Wide receivers can be the hardest position to project. So many ups and downs come throughout the season because of the varying volume of targets they receive. I’m a big “draft you a STUD wide receiver early” kind of guy. I like to have that balance early in season. Receivers like Corey Davis, Trent Taylor, and Andy Isabella carried their teams to successful seasons. With that, here are my top 20 wide receivers heading into the season.
20. Warren Jackson, Colorado State
Jackson had a pedestrian season with only 32 catches for 405 yards and four touchdowns. He is in my top 20 for a few reasons. He’s a huge wideout at 6’6” 220 pounds and because of his size should be a red-zone target. Colorado State has pumped out fantasy gold for years, including the likes of Preston Williams, Michael Gallup (two seasons), and Rashard Higgins (two seasons). Of the last five years, the worst year was 1,061 yards and the best was 1,750. I’ll take a 6’6” wideout with that kind of upside any day of the week.
19. Denzel Mims, Baylor
Mims was second on the team in catches and yardage but lead the team in receiving touchdowns. The majority were inside the red zone. Jalen Hurts led the team in catches and yards and has left for the NFL and Mims should take up a lot of his production as the Bears’ top wideout.
18. Antonio Golden-Gandy, Liberty
Golden-Gandy is on my list for two reasons and two reasons alone. First, he had a 36 percent target share which led to 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns. Second, new coach Huge Freeze has had an impressive track record of producing receivers who run up fantasy numbers – Evan Engram to Donte Moncrief to Laquon Treadwell at Ole Miss.
17. Sage Surratt, Wake Forrest
Surratt will be taking the torch from stud wide receiver Greg Dortch who has moved on to the NFL. Last season Surratt had only 41 catches for 581 yards and four touchdowns. The Demon Deacons led the NCAA in plays per game at 85, so that leaves a ton of opportunity for Surratt to pile up the catches and yardage.
16. Kirk Merritt, Arkansas State
Merritt had a fantastic end to 2018. His last six games he averaged seven catches 112 yards and a touchdown. He finished the year with 83 catches 1,005 yards and seven touchdowns. He should lead the team in targets and receptions this season.
15. JD Spielman, Nebraska
Spielman is at 15 for the sole fact that I think Adrian Martinez is going to ball out this year and Spielman will be his top target. Spielman had 818 yards and eight touchdowns last year. Over the final seven games of last season, he averaged 7.5 catches for 101 yards.
14. TJ Vasher, Texas Tech
Everyone seems hesitant on Texas Tech this season with new coach Matt Wells in town. Wells had had good success over the years producing fantasty-relevant quarterbacks like Chuckie Keeton and Jordan Love. QB Alan Bowman will be just fine and Vasher should be his go-to guy. He finished last season with only 687 yards and seven touchdowns. All seven came in the red zone and most inside the 10-yard line. He’s 6’6” and 219 pounds. With former teammate Antoine Wesley going to the NFL, there are over 1,400 yards up for grabs.
13. Justyn Ross, Clemson
I am hopping on the Ross hype train in a big way. He’s 6’4” and 205 pounds and plays on one of the best offenses in the county with a top tier quarterback. In his freshman year, he put up a decent number with 46 catches for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 21.7 yards per catch and has so much room to grow this season.
12. Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
Let me start by saying Minnesota may not look like a “sexy” fantasy team but if you look closely there’s a lot to like here. Coach PJ Fleck is doing some great things here and Johnson is benefiting in a big way. He finished with 78 catches, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdowns with a 43.07 percent target share. If you look back on Fleck’s years at Western Michigan, he has had outstanding wide receivers like Corey Davis and Daniel Braverman. Johnson seems to be the next one in line for a big season.
11. Rico Bussey Jr., North Texas
Bussey is the top target for quarterback Mason Fine and the Mean Green was one of the better offenses in the country last season, averaging 34.6 points per game. With all the main pieces returning this year, they should continue to build on that. Bussey will be going up against Group of Five (Conference USA) competition and should be able to at least repeat last season where he went for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns.
10. Jalen Reagor, TCU
Reagor is a great example that you don’t have to be in a great offense to be fantasy relevant. TCU was terrible on offense last season. Reagor still put up great numbers – 1,061 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also dominated the target share with 38.43 percent. Regardless of who is under center this season, Reagor will be the focal point of the offense and they will get him the ball no matter what.
9. Collin Johnson, Texas
Texas’s 6’6” 220-pound stud wide receiver is back for his senior year. He was just shy of 1,000 yards last season and should easily eclipse that with LJ Humphrey gone to the NFL. Sam Ehlinger comes in as one of the nation’s top returning quarterbacks and will be looking for Johnson regularly, especially in the red zone.
8. Cedric Byrd, Hawaii
Hawaii’s “Run and Shoot” offense sure is fun to watch. Quarterback Cole McDonald threw the ball all over the place for most of the season. They had three wide receivers finish with more than 800 yards and nine touchdowns. With last season’s top target John Ursua gone to the NFL, that leaves over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns up for grabs. Byrd should swallow up a lot of that and have a great season in a high-powered offense.
7. James Proche, SMU
Proche led SMU in receiving with 1,199 yards and 12 scores. Shane Buchele, a graduate transfer from Texas, looks to take over at quarterback for the Mustangs and Proche will likely lead the way in targets. Last season, he was one of the highest targeted wide receivers in the NCAA with a 36.77 percent target share. Coach Sonny Dykes loves to throw the ball around it’ll definitely show in Proche’s numbers.
6. Marquez Stevenson, Houston
Stevenson had a decent season last year. Starting quarterback D’Eriq King went down with a knee injury and the Cougars never really recovered. With King back this year, Stevenson will be his go-to target. Stevenson finished the season with 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns. King is as electric as they come, and Stevenson will be the main benefactor. With new coach Dana Holgorsen installing his new offense, Stevenson could be in for a big season.
5. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Lamb had a great year across from Marquise Brown with 1,158 receiving yards. Brown is NFL-bound and now Lamb will be the premier target for whoever starts at quarterback for the Sooners. If Jalen Hurts get the job the offense will be a little more run heavy but there will be plenty of yards to go around as Oklahoma has posted back-to-back historical offensive seasons.
4. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
Wallace was second in the NCAA in receiving yards last year with 1,491 yards. He also had a 36.9 percent target share last year. He will have a new quarterback this season but that hasn’t seemed to matter to Mike Gundy and the Cowboys as they typically reload instead of rebuild. Wallace topped 100 receiving yards seven times last season and went over 200 twice. He will be the focal point for the passing attack this year.
3. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Jeudy was fantastic last year for Alabama. With Tua Tagovailoa taking over full time at quarterback, Jeudy had a big season with 68 catches for 1,315 and 14 touchdowns. Taking the Biletnikoff award last year he is poised to have another great year.
2. Rondale Moore, Purdue
Moore exploded onto the scene last season and had a dominating year with 114 catches, 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns with a target share of 31.2 percent. With coach Jeff Brohm’s offense, Moore should continue to get a ton of work. In 10 of his 13 games last year he had eight or more catches.
1. Laviska Shenault, Colorado
Limited by injuries to nine games, Shenault had 86 catches 1,011 yards and 11 total touchdowns. He was on pace for 114 catches 1,344 yards and 20 total touchdowns had he played all 12 games. Shenault is a target machine and led the nation with a 45.01 percent target share. With quarterback Steven Montez returning that should continue. He also gets work out of the wildcat around the goal line so expect that to continue as well.
Just missed the cut
IN NO ORDER
Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
Quez Watkins, Southern Mississippi
Marcus Simms, West Virginia
Devontavean Martin, Washington State
KJ Hill, Ohio State
Credit TeamRankings.com, 2019 Devy Watch