Cal's Keenan Allen has the look of a future top 10 NFL draft pick
This offseason, college football lost many of its most notable wide receivers from the 2011 season, including high 2012 NFL draft picks such as Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Kendall Wright, Alshon Jeffery and Ryan Broyles.
The good news, however, is that there’s a new wave of star receivers who seem like they’re ready to step up this season.
Depending on how many top underclassmen decide to come out, the 2013 receiver class has the potential to be just as strong and just as deep as the group we saw this year.
Unlike the past two seasons when Justin Blackmon and A.J. Green started the year as the consensus top-dogs of their respective classes, what makes this year so interesting is that there are about five or six players who could ultimately emerge as the best receiver prospect by the time the season ends.
It should be interesting to see who steps up and emerges as this year's top performers, but right now, here’s a look at how college football’s top 15 wide receiver prospects stack up for the 2013 NFL draft.
Keenan Allen arrived at Cal back in 2010 as a highly touted five-star recruit out of North Carolina's Northern Guilford High School and it certainly didn't take long for him to live up to his high school hype.
Allen instantly proved his worth as a freshman when he caught 46 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns in his first season.
Last year, he managed to take his game to an entirely different level as a sophomore and he turned out to be one of the most productive receivers in the country, hauling in 98 passes for 1,343 yards and six touchdowns.
The 6'3'', 205-pound junior is truly the total physical package, as he possesses the combination of size, speed, hands, jumping ability, explosiveness, route-running instincts and coverage awareness to be a dangerous difference-making No. 1 receiver for an NFL offense.
The big, athletic and sure-handed pass-catcher is a cornerback's worst nightmare and he's an absolute highlight waiting to happen.
Although USC's Robert Woods will be the Pac-12 receiver who garners the most publicity this summer, it probably won't take long for Allen to emerge as the most talked-about receiver in the country once the season starts
Allen has all of the elite physical skills and tools to develop into a top-10 draft pick in 2013 and with his half-brother, quarterback Zach Maynard, tossing him the ball again this year, the gifted receiver should once again put up some monster numbers in 2012.
When QB Matt Barkley announced that he was returning to USC for his senior season, Trojans fans rejoiced and celebrated. However, none of them were probably as happy to hear that Barkley was coming back as WR Robert Woods was.
That's because Woods will now have the best quarterback in college football back to toss him the rock for his junior season.
After his performance in 2011, Woods has already solidified his status as one of the top receivers in college football. Now, he'll be looking to show NFL scouts that he's truly worth a top-15 draft pick.
Last year, the 6'1'', 180-pound junior caught 111 passes for 1,292 yards and scored 15 touchdowns, which helped him earn All-American honors and widespread praise.
Woods has been hampered by an ankle injury this offseason and it will be interesting to see how that affects him in 2012.
If he can overcome the injury and play like the same receiver we saw last season, though, Woods will once again be one of the most exciting players to watch in college football.
With Barkley, Woods and budding star sophomore Marqise Lee all returning, the Trojans will have the necessary firepower they need to light up opposing secondaries once again in 2012.
If he decides to declare for the 2013 NFL draft, Tennessee's Da'Rick Rogers will likely be one of the most debated-about "boom-or-bust" prospects in next year's class.
Rogers may have a few notable red flags on his college resume that NFL teams will have to look into, including an arrest before the start of his freshman season. However, as far as on-the-field ability is concerned, there aren't many receivers in the country that compare to the standout star.
Last year, the 6'3'', 206-pound junior led the SEC with 67 catches for 1,040 yards and he also hauled in nine touchdowns.
The fact that quarterback Tyler Bray was out for five games last year and the fact that Justin Hunter was out for almost the entire season makes what Rogers was able to accomplish even more impressive, as he was clearly the primary focus of opposing defenses in 2011.
Although his attitude and discipline have been questioned during his time in Knoxville, there's no disputing that Rogers possesses the ability to be an elite No. 1 receiver at the next level.
If he can keep his focus and continue to hone his craft, the former five-star recruit could end up being one of the biggest stars of the 2012 season.
With Rogers, Bray and Hunter all returning, Tennessee should have one of the most lethal passing attacks in the country this year.
Everyone around Pullman, Washington is excited to see just how explosive Washington State's offense will be this season now that former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach is in charge.
Although he's never been the type of coach to openly gush about his players, Leach certainly has to be excited about the potential of his top offensive playmaker, WR Marquess Wilson.
In his first two years in a Cougars uniform, Wilson has been one of college football's most productive receivers, hauling in a total of 137 passes for 2,394 yards and 18 touchdowns.
The 6'4'', 183-pound junior may not possesses field-stretching deep speed, but he has the size, hands and ball-tracking ability to present major matchup problems for opposing defensive backs.
Wilson is an outside-the-numbers receiver who makes most of his plays near the sideline, but he's also shown a willingness to go over the middle when needed on screens and slant patterns.
Although he still has to add a little more bulk to his tall, lanky frame, Wilson has proven that he has the ability to be a No. 1 receiver for an NFL offense
He'll have the chance to put together a huge campaign in Leach's Air Raid-style passing attack in 2012 and it seems like almost a certainty that this will be Wilson's last season at Washington State.
Baylor is definitely going to miss game-changing receiver Kendall Wright, who became the school's all-time leading receiver in 2011 and eventually ended up as the 20th overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.
Still, even though Wright may be gone, the Bears offense will still feature one of the best receiver trios in the country comprised of Terrance Williams, Tevin Reese and Lanear Sampson.
The centerpiece of that group will be Williams, who caught 59 passes for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2011.
The 6'3'', 205-pound senior has the type of big, strong frame that NFL scouts are searching for and it's shocking to see just how quick and agile he is for his size.
Williams may still have to work on his overall consistency, but he's already shown that he can come up with clutch plays like his game-winning catch against Oklahoma last season.
Although he's certainly going to miss QB Robert Griffin III throwing him the ball, Williams should still put up some mighty impressive numbers in 2012.
Arkansas' offense lost three of its top wide receivers from last season—Joe Adams, Jarius Wright and Greg Childs, who were all selected in the fourth round of this year's NFL draft.
Still, the Razorbacks should again have one of college football's most explosive passing attacks in 2012, just as long as Cobi Hamilton steps up and plays at the level that many are expecting him to this season.
Last year, Hamilton caught 34 passes for 542 yards and four touchdowns, even though he was often the third or fourth option on passing plays.
With an 18-yards-per-catch average for his career, the 6'3'', 209-pound junior has shown that he can be both a valuable possession receiver as well as a big-play threat.
The former high school track star possesses remarkable speed for his size and he has the hands to catch anything thrown in his general direction.
It should be interesting to see how Hamilton handles being QB Tyler Wilson's go-to target this season. He's clearly got the physical skills to be a legitimate first-round prospect; all he has to do is show that he can produce at the high level that scouts will be expecting in 2012.
If you're looking for this year's version of Kendall Wright, look no further than TCU's Josh Boyce.
Boyce is the same type of explosive and dangerous receiving threat that Wright was at Baylor and he'll be looking to take the Big 12 by storm in a similar fashion this season.
Last year, the 6'1'', 203-pound junior caught 61 passes for 998 yards and scored nine touchdowns, as he displayed the type of speed and dynamic playmaking ability that will surely catch the attention of NFL scouts this season.
Now that the Horned Frogs will have their chance to finally play on the big BCS stage, Boyce will have the opportunity to prove himself against some of the best competition that college football has to offer.
The former high school teammate of Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III may not have been a very sought-after recruit at Texas' Copperas Cove High School. However, he's really managed to carve out a name for himself in Forth Worth.
Boyce will now have the opportunity to really prove his worth to NFL scouts when he matches up with some of the Big 12's premier cornerbacks in 2012.
Sammy Watkins may have garnered the most publicity and praise last year, but he wasn't the only Tigers receiver who had an impressive 2011 campaign.
Although he may have been overshadowed by his freshman sensation teammate, DeAndre Hopkins still put together a terrific performance last season.
Hopkins finished fifth in the ACC with 72 catches for 978 yards and five touchdowns, and he was a major factor for a Clemson offense that ranked second in the conference in both scoring offense and total offense.
The 6'1'', 195-pound junior is a long, athletic and explosive receiver who has demonstrated the type of concentration, hands and ball-tracking ability needed to reel in any pass thrown his way.
The former two-sport standout at South Carolina's D.W. Daniels High School is a supremely gifted and versatile athlete who has what it takes to emerge as one of the top players in the ACC this season.
Don't be surprised if Hopkins steps up and steals away some of Watkins' thunder and spotlight in 2012.
At just 5'9'', 176 pounds, West Virginia's Tavon Austin may not possess the prototypical size that NFL teams are looking for in a top receiver prospect. However, don't let Austin's slight frame fool you—he's the type of explosive playmaker that can carve up any defense he wants to.
The versatile all-purpose threat proved to be a perfect fit for coach Dana Holgorsen's pass-heavy offensive attack last season, as he hauled in 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns while also adding 182 yards and a touchdown on the ground as well.
As if that wasn't enough, Austin was also one of the most dangerous returners in the country, averaging 26 yards on kickoff returns and 14 yards on punt returns and taking two kickoffs back to the house for touchdowns.
While his lack of size may scare some teams off, Austin has the potential to become a valuable slot receiver and kick returner in the NFL and I ultimately foresee him developing into a similar type of player to Steelers receiver Antonio Brown.
This season, Kenny Stills will be given the unenviable task of having to replace record-breaking receiver Ryan Broyles as Oklahoma's new top receiving target.
Stepping up and filling the gaping hole that Broyles left will certainly be a challenge, but Stills might just have the skills to pull it off.
The eccentric junior receiver certainly marches to the beat of his own drummer, but now we'll find out if Stills is truly disciplined enough to handle the pressure he's sure to face in 2012.
The 6'0'', 190-pound Sooner has caught 61 passes in each of his first two seasons and totaled 13 touchdown grabs during that time.
Stills may not be the biggest or strongest receiver in college football, but he possesses terrific speed and explosiveness and he's consistently managed to blow by opposing defensive backs on a regular basis.
Although he's relied more on his natural ability than sound technique up to his point in his career, with the proper coaching, Stills has the potential to grow into a reliable and dependable No. 2 receiver for an NFL offense.
Iowa may have lost Marvin McNutt, who led the team in receiving in each of the past two seasons. However, the Hawkeyes are still in pretty good shape at the receiver position with the return of Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley.
Davis will now assume McNutt's role as the team's go-to receiver and judging by his performance in 2011, it certainly seems like a job that he's ready for.
Last season, the 6'3'', 215-pound senior proved to be a perfect complement to McNutt, as he hauled in 50 passes for 713 yards and four touchdowns.
The former four-star recruit showed great speed and body control for his size and he proved that he can be a reliable weapon in the passing game.
With his type of size-speed-hands combination, Davis will certainly attract plenty of attention from NFL scouts this season. If he can handle being Iowa's top target in 2012, he should emerge as one of the most coveted senior receiver prospects for the 2013 draft.
Since Oregon State went just 3-9 last season, WR Markus Wheaton didn't receive the type of national attention that he deserved.
Although he only managed to catch one touchdown pass in 2011, Wheaton still proved to be one of the most dangerous playmakers in the Pac-12, as he caught 73 passes for 986 yards while adding 190 yards on the ground on 25 rushes.
The 6'1'', 178-pound senior is one of the fastest receivers in the nation and he's the type of supreme speedster who can flat-out embarrass opposing corners.
Wheaton still has to refine his route-running in order to compete at the NFL level, but there's no doubt that he's got the raw physical potential to pique the interest of scouts this season.
Now that he's built a solid chemistry with second-year starting quarterback Sean Mannion, Wheaton will have the chance to have the best season of his career as a senior in 2012.
Auburn's passing offense was one of the worst in the country last season, as the Tigers ranked 105th in the nation with just 155 passing yards per game in 2011.
You can't blame those struggles on the team's top receiver Emory Blake, though, since he did everything he could to stretch the field and make plays.
Although his playing time was limited due to a high ankle sprain, Blake still managed to catch 36 passes for 613 yards and five touchdowns, even though he wasn't getting the most steady play from the quarterback position.
The 6'1'', 197-pound senior should now be fully healthy and ready to really unleash his skills on the SEC in 2012.
Blake may not possess elite size or athleticism, but he's a savvy route-runner who knows how to find openings in coverage and he rarely ever drops a ball that's thrown in his direction.
Vanderbilt certainly isn't considered a pro-producing powerhouse like some other SEC schools, but the Commodores have sent some notable prospects off to the NFL ranks in recent years such as CB Casey Hayward, OT Chris Williams and QB Jay Cutler.
This year, the Vanderbilt player to watch out for will be WR Jordan Matthews.
Matthews hauled in 41 passes for 778 yards and five touchdowns in 2011 and he made his fair share of spectacular plays during his sophomore campaign.
The former three-star recruit didn't receive much interest from BCS schools when he was a senior at Alabama's Madison Academy, but he's definitely proven that he has SEC-caliber talent.
The 6'3'', 202-pound junior has the size, speed, hands and leaping ability to be a dangerous weapon in the passing game. If he can build on his 2011 success and continue to develop his game, Matthews should become one of the most prominent offensive players in the SEC this season.
North Carolina's offense hasn't received much national publicity this offseason, but make no mistake about it, the Tar Heels have the type of pieces to put together a powerful offensive attack in 2012.
QB Bryn Renner, RB Giovani Bernard and OT James Hurst may be the three most important offensive players that North Carolina has, but WR Erik Highsmith will also play a key role in the unit's success this season.
Highsmith is set to take over for the departed Dwight Jones as the team's No. 1 receiver and it should be a role that he thrives in.
Last year, the 6'3'', 190-pound senior caught 51 passes for 726 yards and scored five touchdowns, but he'll be counted on to produce at an even higher rate in 2012.
While Highsmith may not possess one specific trait that is off the charts, he's still a big, well-put-together receiver who knows how to get open and make critical plays in the passing game.
Aaron Dobson, Marshall
Aaron Mellette, Elon
Conner Vernon, Duke
Dan Buckner, Arizona
Devonte Christopher, Utah
Jheranie Boyd, North Carolina
Mike Shanahan, Pittsburgh
Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
Roy Roundtree, Michigan
Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
Tavarres King, Georgia
T.J. Moe, Missouri
Andre Debose, Florida
Cody Hoffman, BYU
Colin Lockett, San Diego State
Devin Street, Pittsburgh
Eric Ward, Texas Tech
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin
Josh Huff, Oregon
Justin Hunter, Tennessee
Michael Campanaro, Wake Forest
Mike Davis, Texas
Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Tevin Reese, Baylor