2013 College Football Rankings: Top 5 Wide Receivers – Marquise Lee Nation’s Best Wideout: At both the collegiate and the NFL level, offenses have been adopting a pass-first mentality. As a result, receivers are carving out larger and larger roles, and in some case, they have replaced running backs as the work horses of certain systems. Not surprisingly, some of the best athletes are now gravitating toward the receiver position, which has resulted in an overall improvement in the quality of the players at the position. It has resulted in a drastic decline in the learning curve for young receivers, and it isn’t uncommon to see freshman and sophomores piling up big numbers. Heading into the 2013 college football season, the talent at the receiver position is as deep as ever, and here is a closer look at a few of the best in the country.
1. Marqise Lee, USC Trojans
His sophomore season was nothing short of brilliant, and Lee led the country with 118 catches and finished second with 1,721 receiving yards. He also found the end zone 14 times en route to a fourth-place finish in the Heisman voting. In two years at USC, Lee has amassed 191 catches for 2,864 yards and 25 scores. He will be without quarterback Matt Barkley and fellow receiver Robert Woods this time around, but Lee has the type of explosiveness that isn’t going to be kept in check. Pencil him in for another monster season before he almost-certainly heads to the NFL.
2. Amari Cooper, Alabama Crimson Tide
If you only looked at the stat sheet, Cooper’s 59 catches for 1,000 yards as a freshman for Alabama last year wouldn’t stand out as all the impressive. If you actually watched any of the Crimson Tide’s games, you would know that Cooper has blazing speed and was able to consistently burn the top corners in the SEC. Not to mention the fact that he was at his best in the biggest games. Cooper topped 100 yards in the Iron Bowl, the SEC title game and the BCS Championship Game and combined for five touchdowns in those three contests. Alabama’s power running game will always hold his numbers in check to a degree, but he will be the No. 1 option with the Crimson Tide to take to the air, and Cooper will be on the receiving end of plenty of big plays and scores throughout the year.
3. Jordan Matthews, Vanderbilt Commodores
Matthews emerged as one of the premier receivers in the SEC and the country last year in a junior campaign that included 94 catches for 1,323 yards. He wasn’t piling up his numbers against the bottom-feeders of the conference either. Matthews topped 100 yards against the stout defenses of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida and had eight catches in all three games. He also closed the year strong, topping 100 yards in three of Vanderbilt’s last four games and catching a touchdown in the team’s final five games. Matthews has shown the toughness to go over the middle of the field and move the chains as well as the speed to beat defenses deep. He should only be better in his senior season.
4. Sammy Watkins, Clemson Tigers
Following a monstrous freshman season that included 1,219 yards and 12 scores, Watkins seemed to let some off-the-field issues that cost him the first two games of 2012 impact his performance for the entire season. Well, it has been a quiet offseason for Watkins, and when he is focused, he has already shown he can be a game-changing receiver. Ultimately, maturity is the only thing standing between him and stardom, and with former Tigers’ receiver DeAndre Hopkins now in the NFL, Watkins will be leaned on heavily in Clemson’s powerful offense. A huge season should be on tap for the junior.
5. Davante Adams, Fresno State Bulldogs
Adams exploded on to the scene as a freshman, becoming the focal point of the Bulldogs’ high-octane passing attack. He finished the year with 102 grabs for 1,312 yards and 14 scores, and more importantly, he was incredibly consistent for a first-year player. Adams found the end zone in 10 of Fresno State’s 13 games, and he also topped 70 yards on 10 separate occasions. Adams seemed to get stronger as the season progressed, and he caught nine or more pass in five of the final six games, including a career-high 13 catches in Fresno State bowl game. Playing in the Mountain West detracts from his numbers a bit, but Adams is the real deal and is only going to get better.
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