What is it that makes a 5-star wide receiver stand out from the rest?
Receiver is undoubtedly one of those skill positions on the football field where it's tough to stand out as elite. Most receivers are fast, have good hands and are athletic—it's kind of a prerequisite to being able to play the position.
There's just something different about a 5-star, superstar college receiver though. They can do everything other wideouts do, but much better. Somehow, it just seems natural.
They also have a knack for making big plays that really allows them to separate themselves from the pack.
How do they do it though?
Here are the traits that 5-star receivers possess that make them superstars at the college level:
Being physical is key for a wide receiver. Not only does this mean being able to go over the middle and take a big hit from a safety, but it's also the ability to create separation from the defender. Great wide receivers use their hands and bodies well to get off jams at the line of scrimmage, which allows them to release into their route.
This also pertains to blocking, which is a highly underrated skill for wide receivers. Many don't realize it when watching football, but most runs outside of the tackle box either work or fail based on how well the receiver can block the corner, safety or outside linebacker.
Being able to be physical against the press and in the run game is a huge separating factor between good and great at the wide receiver position.
Former Notre Dame 5-star wide receiver Michael Floyd was a very physical player. He used his hands extremely well to create separation between himself and the defender. He also did a great job of using his body to almost box out smaller defensive backs when going up for the ball.
Much of running routes has to do with agility, attention to detail and practice. There's a huge difference between rounding off a curl route or sticking, turning your body and coming back to the ball. However, many times that's the difference between a reception or an incomplete pass.
Great receivers are also known for being where a quarterback is expecting them to be, and that has to do with route running. Routes are usually taught using yards as landmarks. So, for instance, a hitch route would be sprint to six, come back to five turning to the inside. The quarterback is taught that the receiver will be there, and great receivers earn their quarterback's trust by running the exact route.
One wrong step can alter a route completely. Great receivers understand how important the little details are.
Most receivers can catch the ball pretty consistently. It's the great ones that can make something happen once the ball is in their hands.
Whether it be because of speed, agility or just elusiveness, most 5-star wideouts can pick up yards after the catch. They know how to make defenders miss due to great field vision that allows them to find blockers and open running lanes, and they are fast enough to outrun their opponents for extra yards.
A former 5-star receiver that comes to mind that was great when he had the football in his hands is Percy Harvin from Florida. He's wasn't the biggest guy out there, but once he made the catch he had the natural ability to make people miss in the open field and run for big gains.
What's the more important trait for a wide receiver?
Most great receivers have the size or athleticism that allows them to go up and high-point the ball, which just means catching it at the highest possible point.
One of the most beautiful throws in football is when a quarterback just throws it up to his receiver on a fade route, trusting that the wideout can go up and essentially out-jump the corner.
A receiver with the ability to leap also becomes a huge weapon in the red zone, as a quarterback can throw it to the back corner of the end zone where only his receiver can go up and get it.
Great receivers create an advantage over defensive backs because of their ability to either use their size or athleticism to go up and get the ball at its highest point.
Like I said before, there's just something about great receivers that make them better than everyone else. I firmly believe a lot of it comes down to being able to make the big play when it counts.
Whether it's a clutch catch to keep a drive moving, a touchdown or an acrobatic play that gets the sideline and the fans cheering, 5-star wide receivers just know how to get it done.
The "clutch gene" is a term that's overused in sports nowadays, but in this case, it's something all great 5-star wide receivers have.