Heading into 2013, college football is loaded with receiver talent. A number of the nation’s top pass-catchers return from a year ago, producing one of the most talented position groups in the country for the coming season.
Led by Marqise Lee out of USC, this group will produce a ton of yards, with most of this list finishing with over 1,000 yards. This is a look at the 25 best receivers heading into the fall.
There will no doubt be sleepers that make waves this season, but these headliners will be the focus of defensive secondaries all year long. Here are the top 25 receivers heading into 2013.
Alex Neutz is the leading receiver for the Buffalo Bulls program. Last season he finished with 65 catches, 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com). That placed him at No. 35 in the country in production among receivers.
This season the rising senior will be looking to continue his rise on the college stage and solidify himself as a future NFL prospect.
Another solid year for Neutz is expected, but a quarterback controversy is brewing this spring. Neutz makes every player around him better and still thrived despite the issues behind center a year ago.
The Toledo Rockets have had an offensive resurgence over the past few seasons and star receiver Alonzo Russell is the headliner behind the rise.
Last year he finished with 55 catches for 953 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman (via CFBStats.com). This year he should increase his presence in the offense and become a nationally known player by the end of 2013.
The Rockets have a ton of talent throughout the lineup, but Russell is by far the best skill player on the field for Toledo.
The FAU Owls struggle to find a consistent offensive attack every season, but one constant for this program last season was William Dukes.
Dukes had a masterful sophomore campaign, finishing with 63 catches for 979 yards and four touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
He appeared from nowhere to help the Owls become a talented offense and should be able to help this team win some more ballgames in the Sun Belt next season.
Assuming that Leslie returns to the field next year, he will be one of the best players in the country from the position. Leslie finished the year with 51 receptions for 973 yards and six touchdowns (via CFBStats.com) making him the No. 42 overall receiver in the country last year.
His 19-yard-per-catch average was good enough for No. 8 in the country for 2012.
The UTEP Miners are constantly in need of offensive weapons, and Leslie is one of the best that has come through the program in recent years. Look for him to have a big year for the Miners.
Devin Street is a rising senior for the Pitt Panthers.
He finished 2012 with 73 receptions for 975 yards and five touchdowns (via CFBStats.com). That was with a senior quarterback dropping the ball on target, and the good news is that another senior is set to take over the reigns again this fall.
Street should be a huge asset for the Panthers as they try and make a run at the Big East this fall. He is the best receiver that the Big East has to offer for 2013.
The Baylor Bears have been on an offensive tear over the past few seasons under the instruction of Art Briles, and a talented receiver corps has been a big part of the success in Waco.
Tevin Reese has been a contributor for the past three seasons for this offense. In 2012 he finished with 53 receptions for 957 yards and nine touchdowns (via CFBStats.com) as the Bears' second leading receiver.
This year will be a breakout year for Reese. He should easily top the 1,000-yard mark in the high-flying Baylor offense. Reese will be one of the best deep threats in the Big 12 next year.
Alex Amidon is one of the top receivers that will play in the ACC next fall.
Last season he finished with 78 receptions for 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns (via CFBStats.com) for the Golden Eagles.
He finished the year No. 15 in receiving in the country and was only second to Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins in the ACC in receiving yards.
Boston College has struggled to stay relevant over the past few seasons, but this could be the year the Golden Eagles soar with another solid performance by Amidon in 2013.
The Tulane Green Wave may not be one of the top programs in the country, but they will field one of the best receivers in college football in 2013 with Ryan Grant lining up on the outside.
Grant finished 2012 with 76 receptions for 1,149 yards and six touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
He averaged over 15 yards a catch. This year he has to step up his game even more to make the Green Wave a winner.
He may get lost in the national shuffle because of the mediocrity of his team, but Grant will finish 2013 as one of the best at his position and on the NFL’s radar.
J.D. McKissic was one of the most intriguing receivers to watch last fall.
As a freshman he caught 103 passes for 1,022 yards and five touchdowns (via CFBStats.com). It was the first year in a run-heavy Gus Malzahn offense that helped him thrive, and as a rising sophomore, McKissic should be even more potent than last season.
He is one of the best players in the country in space, and he will continue to be a major part of the Red Wolves offense in 2013.
Ole Miss blew up offensively under new head coach Hugh Freeze in 2012, and Donte Moncrief was a major part of that explosion for the Rebels offense.
The rising junior finished 2012 with 66 catches for 979 yards and 10 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com) against some of the best defenses in the country.
His best game last year came in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State, where he finished with 173 yards receiving.
The Rebels are trying to become relevant again in the SEC. With a receiver like Moncrief lining up for Ole Miss, relevance is just around the corner.
Davante Adams was the most explosive freshman in college football last year. He finished the season with 102 catches for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns this past fall (via CFBStats.com). His freshman campaign was good enough for No. 9 in the country in receiving.
Adams helped the Bulldogs to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and is looking to help the program challenge for a Mountain West title this fall.
The Fresno offense always has an edge, but this fall it will become one of the best in the country with Adams leading the charge for the Bulldogs on the outside.
Cody Hoffman had a shot at departing the BYU program for the NFL after 2012, but he instead decided to stay behind and finish his senior season with the Cougars.
He finished the year with an impressive 102 catches for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com). His performance was good enough for No. 12 in the country in receiving last year.
The Cougars rely on Hoffman to be the primary target in the passing game. Last year the second-most productive receiver was Jamaal Williams, who finished with just 315 yards.
Without Hoffman, the Cougars don’t have an offense.
East Carolina is stepping into the new year with high expectations after a disappointing bowl loss ended 2012. Despite the loss, leading receiver Justin Hardy was a highlight, and he returns this fall to be one of the country’s best at the position.
Hardy finished 2012 with 88 catches for 1,105 yards and 11 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
He averaged over 12 yards per catch. He was one of the top 25 receivers in the country at the conclusion of last season.
This year he will help a rising Pirates team challenge for a Conference USA title again in 2013.
David Cutcliffe has put together a very strong offensive attack at Duke over the past few years, and heading into the new year the development will continue with one of the best receivers in the country lining up for the Blue Devils offense.
Last year Jamison Crowder finished with 76 catches for 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns (via CFBStats.com). He shared catches with departing star Connor Vernon and will become the premier target this fall.
Look for the ACC ignore the Blue Devils early next fall, but by midseason the eyes of the country will fall on Duke thanks to the efforts of Crowder.
Eric Ward shined last fall in the Red Raiders offense, snagging 82 catches for 1,053 yards and 12 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com). He was one of the top receivers for the Red Raiders, and incoming head coach Kliff Kingsbury will likely keep it that way.
The Texas Tech offense will be in need of playmakers. The good news is that they won’t be looking far with Ward on the roster.
The Big 12 is littered with receiver talent, but Ward is one of the best. He will anchor another impressive offensive attack out of Lubbock in 2013.
Austin Franklin is one of the best receivers in the country that you will never hear about.
The New Mexico State Aggies are the bottom-feeder of the FBS, and Franklin gets lost in the shuffle.
Despite his team's struggles, last fall Franklin finished with 74 catches for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns (via CFBStats.com). He was the Aggies offense. He was in the Top 15 to close the year in receiving for 2012.
This year he should be in the Top 10 when the season finishes, but the rising junior will still be a mystery name to the casual college football fan.
If you get the chance to watch him play, don’t miss it. He makes even the best defensive players in the country look like they are running in mud.
The Texas A&M offense is entering the 2013 season looking to build off of a season that led to star quarterback Johnny Manziel winning the Heisman and rising star receiver Mike Evans take over as the leading receiver for the Aggies.
He finished the 2012 season with 82 receptions for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns (via CFBStats.com). One of his best games came against eventual national champion Alabama, where he caught five passes for five first downs.
Heading into the new year, Evans is expected to be one of the best in the country at his position. His 6’5”, 220-pound frame make him impossible to cover, and this season he will be able to build on an impressive freshman campaign to become an elite pass-catcher.
Don’t be surprised if he walks home with some hardware in December.
Amari Cooper became a star in the Alabama offense last year after injuries forced the young freshman into action for the Tide.
He finished 2012 with 58 catches for 999 yards and 11 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
As the year came to a close, Cooper had become the leader in the passing game for the Tide, and heading into the new year he is expected to be one of the best in the country at his position.
The Alabama offense would struggle without his skills on the outside. This year the Tide will continue to toss the football vertically with Cooper snagging another 10-plus touchdowns.
Noel Grigsby is one of the best unknown players at receiver in the country.
The San Jose State Spartans have increased their presence in FBS over the past few years, and Grigsby has been a major part of that rise.
He finished 2012 No. 10 in the country in receiving with 82 receptions for 1,307 yards and nine touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
This year the rising senior is looking to steal some national spotlight. Another 1,000-yard season should do it.
Vanderbilt has become a steady challenger in the SEC East under James Franklin over the past three years. Entering 2013, the Commodores are attempting to stay relevant in the conference, and rising senior Jordan Matthews will ensure that it happens.
He finished 2012 as the No. 8 receiver in the country, finishing with 94 catches for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
As the Commodores continue to climb to from mediocrity, the passing game will be a major driver for the offense. Look for this senior to be one of the best receivers in the SEC at the conclusion of 2013.
Brandin Cooks is one of the premier receivers in the Pac-12 heading into the new season. An impressive sophomore campaign ended with 67 catches for 1,151 yards and five touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
He was a top 20 receiver in 2012, and he helped lead the Beavers to a strong start and finish in the Pac-12.
This program was in the national spotlight to start the year, and with a strong start to 2013 from Cooks, they will return to the spotlight in short order.
Penn State overcame a lot of negative odds last year. A big part of that success came in the passing game, thanks to sophomore Allen Robinson.
The rising junior finished 2012 with 77 catches for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
He took over as the primary receiver in the offense and is heading into the new year looking to help Penn State shock the nation once again in 2013.
Robinson is one of the most instinctual receivers on this list, and his spark and talent will help keep the Nittany Lions afloat during the tough transition that lies ahead.
The first year for the Wildcats under Rich Rodriguez was very successful. The Arizona offense took off under the new head coach. Austin Hill was a leader for the program at receiver, finishing the year No. 6 in receiving for 2012.
Hill finished last season with 81 catches for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
As the Rodriguez offense continues to expand, Hill will see his numbers continue to rise. He may be able to hit the 100-catch mark this season, solidifying him as one of the best at the position this year.
If not for Marqise Lee, Josh Stewart would be the No. 1 player on this list.
Last season the Oklahoma State Cowboys offense didn’t skip a beat after the departure of star receiver Justin Blackmon because Stewart stepped in and eased the transition.
He finished 2012 with 101 catches for 1,210 yards and seven touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
This season the quarterback position should settle, and that will help Stewart step into the national spotlight quickly. He isn’t the largest receiver on the field, but his quickness makes him a dangerous threat in the open field.
The Cowboys will be a challenger for the Big 12 this fall thanks to the efforts of Stewart in the passing game.
Marqise Lee is a highlight reel waiting to happen whenever he touches the football.
What could appear to be a short gain on a screen pass often turns into a 20-yard dash through the open field around defenders.
Entering 2013, there isn’t a doubt that Lee is the top receiver in the country. He finished 2012 with 118 catches for 1,721 yards and 14 touchdowns (via CFBStats.com).
He will head into the fall as the premier playmaker for the USC offense and will be a Heisman contender before the year begins.
He has the talent to win it.