Points: they matter, folks. They matter a lot. In fact, to quote John Madden himself, the team that scores the most points at the end of the game will win the game — I don’t know if he actually said that out loud, but it seems like a Madden-ism.
Every team is looking to score points and as the game of football has evolved, it’s no longer about whether or not you’ll score enough points, it’s about how fast you can score them.
With that mission comes coveted skillsets. Quarterbacks with big arms are always sought after due to their ability to push the ball down the field and strike for six points at any moment. Running backs with elusiveness and breakaway speed will always find their ways onto a field to at least get a chance to show their stuff. And wide receivers, certain kinds, are needed, not just for when the ball is in the air, but also when it’s in their hands to finish drives, plays and games.
Though points are easier to come by in college football than they are in the NFL, as college teams continue to send dynamic receivers to the NFL, the pro level has, in turn, implemented them more. Players like Corey Coleman, Will Fuller and John Ross were all drafted in the first round because of what they could do as big-play wide receivers deep down the field.
Sometimes those guys don’t pan out, but it’s clear that hasn’t stopped the NFL from valuing them when they’re available.
As for the 2019 NFL Draft, these are five big-play, draft-eligible wide receivers to keep your eye on in college football this season and into next year’s draft.
Emanuel Hall, Senior, Missouri
There aren’t many 6-foot-3 wide receivers who can run a 4.4, and Missouri’s Emanuel Hall is one of them. In a pass-happy offense, led by quarterback Drew Lock, Hall put up 817 receiving yards, eight touchdowns and the second-highest yards-per-catch average in all of college football at 24.76 in 2017.
Hall had too many drops to be Lock’s No. 1 target last season, but with J’Mon Moore now out of the picture, Hall says he’s worked hard to remedy his drop problem going into 2018. He’s looking to repeat and even improve as one of the top deep-threat players in the nation for his senior season.
Darius Slayton, Junior, Auburn
As just a sophomore last season, Slayton became one of quarterback Jarrett Stidham’s favorite targets, especially deep down the field. Slayton finished 2017 with 663 receiving yards, five touchdowns and a 22.17 yards-per-catch average, which was fifth best in the country.
Entering his first draft-eligible season, Slayton said he’s trying to diversify his route tree to become a more complete receiver, not just a deep threat.
“I’ve just been trying to work on completing my game,” Slayton said. “Being able to run every route on the route tree and catch balls short, intermediate and long… We worked on it all summer, even in the spring time, just repping those routes a lot, a lot, a lot. I feel comfortable running them and hopefully I will get an opportunity to make some of those plays as the season goes along.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound wide out has a lot of potential in him, and Auburn will need him to be their big-play guy again in 2018.
Tyrie Cleveland, Junior, Florida
With as shaky as Florida’s quarterback situation has been over the past few seasons, it’s almost a miracle they were able to get the ball down the field at all. But, thanks to one Tyrie Cleveland, that was possible, even with skeptical quarterback play.
In his sophomore season, Cleveland averaged 18.64 yards per catch, one of the Top 25 averages in the nation. But this season Cleveland has a chance to be even better.
“You know I really didn’t take film serious until this year,” Cleveland said. “Having Coach G (wide receiver’s coach Billy Gonzales) he really emphasized to really pay attention to the little details and learn from film and learn what you did wrong. I think (I’ve been doing) a pretty good job at that this year.”
I wasn’t kidding last year when I said that Florida, under Jim McElwain, had the worst coaching staff in all of college football. They weren’t coaching the kids, they were just recruiting them. Now, under Dan Mullen’s staff, hopefully they’re actually coaching their talent to be better.
If they are, Cleveland could be a highlight specialist in 2018.
James Proche, Junior, SMU
After a season where Courtland Sutton was the name to know, James Proche is now in position to step into SMU’s No. 1 role, and he’s already on a few early Biletnikoff Award watch lists.
While not even the team’s top receiver in 2017, Proche, a former 4-star recruit, recorded 816 receiving yards and a 20.40 yards-per-catch average. Proche doesn’t stand tall at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, but he’s a smooth runner, takes contact well when the ball is in his hands, and has a handful of plays in his highlight reel already that show him being strong and athletic at the catch point.
Hollywood Brown, Junior, Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown — a.k.a. “Hollywood” — may not have the highest yards-per-catch average on this list at 19.21, but his breakaway speed makes him the man to covet from this class, at least right now in the preseason.
Brown was quarterback Baker Mayfield’s favorite deep threat in 2017, and with quarterback Kyler Murray stepping in, expect Brown to have the same role with more emphasis in 2018. Brown might have legit 4.3 speed, and anytime you’re talking about a player that fast you’re talking about a guy the NFL will desire.
Those are five big-play guys from the receiver position. Who are some of your top big-play wide receivers for the 2019 class?