CFB Future 100: Top 14 Wide Receiver Recruits in Class of 2017

Bleacher Report College Football StaffFeatured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2016

CFB Future 100: Top 14 Wide Receiver Recruits in Class of 2017

0 of 14

    Bleacher Report

    After thorough study using specific scoring criteria, Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analysts Damon SaylesSanjay Kirpalani and Tyler Donohue have graded the top 100 players in the 247Sports composite rankings and provided in-depth analysis on each young athlete. Bleacher Report will run a position-by-position breakdown series of the best college football recruits in the 2017 class. Here, we present the Top Wide Receivers.

     

    Other Positions: 

     

    Passing attacks continue to take more precedence than ever in college football, forcing coaches to invest increased time and effort in the search for America's next crop of game-changing wide receivers.

    An impressive collection of pass-catchers is prevalent in 2017's recruiting class rankings, with 15 prospects at the position considered top-100 overall talents.

    This group features six 5-star recruits, which is five more than the total of 2016 receivers who warranted that elite label. Here's a look at the 15 athletes who currently land in the top 100, each assigned a Bleacher Report score based on route running, release, speed, agility, blocking and, of course, hands.

14. 4-Star Tarik Black

1 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 185 lbs

    High School: Cheshire Academy (Cheshire, Connecticut)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 14 wide receiver; No. 96 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 92/100

    Recruitment Status

    Tarik Black became a hot commodity before the first reception of his sophomore season, which was preceded by offers from Boston College, Temple and Syracuse. By the end of 2015, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State and Arizona State entered this pursuit, joined in January by Stanford, Tennessee and Notre Dame.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Black, who burst onto the scene with 21 touchdown catches as an underclassman, per MaxPreps, is already built like a collegiate wide receiver and still has another year of development ahead of him at the high school level, where he leaves defenders grasping for air off the snap. His elite agility (15/15) is apparent within steps of a route, as he smoothly outstrips opponents into space and sprints downfield with top-end speed (14/15). 

    This level of hip fluidity is typically reserved for receivers of a smaller stature, setting him apart from several contemporaries who stand in the 6'3" range. His route running (20/20) is legitimately polished, and Black effectively incorporates savvy shoulder shimmies that throw defenders off his beat for brief moments, often providing him with a stride or two of cushion as the quarterback targets him downfield.

13. 4-Star Osiris St. Brown

2 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 178 lbs

    High School: Mater Dei High School (Anaheim, California)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 13 wide receiver; No. 94 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 87/100

    Recruitment Status

    Osiris St. Brown, the younger brother of 2015 Notre Dame wide receiver signee Equanimeous St. Brown, received his own offer from the Fighting Irish as a sophomore. This pursuit has ramped up in Pac-12 territory in the year since, as Cal, UCLA, USC and Stanford are now in the mix.



    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    St. Brown is a tireless competitor who fights for space downfield and asserts himself as a willing blocker (5/5) in the run game. He's at his finest in traffic, ripping down contested passes with authority (24/25 hands). 

    His toughness is augmented by above-average route-running technique (17/20) that can still benefit from sharper cuts on mid-range routes. Finesse isn't necessarily St. Brown's strong point (25/30 combined speed and agility), so explosive footwork is imperative for him to wiggle out of tight man-to-man coverage in college.

12. 4-Star Devonta Smith

3 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 155 lbs

    High School: Amite High School (Amite, Louisiana)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 12 wide receiver; No. 75 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 88/100

    Recruitment Status

    SEC schools lined up early for Devonta Smith, who secured offers from Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Ole Miss before the start of his junior season. He committed to Georgia last summer but backed off that verbal pledge in mid-January, receiving a Baylor offer shortly afterward.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Smith is smooth when weaving his way through traffic toward an intended destination, displaying a blend of quickness and agility (28/30) that keeps opponents on their heels. He's just as likely to produce a major gain on a well-blocked screen pass as he would be sprinting deep along the sidelines, and this versatility makes him a threat in various offensive roles.

    His rushing style is violent, and he'll embrace contact by dropping pad level and fighting through tackles. Vital items of improvement for Smith's progression as a go-to playmaker include sharpening route-running technique (16/20) and gaining useful weight to help fight foes for real estate off the snap.

11. 4-Star Nico Collins

4 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 195 lbs

    High School: Clay-Chalkville High School (Pinson, Alabama)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 11 wide receiver; No. 53 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 87/100

    Recruitment Status

    Alabama and Auburn loom large as possible in-state destinations for Nico Collins, while Florida, Georgia and LSU make this a widespread SEC affair. Beyond the conference, Clemson and Michigan are programs that may continue to push for increased reciprocated interest.


    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Collins makes a case as the most dominant blocker (5/5) on this list, an attribute often overlooked by college football fans during the recruiting process, but it can ultimately make a major impact on how early that receiver hits the field for game action. He's also a lot to handle in the red zone, pairing reliable hands (23/25) with excellent arm extension to create an expansive catch radius.

    While his speed (13/15) and reach create difficult downfield matchups, Collins sacrifices agility (11/15) for size. This makes his future route-running development crucial, as further enhancements to an already impressive array of moves can ensure he's more than just a jump-ball target in a collegiate setting.

10. 4-Star D.D. Bowie

5 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 170 lbs

    High School: Morton High School (Morton, Mississippi)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 10 wide receiver; No. 51 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 93/100

    Recruitment Status

    D.D. Bowie got on board with Alabama early in the process, delivering a verbal pledge shortly after his sophomore year. However, he flipped his commitment to Ole Miss in October, providing the Rebels with an elite in-state receiver for a second straight cycle. (No. 5 overall 2016 pass-catcher A.J. Brown signed in February.)

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Bowie, who hauled in 21 touchdown tosses during the past two seasons, per MaxPreps, is a motivated competitor who squeezes every possible yard out of each opportunity. His blend of straight-line speed and lateral agility (28/30) allows him to shift gears in open field, attacking rushing lanes as they evolve with well-timed cuts that don't cause deceleration.

    He attacks opponents like he believes every ball in the vicinity belongs in his hands, which look incredibly strong (25/25) as he plucks passes away from his body. Bowie also makes a strong case for consideration at defensive back, where his style of play as a ball hawk has resulted in several big gains after interceptions.

9. 4-Star D.J. Matthews

6 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 170 lbs

    High School: Trinity Christian Academy (Jacksonville, Florida)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 9 wide receiver; No. 48 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 94/100

    Recruitment Status

    D.J. Matthews emerged among this cycle's earliest marquee members, when he committed to Florida State before his sophomore season. He's remained on target to play in Tallahassee despite a growing collection of collegiate opportunities that now includes USC, Georgia, Notre Dame and Oregon.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Matthews makes opponents account for his whereabouts every snap he's on the field as a receiver or kick returner because one lackadaisical defender or poor coverage angle can spring him lose for a sprint to the end zone. This explosiveness (15/15 speed) is matched by scintillating shiftiness (15/15 agility) and allows him to gain consistent release (18/20) during the course of a contest.

    Matthews delivered a 90-yard touchdown reception in Trinity Christian Academy's state title victory, according to Chris Hays of the Sun Sentinel, and those game-altering plays are the chief reason college coaches have been eyeing him throughout his high school career. Matthews is more than just a deep-ball threat, proving capable of securing difficult catches toward the sideline and through a crowd in intermediate traffic (24/25 hands).

8. 4-Star James Robinson

7 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 190 lbs

    High School: Lakeland High School (Lakeland, Florida)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 8 wide receiver; No. 36 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 97/100

    Recruitment Status

    Clemson has consistently claimed premier pass-catchers from the Sunshine State, and James Robinson is now squarely in the cross-hairs for Tigers coaches. His recruitment remains wide-open and reached a new level in January, when offers arrived from Oklahoma, South Carolina, Louisville, LSU and USC.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Robinson broke out as a big-time talent who can carry an offensive attack in 2015, gaining momentum as a confident and dominant pass-catcher during late stages of the season. He took his game to another level during playoff matchups, catching 14 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns in Lakeland's first three postseason games, according to Roy Fuoco of the Ledger.

    His immense potential is spearheaded by prime-time speed (15/15) that enables him to swiftly release (19/20) from defenders early in route progression, and Robinson's junior season saw him pass plenty of tests while working through the route tree (19/20). He high-points the football with regularity (25/25 hands) and proved up to the task when forced to fight for 50-50 balls, aggressively ripping the ball away from contested spots and maintaining possession.

7. 4-Star Jerry Jeudy

8 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 174 lbs

    High School: Deerfield Beach High School (Pompano Beach, Florida)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 7 wide receiver; No. 34 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 92/100

    Recruitment Status

    It's been a busy winter for Jerry Jeudy, who has added offers from Baylor, Michigan and USC since December. Florida and Florida State figure to fight for momentum with this Sunshine State standout, while TCU, Alabama and Ohio State are among an array of options elsewhere.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Jeudy manages to jump off the screen during film study for both his attributes as a defensive back and wide receiver, with a dangerous combination of quickness and agility (28/30 combined) serving as the predominant characteristic at both positions. He makes up ground in a hurry, forcing opposing defenders to allot him some cushion at the line of scrimmage. 

    College coaches will attempt to exploit these areas of space by targeting him with quick strikes, which will push him to further fine-tune route-running precision (16/20). Jeudy could be lethal in the slot, forcing defensive strategists to make difficult decisions in how to handle his explosiveness.

6. 5-Star Jeff Thomas

9 of 14

    Height/Weight: 5'10", 170 lbs

    High School: East St. Louis High School (East Saint Louis, Illinois)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 6 wide receiver; No. 31 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

    Recruitment Status

    Missouri aims to land the nearby talent, but Jeff Thomas essentially is set to have his pick of the litter next signing day. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State could turn this into a Big Ten Conference showdown as things evolve, while Alabama looks like the strongest contender among southern schools. 



    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Thomas can take the top off a defensive secondary with lethal straight-line speed (15/15) that's difficult for any high school opponent to handle. The ultimate key to his collegiate transition will be how he adjusts while working against defenders who can match his quickness and hold a size advantage.

    He'll never be the biggest guy in your receiving corps, but he may be the toughest, dashing through tackles on a mission to churn up yards after the catch. Thomas' hands (25/25) provide quarterbacks with a safety net in times of duress, and they were on full display early in his high school career, resulting in 2,074 receiving yards and 19 scores as an upperclassman.

5. 5-Star Tyjon Lindsey

10 of 14

    Height/Weight: 5'9", 165 lbs

    High School: Centennial High School (Corona, California)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 5 wide receiver; No. 24 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 95/100

    Recruitment Status

    Tyjon Lindsey shares a lengthy, personal bond with 5-star Texas A&M quarterback commit Tate Martell, leading many to believe he may ultimately join the prized passer in College Station. The Aggies will undoubtedly remain a contender here as long as Martell maintains his commitment, though offers from Ohio State, Oregon, UCLA, Washington and USC serve evidence of a contentious recruitment.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Diminutive and dangerous, Lindsey will likely warrant mixed reviews from national recruiting analysts. His size, and how that stature translates into college competition, is a point of divisiveness anytime we're dealing with an abundantly talented playmaker who doesn't quite hit key measurements.

    Lindsey is a technician while operating downfield, exhibiting polished route running (25/25) and capping off efforts with consistently strong hands. He caught 29 touchdowns during the past two seasons, per MaxPreps, racking up an average of 25.3 yards per reception. Great footwork off the snap helps him overcome typical size differential in one-on-one battles, creating opportunities for him to quickly slip away from coverage.

4. 5-Star Joseph Lewis

11 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 190 lbs

    High School: Hawkins High School (Los Angeles, California)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 4 wide receiver; No. 20 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 92/100

    Recruitment Status

    The USC Trojans arguably landed college football's most impressive 2016 receiver class, and position coach-turned-offensive coordinator Tee Martin will attempt to further stockpile talent along the perimeter with local playmaker Joseph Lewis. Competition comes in bunches, as Notre Dame, Michigan and Oklahoma are just a few schools attempting to lure him away from the West Coast.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    A consistent contributor throughout his high school career (at least 775 receiving yards each season, per MaxPreps), Lewis is a diligent aggressor at wide receiver. He attacks defenses down the seam with excellent burst (14/15) and displays some physicality along the way while jockeying for position. 

    Lewis displays the hands (25/25) of a No. 1 option in passing efforts and could eventually command that role in college with sharper route running (17/20) that frees him up more frequently. He's a threat to do substantial damage in the screen game, so look for coaches to maximize that facet of his game by setting him up outside with room to operate.

3. 5-Star Tee Higgins

12 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 190 lbs

    High School: Oak Ridge High School (Oak Ridge, Tennessee)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 3 wide receiver; No. 16 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 93/100

    Recruitment Status

    Tee Higgins spent nearly six months committed to in-state Tennessee before reopening his search for a university on Feb. 4. Clemson is a compelling contender here after hosting him for multiple visits in the past year, while Arizona State, Oklahoma and Louisville are among programs that entered the picture last summer.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Higgins is among this cycle's most freakish athletes, regardless of position. He has the physical frame of a defensive end, hits like a linebacker on defense and doesn't miss a beat at wide receiver, where he snagged 16 touchdowns in 2015.

    His hands (25/25) are as solid as they come at this stage of development, and Higgins makes it a habit to extend his lengthy arms to snare incoming throws. He is speedy (14/15) for a player of his stature, gliding downfield with explosive strides that make it difficult for defenders to keep up and wrap up, leading to significant yards after catch.

2. 5-Star Trevon Grimes

13 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 195 lbs

    High School: St. Thomas Aquinas High School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) 

    247Sports Ranking: No. 2 wide receiver; No. 10 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 96/100

    Recruitment Status

    Ohio State is a significant perceived leader in pursuing Trevon Grimes, as the Buckeyes claim 95 percent of experts' 247Sports crystal ball predictions. Florida figures to play a prominent role throughout, especially considering the presence of St. Thomas Aquinas quarterback Jake Allen in Jim McElwain's 2017 recruiting class.

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Grimes gives defenders fits with his rare ability to size up with physicality or burst (14/15 speed). He can fight off tight coverage at the line and also uses his size as leverage in the end zone, able to box out opponents as the ball approaches. 

    He's a precise route-runner (25/25) who doesn't waste any motion while charging downfield, finding seams and surging toward his quarterback's targeted area. Grimes' instincts set him apart from several top-tier contenders, as he displays adept mid-route adjustments based on the evolving trajectory of a toss.

1. 5-Star Donovan Peoples-Jones

14 of 14

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 192 lbs

    High School: Cass Technical High School (Detroit, Michigan)

    247Sports Ranking: No. 1 wide receiver; No. 6 overall

    Bleacher Report Score: 97/100

    Recruitment Status

    Donovan Peoples-Jones is the crown jewel of in-state recruiting for Michigan and Michigan State, but both schools will be hard-pressed to defend home turf given an abundance of interested schools. He included Alabama, Florida, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M and USC in top-10 list this winter. 

     

    Bleacher Report Analysis 

    Peoples-Jones captivates coaches, scouts and fans alike with his physical prowess, which fueled him to the 2015 Nike Football Ratings national championship (based on combine-like drills). He already competes at college-ready size and brings sprinter's speed (15/15) to the field at nearly 200 pounds. 

    Defenders really struggle to stay tight in coverage, particularly when Peoples-Jones turns on the juice and mixes in some lateral movement upon his release (20/20). He feasts on crossing patterns when the pass is on point, leaving opponents in his wake while turning upfield with a head full of steam. Peoples-Jones recorded 68 receptions as a junior en route to 1,161 yards and 18 scores, according to the Detroit News.

     

    All prospects scouted by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue. Players ordered by appearance in 247Sports' composite rankings.