.
9. Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State: He’s a two-time, first-team, All-Big 12 performer, who caught 83 balls last season. Hutchinson went from being a former Juco, to the Big 12’s Offensive Newcomer of the Year in 2020. The six-foot-three, 210-pounder has led the Cyclones in receptions and receiving yards the past two seasons. Hutchinson caught 10 balls for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the win over UNLV. The Florida native had a season-high, 12 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Oklahoma State. Hutchinson also eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards against Texas Tech and TCU. Iowa State fans are thankful to have him back in the cardinal and gold for 2022.
8. Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia: Despite suffering a season-ending injury in fall camp of 2020, he returned and captured his first 1,000-yard campaign last year. Wicks finished second in the ACC in touchdown catches and fourth in receiving yards. Not to mention he averaged over 21 yards per reception. The Louisiana native caught seven balls for a season-high, 183 yards and a score at North Carolina. The following week he hauled in seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown against Wake Forest. Wicks also went over 100 yards receiving against Duke, Georgia Tech, BYU and Pittsburgh. The former three-star prospect finished the season with first-team, All-ACC honors.
7. Xavier Worthy, Texas: The former four-star prospect set the Big 12 on fire as a true freshman last season. Worthy led the league with 12 touchdown catches. Not to mention he caught at least one touchdown in six of the Longhorns’ nine conference games, and earned first-team, All-Big 12 honors. The California native had five receptions for 100 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Texas Tech. He hauled in nine passes for a season-high, 261 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma. Worthy racked up 115 receiving yards and a score at Baylor. His best performance of the year came against Kansas, when Worthy caught 14 passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns.
6. Josh Downs, North Carolina: The Georgia native led the ACC with a jaw-dropping, 101 catches last season. Downs’ 1,335 receiving yards ranked 10th in the FBS. Not to mention he averaged 102.7 receiving yards per game, which was second-best in the league. Downs caught eight balls for 123 yards and a touchdown in the season-opener at Virginia Tech. Two weeks later he shredded Virginia’s defense for a season-high, 203 receiving yards and two scores. The former four-star prospect also went over the century mark in receiving yards against Duke, Florida State, Miami and Notre Dame. He had double-digit receptions against the Hurricanes and Fighting Irish, and earned first-team, All-ACC honors.
5. Cedric Tillman, Tennessee: Although the Las Vegas native didn’t receive no All-SEC consideration last season, he still made a name for himself with a 1,000-yard campaign. Tillman led the Volunteers in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches. Not to mention his 12 receiving scores ranked second in the SEC. The former three-star prospect caught at least one touchdown in six of Tennessee’s eight conference games. Tillman started off quiet, but went on an impressive streak over the Volunteers’ final seven games, with a touchdown reception in each contest. He caught seven balls for 152 yards and a score at Alabama. His 10 catches for 200 yards against Georgia were both season-highs.
4. A.T. Perry, Wake Forest: He flat-out dominated opposing secondaries and couldn’t be contained last season. Perry stockpiled 15 touchdown catches, which ranked second in the ACC and third in the FBS. He finished No. 13 in the country with 1,293 receiving yards and earned first-team, All-ACC honors. The Florida native caught eight touchdowns through the Demon Deacons’ first seven games, including three in the win at Syracuse. Perry eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards in seven different games, including five conference tilts. The former three-star prospect hauled in a season-high, 10 passes in the bowl victory over Rutgers. Perry will no doubt be one the most explosive receivers in 2022.
3. Kayshon Boutte, LSU: The former five-star prospect is considered by many as one of the fastest players in College football. Boutte caught nine touchdown passes through LSU’s first five games last year before he suffered a season-ending leg injury at Kentucky. He started off on fire, with nine receptions for 148 yards and three scores in the opener at UCLA. The following week Boutte caught two touchdowns in the victory over McNeese State. The Louisiana native also had two receiving scores in the win over Mississippi State. Boutte followed up that performance with six catches for 127 yards and a touchdown against Auburn. Before Boutte left the game against the Wildcats he caught eight balls.
2. Jordan Addison, USC: The reigning Biletnikoff Award winner is coming off a magical season. Addison caught a jaw-dropping, 17 touchdowns, which tied for first in the FBS. Not only was he No. 1 in the ACC in receiving yards and receiving yards per game, but Addison’s 100 catches ranked second in the league. The Maryland native eclipsed the century mark in receiving yards in eight different games. Addison caught 14 balls for 202 yards and four touchdowns in the victory over Virginia, which were all season-highs. He finished last season with first-team, AP All-America honors. Addison has 160 receptions for 2,259 yards and 21 touchdowns over the past two years with the reigning ACC Champs.
1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State: He put together a phenomenal campaign in 2021, despite playing alongside Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Smith-Njigba caught 95 passes for 1,606 yards, which were both single-season, school records. The Texas native’s 15 catches in the win at Nebraska, and 347 receiving yards in the Rose Bowl victory over Utah, were single-game, school records. Smith-Njigba’s 123.5 receiving yards per game ranked first in the Power Five and second in the FBS. The former five-star prospect went over 100 yards receiving in seven different contests, including double-digit receptions in four. Smith-Njigba finished the season with third-team, AP All-America honors.
Quentin Johnston, TCU: He led the Horned Frogs in receiving yards and touchdown receptions last season. Johnston went over the century mark in receiving against Oklahoma, West Virginia and Baylor. Not to mention Johnston caught two touchdowns in the victory over California.
Parker Washington, Penn State: Despite playing alongside Jahan Dotson over the past two seasons, he still stockpiled 100 receptions, 1,309 receiving yards and 10 touchdown catches. Last year Washington caught a touchdown against Rutgers and Michigan State, plus he went over 100 yards receiving against Ohio State.
Thayer Thomas, NC State: The former walk-on led the Wolfpack in touchdown catches last season. Thomas hauled in two touchdown passes against Miami and generated 122 receiving yards in the win over Boston College. He also found the endzone against Mississippi State, Furman, Clemson, Syracuse and North Carolina.
Milton Wright, Purdue: The Kentucky native caught a touchdown against Notre Dame, Minnesota, Nebraska and Ohio State last year. Wright snagged eight passes, for a season-high, 213 yards and three receiving scores in the win over Northwestern. With David Bell off to the NFL, Wright’s numbers should increase tremendously this fall.