Making a List: 2018 Devy Wide Receivers

Ryan McDowell

If you’re familiar with my work, you have probably seen my periodic installments of Making a List, in which I choose a topic and share my top five rankings. In this new version of the series, I’ll be ranking the top 10 devy players on a weekly basis, sorted by position and class. Also, each edition will also include a quick rookie mock draft for one of the upcoming seasons. This should be an easy way to track how college players are rising and falling as the season goes along.

This week, I check in with the 2018 draft eligible wide receivers. This has been a rough year for the top draft eligible wideouts as many are off to a slow start, either due to injury, poor quarterback play or simply disappointing on-field performances.

1. Courtland Sutton, SMU

After his redshirt sophomore season, SMU’s Courtland Sutton got all of our hopes up that he would declare and be a part of the stacked 2017 draft class. In the end, he chose to return to school, even though many were projecting him as a first-round pick. In many cases, that decision can backfire on a player and that’s exactly how Sutton’s season began. Outside of a dominating performance against overmatched North Texas, Sutton totaled just five catches through the first month of the season and draft analysts were already voicing their concern. That said, Sutton has rebounded nicely in the past two weeks, averaging a 9/141/1 line against Connecticut and Houston. The good news for Sutton is that he is not alone in his struggles, so he is still well in contention to be the top drafted wide receiver and one of the top players off the board in dynasty leagues.

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2. Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame

Notre Dame’s young wideout Equanimeous St. Brown enjoyed a breakout season in 2016 as a redshirt freshman, posting either 75 receiving yards or a touchdown in nine of 12 games as he benefitted from the athletic play of quarterback DeShone Kizer. 2017 has not been so kind to St. Brown as the Irish have struggled to replace Kizer, most notably with former top recruit Brandon Wimbush. After a promising start to the season with a 4/80/1 stat line, St. Brown has disappeared, as has most of the Notre Dame offense. While I am not holding this overall subpar performance against St. Brown, I do fear it could halt a leap to the NFL. St. Brown’s family has made it clear how important education is to them, making it a strong possibility we see St. Brown rebuff the NFL after the season.

3. James Washington, Oklahoma State

Another player that dynasty owners expected to see in the class of 2017 was Oklahoma State’s James Washington, who joined his teammate Mason Rudolph in opting to return to school after the 2016 season. Unlike Sutton, this looks like a smart move as the pair have been a dominant duo in their final college season. Washington is posting silly numbers, averaging nearly six receptions for 130 yards per game this season, despite sitting out large chunks of blowout wins. There are some concerns about Washington’s measurables which could cause him to fall to day two of the NFL Draft and the late first round, or later, of dynasty rookie drafts. For now, it is difficult to ignore the numbers he’s putting up on a weekly basis.

4. Auden Tate, Florida State

Seminoles junior receiver Auden Tate has been in and out of the lineup this season with a shoulder injury, but he has been dominant when in the lineup, hauling in a touchdown in each game he’s played this year. Florida State has been hammered by serious injuries, most notably to their quarterback Deondre Francois, so they are likely to be cautious with Tate, who has drawn comparisons to Giants receiver Brandon Marshall. At 6’5” and over 220 pounds, Tate is a beast on the field and would be a steal in the late first round of dynasty rookie drafts.

5. Deon Cain, Clemson

Entering college as one of the top-ranked receiving recruits, expectations were sky high for Deon Cain at a school that has become famous for producing high-level NFL wideouts. After a respectable freshman season in which he was asked to play a big role following the neck injury to current Charger Mike Williams, Cain has seemingly taken a step back. I’ve found myself watching Clemson games over the past two seasons and being surprised to hear his name called in the early second half, having forgotten about him being on the field. He can sometimes disappear and he hasn’t eclipsed 60 receiving yards in any game this season. To be fair, Clemson is also trying to replace Deshaun Watson and leaning more on the running game than they have in the past two seasons. I see Cain as an overrated commodity in devy leagues.

6. Calvin Ridley, Alabama

Alabama’s Calvin Ridley put up ridiculous numbers in his freshman season and had devy owners chasing him, despite his “advanced” age. Ridley took a step back in 2016 though as the Crimson Tide moved to freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts, who would much rather tuck the ball and run than hit his 6’1”, 190-pound star receiver for a big play. That has continued this season as Hurts leads the team in rushing despite having the deepest and most talented backfield in the country. Ridley will almost surely declare for the NFL Draft following this season and I am confident he’ll be a better receiver as a pro than we’ve seen in college.

7. Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

Do it all wideout Christian Kirk has been ranked as a top five overall prospect by many draftniks, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper. I’m not sure if I’m that high on the Aggies star, but he is certainly intriguing, especially after we’ve seen players of a similar frame and talent level succeed, namely Stefon Diggs and Tyreek Hill. He should absolutely dominate the NFL Combine. Kirk will be a trendy pick in the middle of the first round in dynasty rookie drafts, and may fall in that same range in the NFL Draft, as well.

8. Jaylen Smith, Louisville

After the Louisville Cardinals lost a majority of their key offensive weapons after last season, there was a question about who would step up and help Heisman winner Lamar Jackson. Although he’s dealt with a wrist injury, the answer to that has been junior receiver Jaylen Smith, a size/speed freak who has been a nice depth piece through his first two seasons with the Cards. As the top target for Jackson, Smith notched career high numbers against North Carolina, catching nine passes for 183 yards and a score. As a somewhat inexperienced prospect, Smith is another player who could stay in school, though his decision could be affected by Jackson, a junior who will face the same choice about making the leap.

9. Dante Pettis, Washington

Catching the Washington Huskies is rare for many east coasters, but every time I stayed up late to watch John Ross last season, it was his running mate, receiver Dante Pettis who made the big play. While I shied away from injury-riddled Ross, I am all in on Pettis, a four-year contributor to the Huskies. Pettis exploded in last season’s playoff run, hauling in a whopping 15 touchdowns from quarterback Jake Browning and he already has six this season, though they’ve come in spurts in the form of a pair of three score games. Expected to be a mid-round pick, Pettis will likely be a target of mine in the last second round range of rookie drafts.

10. Richie James, Middle Tennessee

Yet another talented receiver to miss time this season with an injury is Middle Tennessee’s Richie James, who sat out multiple games with an ankle injury. After back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in his first two years, including last year’s 1,964 yards from scrimmage, James’ production has dipped, mostly due to that bum ankle. It is difficult for a small-school prospect to create a lot of draft buzz, but it’s nearly impossible for a 5’9”, 170 pounder to get scouts excited. Expect James to return to school for his senior season.

Other Contenders: Jauan Jennings, Antonio Callaway, Deebo Samuel, Simmie Cobbs, Allen Lazard, Miles Boykin, Michael Gallup, Anthony Miller, Jester Weah, Nick Westbrook

2020 Dynasty Rookie Mock Draft

    1. Jhamon Ausbon, WR Texas A&M
    2. Cam Akers, RB Florida State
    3. JK Dobbins, RB Ohio State
    4. Stephen Carr, RB USC
    5. Jonathan Taylor, RB Wisconsin
    6. Jerry Jeudy, WR Alabama
    7. Trey Sermon, RB Oklahoma
    8. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR Michigan
    9. Tee Higgins, WR Clemson
    10. Tarik Black, WR Michigan
    11. D’Andre Swift, RB Georgia
    12. Najee Harris, RB Alabama


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