No shortage of big names have won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football over the two decades of its existence. Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson highlight the star-studded group.
Last season, it was Brandin Cooks of Oregon State who earned the honor before getting drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. He marked the fourth straight winner to accumulate at least 110 catches during the season. Just two of the first 16 winners reached that plateau.
It gives every wide receiver and tight end around the nation a benchmark for what they need to accomplish to become a contender in 2014. Furthermore, without clear favorite, the Biletnikoff Award race should be one of the most heated throughout the campaign.
With that in mind, here's a look at the preseason watch list as announced by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation:
|Nelson Agholor||University of Southern California||Jr.||Darius Joseph||Southern Methodist University||Jr.|
|Dres Anderson||University of Utah||Sr.||Jameon Lewis||Mississippi State University||Sr.|
|Kenny Bell||University of Nebraska||Sr.||Tyler Lockett||Kansas State University||Sr.|
|Tyler Boyd||University of Pittsburgh||So.||Matt Miller||Boise State University||Sr.|
|Da’Ron Brown||Northern Illinois University||Sr.||Ty Montgomery||Stanford University||Sr.|
|Rashon Ceaser||University of Louisiana at Monroe||Jr.||Richard Mullaney||Oregon State University||Jr.|
|Sammie Coates||Auburn University||Jr.||Jamarcus Nelson||University of Alabama at Birmingham||Sr.|
|Amari Cooper||University of Alabama||Sr.||Levi Norwood||Baylor University||Sr.|
|Jamison Crowder||Duke University||Sr.||DeVante Parker||University of Louisville||Sr.|
|Titus Davis||Central Michigan University||Sr.||Breshad Perriman||University of Central Florida||Jr.|
|Geremy Davis||University of Connecticut||Sr.||Jamal Robinson||University of Louisiana at Lafayette||Sr.|
|Devante Davis||University of Nevada, Las Vegas||Sr.||Ezell Ruffin||San Diego State University||Sr.|
|Quinshad Davis||University of North Carolina||Jr.||Dominic Rufran||University of Wyoming||Sr.|
|Corey Davis||Western Michigan University||So.||Wes Saxton||University of South Alabama||Jr.|
|Stefon Diggs||University of Maryland||Jr.||Jaxon Shipley||University of Texas||Sr.|
|Devin Funchess||University of Michigan||Jr.||Tommy Shuler||Marshall University||Sr.|
|Antwan Goodley||Baylor University||Sr.||Devin Smith||Ohio State University||Jr.|
|Jakeem Grant||Texas Tech University||Jr.||Shavarez Smith||University of South Alabama||Jr.|
|Deontay Greenberry||University of Houston||Jr.||Daniel Spencer||University of Houston||Sr.|
|Rashad Greene||Florida State University||Sr.||Jaelen Strong||Arizona State University||Jr.|
|Rannell Hall||University of Central Florida||Sr.||Jordan Taylor||Rice University||Sr.|
|Justin Hardy||East Carolina University||Sr.||Laquon Treadwell||University of Mississippi||So.|
|Josh Harper||California State University, Fresno||Sr.||Richy Turner||University of Nevada||Sr.|
|Chris Harper||University of California||Jr.||Shaq Washington||University of Cincinnati||Sr.|
|Nick Harwell||University of Kansas||Sr.||Jordan Williams||Ball State University||Jr.|
|Rashard Higgins||Colorado State University||So.||Tyler Winston||San Jose State University||So.|
|Austin Hill||University of Arizona||Sr.||Shane Wynn||Indiana University||Sr.|
|Christian Jones||Northwestern University||Sr.|
As usual, the initial list of contenders casts a wide net over the top receivers in the country. Players can always get added during the course of the season, which is a strong possibility this season given the wide-open nature of the race.
Who's the early Biletnikoff Award favorite?
Of those named on the first watch list a couple do stand out from the crowd.
Tyler Lockett of Kansas State is certainly among that group. The senior made 81 catches for over 1,250 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. All of those numbers were more than double the next closest receiver on the Wildcats' roster.
He should once again remain the clear No. 1 in the passing game. Working with quarterback Jake Waters for a second straight year should allow the duo the build off their success and push Lockett further into the national spotlight.
The versatile wideout told Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated that he expects the offense to hit the ground running this season:
I think that we'll just be able to pick up where we left off and just continue to go in from there. I think that we can't do anything else but improve and I think that's what's going to help us out in the long run.
Given last season's success and the room for improvement that still exists, Lockett's final numbers should definitely be in the same range as recent Biletnikoff Award winners.
Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell is another player to watch closely. His freshman season seen him catch 72 passes for over 600 yards and five touchdowns. Those are solid numbers, but they only scratch the surface of his potential.
With Donte Moncrief having moved on to the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts, Treadwell should take on a much bigger role in the Rebels' offense this season. He should be one of the season's biggest breakout stars and a Biletnikoff contender.
Perhaps the most interesting case is Amari Cooper of Alabama.
He plays a critical role in helping the Crimson Tide keep drives alive with key grabs. The question is whether the Alabama approach, which is still based on establishing the run and strong defense, will prevent him from putting up the necessary overall numbers.
Cooper did reach 1,000 yards as a freshman, but dropped below 750 last season. He should bounce back, but whether it will be enough to contend for the award is up in the air. Either way, Bucky Brooks of NFL.com is bullish about his long-term outlook:
Although his production and performance fell short of expectations a season ago, NFL scouts should be excited about his potential based on my film study. Cooper is a talented No. 1 receiver with a fundamentally sound game that should allow him to quickly blossom into an elite receiver at the next level.
He will be one of the most important wideouts in America. Where that translates into awards depends exactly how involved he becomes in the offense.
Other notable names to keep tabs on include Nelson Agholor (USC), Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh), Stefon Diggs (Maryland), Antwan Goodley (Baylor) and Ty Montgomery (Stanford). More players will surely join the list by the end of the first month.
There may not be an established player to beat this season, but the amount of receiving depth ensures whoever ends up winning the Biletnikoff Award will have earned it.