With an elite quarterback, nearly any passing offense can be good. However, superstar wide receivers take an offense to the next level. A wideout regularly burning cornerbacks leaves defenses hopeless. Once a WR is rolling, often times he can’t be stopped.
The 2022 season will feature many massive games from elite receivers. More specifically, 11 wide receivers look like major problems for opposing defenses.
11. Jayden Reed, Michigan State
In 2021, the Big Ten was stacked with high-level receivers. Jayden Reed was overshadowed by 2022 first-rounders, like Garrett Wilson and Jahan Dotson. The Spartan wideout could get his deserved recognition this season.
Jayden Reed climbed the ladder AND rocked the baby 👶 pic.twitter.com/s2vETumzPL
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 31, 2021
Reed began his career with Western Michigan, where he recorded 797 receiving yards as a freshman in 2018. Michigan State underwent a roster overhaul after hiring Mel Tucker in 2020. Reed was one of the many landed transfers in Tucker’s first offseason.
Last year, Reed put it all together. The 6-foot WR had 1,026 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns and averaged 17.4 yards per reception. He has fantastic hands, reeling in anything that comes within reach. Also, Reed is a great deep threat with solid speed.
10. Quentin Johnston, TCU
The Horned Frogs possess one of college football’s best contested catchers. Quentin Johnston has great length on a 6-foot-4, 212-pound frame. Even with a limited route tree, Johnston is a handful with his ability in contested situations.
Injuries are a big concern for the third-year wideout. Last season, he played in only eight games. When he did play, Johnston made defenses pay by averaging 19.2 yards per reception. TCU has a mediocre passing game — which ranked 62nd in 2021 with 235 passing yards per game.
Johnston could lack the eye-grabbing numbers of his counterparts due to limited opportunities. However, he’s still one of college football’s most talented receivers who projects as a second-day pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
9. Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia
Virginia boasts an excellent passing attack that ranked second nationally in passing yards per game (397). Dontayvion Wicks is a focal point of the offense. In his first full season starting, Wicks erupted onto the college scene. The 6-foot-1 wideout had only three receptions his freshman season and missed the 2020 season with a foot injury.
Last year, Wicks posted 1,203 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. His 21.1 yards per reception ranked fifth nationally. Backed by fluid athleticism, Wicks is a good deep threat, but his game doesn’t stop there. Wicks is truly an all-around receiver that can work any part of the field.
Wicks should have another huge season with QB Brennan Armstrong and WR Keytaon Thompson returning.
8. Mario Williams, USC
Mario Williams was one of several prominent pieces to follow Lincoln Riley to USC. In his freshman season at Oklahoma, Williams had 380 receiving yards and four touchdowns in limited playing time. Many expect a big jump in production as USC revamps its passing attack.
Williams was ranked as the fourth-best receiver in the 2021 class. According to PFF, he was one of five Power Five WRs to have at least 40 targets while dropping none. Despite his 5-foot-9 frame, Williams primarily played on the outside. The former 4-star recruit is a twitchy athlete with the ability to make contested plays.
What a throw by Caleb Williams. 🎯
— 𝕆𝕂𝕃𝔸ℍ𝕆𝕄𝔸-𝕍𝕊-𝕋ℍ𝔼 𝕎𝕆ℝ𝕃𝔻 (@soonergridiron) October 30, 2021
Watch out for a breakout season from the second-year wideout.
7. Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
Riley did not take everything from Oklahoma. Marvin Mims returns as the offense’s lead receiver. Despite high production, Mims has not become a full-time starter. That will surely change in 2022. Last season, the 5-foot-11 WR recorded 705 receiving yards while averaging 22 yards per reception — which ranked fourth nationally.
Mims is a reliable vertical threat with dependable hands. He does not possess game-breaking speed, but his game is savvy. Mims knows how to regularly create space thanks to smooth route-running.
The Sooners did lose QB Caleb Williams, but Dillon Gabriel is a good replacement. With an increased workload and good quarterback play, Mims will finally put up the numbers he’s capable of.
6. Xavier Worthy, Texas
At any moment, Xavier Worthy can flip a game with his track star speed. As a true freshman, Worthy reeled in 981 receiving yards and scored 12 touchdowns. This was in a passing offense that ranked 69th in passing yards per game (225.4). Worthy’s consistency as a freshman in a poor offense was impressive.
The Longhorns did not shy from leaning on Worthy. In the final three games, the former 4-star recruit had 27 receptions and four touchdowns. At Alabama, Steve Sarkisian did an excellent job of getting DeVonta Smith in space. Worthy could be college football’s fastest receiver, Sarkisian will attempt to get another star WR in the open field.
5. A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
Quarterback Sam Hartman enjoyed a fantastic 2021 season. Much of his success can be credited to A.T. Perry. In his first full-time starting role, Perry had 1,293 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
The 6-foot-5 wideout does not possess elite athleticism, but he checks every other box. Perry has reliable hands, makes contested catches and has good tracking ability. Also, the fourth-year WR is good after the catch, especially when considering his large frame. His game is not limited to contested sideline catches, Perry is a great target over the middle of the field.
Wake Forest’s passing offense exploded out of nowhere in 2021. After an offseason filled with hype, it’s hard to miss Perry’s name.
4. Josh Downs, North Carolina
Josh Downs had an incredible usage rate in 2021. The former top 100-recruit had 1,335 receiving yards and 101 receptions, which ranked fifth nationally. Per PFF, Downs was targeted on 30.2% of his routes and had 97 more passes thrown his way than any other North Carolina WR. As the Tar Heels transition to a new starting QB, UNC will lean on Downs’ production.
JOSH DOWNS BREAKS LOOSE 🔋
UNC is on the board
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) September 4, 2021
The 5-foot-10 Downs recorded a 42-inch vertical as a junior in high school. In addition, he has good top speed paired with great acceleration. Downs is exceptional after the catch with shifty cuts and a sudden stop-and-go ability. Plus, he’s a good route-runner with dependable hands.
North Carolina will have the ACC’s best receiver. Whether it be Drake Maye or Jacolby Criswell stepping into the starting QB role, they will consistently look for Downs.
3. Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Louisiana State University is known for turning out NFL wide receivers. Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase are some immediate examples, as they have shattered records left and right. Kayshon Boutte could be the next in line.
As a true freshman in 2020, Boutte flashed with 735 receiving yards. Last season, he recorded 509 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in six games before his season was cut short by a season-ending injury. Boutte is expected to be one of the first three WRs taken in the 2023 NFL Draft. His elite athleticism has scouts gushing. You name it, Boutte has it. He has excellent speed, acceleration and lateral quickness. This makes Boutte a deep threat and dangerous after the catch.
If healthy, Boutte will be one of the nation’s best.
2. Jordan Addison, USC
The reigning Biletnikoff winner will look to bolster his draft stock with another great year. In 2021, Jordan Addison racked up 100 receptions, 1,593 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. Addison will have another Heisman-quality QB with Williams throwing his way.
Addison decided to enter the transfer portal in May. As many expected, he ended up with USC, giving Riley another special offensive piece. Throughout his career, Addison has almost exclusively played in the slot. This generates a lot of criticism about his potential. However, Addison is the total package.
The Maryland native has great athleticism and good hands. Plus, he’s special after the catch. Addison has exceptional footwork, meaning he can quickly turn up the field or perform eye-catching cuts. Addison will attempt to become the No. 1 WR on draft boards.
1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
Chris Olave and Wilson entered 2021 as Ohio State’s top targets. As a former 5-star, Jaxon Smith-Njigba had high expectations in his first year starting. Many believed he was a year away from superstar status. That was far from the case as Smith-Njigba set numerous Buckeye records. His 95 receptions set the OSU record for most catches in a single season. JSN erupted in the Rose Bowl with 15 receptions and 347 receiving yards — which set the record for most receiving yards in a bowl game.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s performance in the Rose Bowl vs. Utah was out of this world ✈️
🌹 15 REC
🌹 347 yards
— 247Sports (@247Sports) April 5, 2022
According to PFF, Smith-Njigba was college football’s most productive wideout with 4.01 yards per route run. It’s hard to beat 1,606 receiving yards, but JSN could be better this season. Entering his second year starting, he’s clearly Ohio State’s best WR. However, the Buckeyes are still stacked at receiver, which means Smith-Njigba will have plenty of help. Plus, quarterback C.J. Stroud is a Heisman hopeful and the favorite to be drafted No. 1 overall with +150 odds, per BetUS Sportsbook.
Smith-Njigba has a great shot to win the Biletnikoff and be the first receiver off the 2023 draft board.