Wide receiver is always a difficult position to project. Success or failure is contingent on the quarterback, on whether another wide receiver is present to divert coverage, and on whether the opponent is scheming to shut you down.
One play from a good receiver can break a game open, but if they have an off day, the whole team suffers.
I've omitted the likely early departures—including Damian Williams, for those of you expecting him in the top 10—but for the players that will likely remain, here are 25 of the best returning next year. Upon them, the futures of their teams depend.
Moye and teammate Graham Zug stepped up as Penn State's principal receiving threats after the Lions lost Derrick Williams, Deon Butler, and Jordan Norwood to last year's draft.
His size (6'5") creates matchup problems, but he could add some bulk. He showed outstanding hands in several sideline/endzone catches that have become a staple of the Penn State red zone passing attack.
He'll be a junior, so he and the senior Zug will need to be leaders and mentors for whichever untested quarterback the Nittany Lions settle on in camp. The Lions will be pounding the ground game next year, but I still expect Moye to be a great red-zone threat catching corner routes.
Page had a standout year as a freshman, notching 1129 yards on 82 receptions and catching seven touchdowns and posting six games with more than 100 yards.
Page has a good burst and spin move and is a converted quarterback, so he also boasts intelligence and can find the open space. He's right on the fringe of being a deep threat versus a possession receiver–next year might settle that question.
NC State's Owen Spencer led the nation in yards per reception, streaking down the field for 25.5 yards per catch and catching six touchdowns.
He'll need to work on route-running, but his separation from defenders past the line of scrimmage stretched defenses all year, and he'll be a deep threat again in 2010.
He and Russell Wilson return to an NC State team that will try and pull out of a conference nosedive. The Wolfpack missed the postseason after going 5-7, and they lose a lot of key players on defense to graduation.
Hopefully, Spencer's speed will keep the Wolfpack alive in what could turn out to be a season-long shootout.
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is probably more touted and consistent, but he doesn't have the numbers of the sophomore McNutt.
McNutt broke free on a crossing route against Indiana, caught two touchdowns against Ohio State, and cradled the game-winner against Michigan State.
He has "it," and with "it," I expect him and J-K to have another outstanding season catching touchdowns on the post, as long as Stanzi is healthy enough to throw them.
Adams' production sputtered mid-year, but he finished strong, catching four passes for 138 yards and a touchdown against Alabama.
He'll get help on the outside with the addition of a few great wide receivers in Auburn's incoming recruiting class, and the Tigers' QB situation should get resolved in a good way.
I predict Adams will get a greater role in Malzahn's reverse-heavy offense, and at 6'3" he'll continue to be a matchup problem on the outside.
Though they play him on the outside, Varner is like Duke's equivalent of Wes Welker, an undersized player (5'9) who finds openings in the zone, catches a multitude of passes, and uses his speed to jet to the endzone.
Varner, a junior, finished the year strong by catching 11 passes for 174 yards in Duke's close loss to Wake Forest to close the season. He finished with 1047 yards and eight touchdowns, good for first-team All-ACC recognition.
Losing senior QB Thaddeus Lewis might hurt his numbers, but he'll be a senior leader for whomever steps up.
Against my advice, Hawaii receiver Greg Salas won't be entering the draft despite amassing 1590 yards and catching eight touchdowns.
He's the beneficiary of a favorable offense, but his size and stride would pose problems in any system, against any defense. I like him to repeat as a 1300+ yard receiver against the smaller defenses in the WAC, and to start getting some attention if Hawaii can get back to national relevance again.
Like Salas, Cleveland benefits from playing in a pass-heavy offense, but his production (1182 yards, and a whopping 14 touchdowns) landed him all-conference honors and caught the game winner against Tulsa.
The JUCO transfer will try to repat that output and, with the lethal help of Tyron Carrier returning kicks and scoring touchdowns, keep the Cougars at the forefront of the nation's scoring offenses.
Doss had a quietly outstanding season in a down Big Ten year for receivers, finishing second in the conference in receiving yards per game.
He amassed 962 yards on 77 receptions and hauled in six touchdowns, good for second-team All-Big Ten. He also carried the ball well in Indiana's version of the option.
He's a legit red-zone threat, and just needs to add a little bulk on his 6'3" frame to overpower cornerbacks. Indiana fans should hope the Ben Chappell to Doss connection remains live next year.
One half of the breakout freshman tandem at South Carolina, Alshon Jeffery and teammate Tori Gurley combined for 1000 yards and eight touchdowns on the year. Jeffery's breakout game was a monster seven-reception, 138 yard, three-touchdown effort to keep the Kentucky Wildcats at bay in a close 28-26 win.
Both receivers return along with QB Stephen Garcia to give Steve Spurrier his most seasoned offense to date. Jeffery can build on his stellar freshman season and become on the eminent receivers in the conference, and in the country, if he keeps up the production next year.
Smith's outstanding year was overshadowed by the flash and pomp of his teammate, Aaron Valentin, who had more touchdowns. But Smith had nearly double the yardage and receptions, and was no slouch in the endzone, catching seven.
He'll return next year, sans Valentin, to help Purdue's passing game find its rhythm again under likely replacement Robert Marve, the transfer from Miami.
The momentum from 2009 puts him right outside my top ten; even if he remains a possession receiver, he'll keep the chains moving, and could lead the conference again.
Roundtree had arguably the best finish of any Big Ten receiver.
While filling in for the injured Martavius Odoms at the slot in Michigan's final four games, Roundtree caught 30 passes for just shy of 400 yards and two touchdowns.
He was a yard shy of keeping the momentum going in the Illinois game, and his 43-yard catch-and-run against Ohio State briefly rejuvenated the gangly Michigan offense. He finished leading all Michigan receivers in yards, TDs and catches.
Michigan deploys its slot receivers far more intelligently than its outside ones, and that should continue next year as the pressure to go four-wide with two slotmen increases. Roundtree could also split out wide, though he lacks the ideal height.
Odoms and Roundtree have been the two most consistent players at wideout; we'll hear plenty about them next year, as long as Tate Forcier throws to the right team.
Bolstered by the return of Jake Locker, Jermaine Kearse will likely be the receiver to watch in the Pac-10 next year.
Kearse has made good on his recruitment hype, and will spring off of a 50 reception, 866 yard, eight touchdown season to lead a now-seasoned group of receivers to a dark horse Pac-10 championship run.
Toon's smooth route-running and penchant to dissolve between the zones fit great in Wisconsin's passing scheme, which utilizes a lot of deep crossing routes.
Though this year the numbers weren't there, Toon will be a player to watch as QB Scott Tolzien continues to mature and the Wiscy offense grows multi-dimensional.
The loss of Garrett Graham at tight end will mean a lot more passes go Toon's direction, and he has the speed and size to make them count.
Childs was third in the conference in production, and though he didn't catch a lot of passes (45), he made them count, averaging 19.16 yards per reception.
He's QB Ryan Mallett's favorite downfield target, and is memorable for burning past the Florida secondary to keep the Razorbacks upset hopes alive in the Swamp (before the refs took over).
If Mallett makes the wise decision to return, he and Childs will test the backpedaling speed of SEC cornerbacks all year.
Rodgers easily lead the conference in receiving yards (1004) and receptions (87), and tied Arizona's Juron Criner for touchdowns (9).
He's a great weapon in the OSU reverse game, with speed and evasiveness to burn. With his brother Quizz, Rogers will try and lead the Beavers back to conference contention for a third straight year, no matter who Mike Riley puts at quarterback.
Broyles was one of the few bright spots in the Sooners' dismal year, catching 12 touchdowns and amassing 964 yards and finishing the season with back-to-back 100 yard games.
With Dezmon Briscoe of Kansas departing a year early for the pros, Broyles is the conference's leading receiver entering next year. He and Landry Jones developed a good rapport by year's end, and that connection will be looked to as Oklahoma's deals with its major losses on the lines.
Pettis and Young, both juniors, combined for 133 receptions, 1819 yards and 24 touchdowns on the season, and gave defenses no easy answers in coverage.
Pettis may miss Boise's matchup against TCU, but both he and Young hopefully will return to help Boise QB Kellen Moore make a run at a Heisman. With how many starters return, the Broncos' chances at an undefeated season and a spot on the BCS stoop are more than likely.
They could be the best receiving tandem in the nation at year's end, if they aren't already.
Jones had a bizarre year. He didn't come close to keeping the promise of his true freshman season, notching only 42 receptions for just under 600 yards and four touchdowns, but his effort against LSU was credited with winning the game and keeping the Tide unbeaten streak alive.
He and the nucleus of the Tide offense return, but I wouldn't be surprised if he struggles again. Yet his presence is crucial in opening the Tide's running game, and if they're fated to repeat as conference champs, he'll take at least one game on his shoulders.
If I'm crazy enough to say that Jones will terrorize SEC defenses for one more year, I'm crazy enough to rank him in the top ten of this list. Asylum, ahoy!
Most of the nation was introduced to Jonathan Baldwin in Pitt's victory over Notre Dame, when the outstanding receiver showed he could stretch the field deep and punish the Irish defense for creeping up on Dion Lewis.
His 54 receptions for 1080 yards and eight touchdowns will make him the Big East defending leader in yardage next year, but I'm reserving the hype until Pitt has shown it can replace the underrated Bill Stull.
Whoever takes over hopefully has a strong arm: Baldwin averaged 20 yards per catch at year's end, and nobody likes a statistical regressor.
Considering the bad feelings coming from Cincinnati, I have to wonder if Armon Binns will remain a Bearcat.
But as the tall, traditional deep threat counterpart to All-American Mardy Gilyard, Binns was outstanding, racking up 859 yards on 56 receptions for 10 touchdowns.
I've argued elsewhere that Binns would be wise to stay. Though Butch Jones is a run-first coach, the potential is there for Binns to have an equally productive season with Zach Collaros at QB.
Back to back seasons with double-digit touchdowns will definitely help his draft stock, and I predict he'll battle Pitt's Jonathon Baldwin for the best deep threat in the conference.
Thomas has the distinction of leading the ACC in receiving yards, yards per game, and touchdowns, and is a fraction of a yard away from leading in yards per catch, despite playing in the triple option. It's like an extreme version of the concept behind the play-action.
Thomas returns as Josh Nesbitt's primary target on passing plays, and can physically outplay just about every defensive back he faces. His speed in the open field is jaw-dropping. When Nesbitt drops back to pass, get ready for a gashing play.
Green missed the end of Georgia's season after suffering a separated shoulder in the Auburn game, but he couldn't be defended in the red zone.
Exhibit A: the catch against LSU, where Green disrespected a defender, snatching the ball out of the sky to put the Bulldogs ahead in the defensive struggle.
His numbers could suffer if Georgia's QB situation remains unsettled, but the addition of all-star recruit Da'Rick Rogers will help with double teams. If Georgia wants to get back in the SEC East running, Green might be able to take them there.
The indomitable Mr. Floyd has a heady task facing him in 2010: help Dayne Crist become the next great Irish quarterback, cope with the loss of Golden Tate, and adjust to new head coach Brian Kelly.
Floyd has the gifts, both physically and mentally. He plays with unshakable confidence, and he heals at a rate faster than most medical opinions would describe as "human": returning after only a month from a broken collarbone, Floyd caught 10 passes for 141 yards against Navy.
He's a monster, and in Brian Kelly's pass-happy system, he'll produce at or above the pace Tate set this year.