Biletnikoff Watch: Who Is In Serious Contention?

Photo: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Fred Biletnikoff Award for best collegiate receiver recently added 11 names to their watch list. As colleagues Jon Ledyard and Trevor Sikkema noted, the current crop of draft-eligible wide receivers are mostly having strong starts to their seasons. With that comes a wide open race for the award that will be as intriguing as ever.

The Biletnikoff Award has been a solid indication of professional success at the receiver position. Hall of Fame caliber players such as Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, and Calvin Johnson have all won the award. Additionally, solid professional wide receivers like Terry Glenn, Braylon Edwards, Michael Crabtree, Golden Tate, Brandin Cooks, and Amari Cooper have been recipients. Of the last 12 winners of the award, only Dede Westbrook was taken outside of the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. Therefore, locking up the award is a golden ticket to improved draft stock.

As the draft analyst with the heaviest focus on the wide receiver position and the Big 12, this award is especially intriguing for me. A receiver from the Big 12 conference has won the Biletnikoff Award for the last three seasons, as well as 7 of the last 11. While the conference has dominated the award, there are plenty of worthy challengers from around the Country gunning for the top spot.

Predictably, plenty of notable draft-eligible wide receivers began the preseason on the Biletnikoff Watch List. Players such as David Sills V, A.J. Brown, Marquise Brown, Deebo Samuel, Denzel Mims, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, N’Keal Harry, Kelvin Harmon, Emanuel Hall, Collin Johnson, Stanley Morgan Jr., Ahmmon Richards, and others were expected to compete for the award. However, the play of some receivers who did not begin the season on the watch list have been productive enough to be added. There were 11 recent additions, including names like D.K. Metcalf, Jerry Jeudy, and Antoine Wesley.

Metcalf has started his season catching a touchdown in each game, and has moved up TDN’s Consensus NFL Draft rankings all the way to #10. Jeudy has already posted 6 touchdowns for Alabama, and will likely pile on to that total as star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gets more passing reps. Wesley recently broke out in a game that saw him set the Texas Tech single-game receiving yard record.

There will be more additions as the season wears on and players begin to separate themselves. Don’t be surprised to see Melcalf’s Ole Miss teammate Damarkus Lodge, Jeudy’s Alabama teammates Devonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III, and Wesley’s Texas Tech teammate T.J. Vasher get added as well.

Obviously it is still early in the race, but I believe that some receivers have already begun to put themselves ahead of the pack. Looking at past winners, they have always have incredible collegiate production. Additionally, it is more beneficial for receivers to play in and produce in big games in front of national audiences. Often times it will help a player to not have many receiving threats around them, as they can accumulate targets and volume statistics this way.

Keeping all of that in mind, look for players such as Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, Stanford’s J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Missouri’s Emanuel Hall to pull away from the pack as the season wears on.

Marquise "Hollywood" Brown plays in one of the most receiver friendly offensive systems in college football, and is Quarterback Kyler Murray's top deep threat. Already up to 19 receptions and 3 touchdowns through 3 games, Brown will have multiple opportunities to produce in nationally televised games and potentially help his team win a national championship. Despite missing a game, Brown is still 6th in the nation in receiving yards.

At this stage, If I were a betting man, I would be looking at Brown to continue the Big 12’s dominance over the Biletnikoff Award.

Written By:

Brad Kelly

NFL Draft Analyst

NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Wide Receivers Coach at Salve Regina University. Salve Regina Football ‘15.