Ranking the Top 10 Wide Receiver Recruits for 2011
The success a wide receiver recruit will have at the college level seems, more than any other position, to be the most difficult to predict.
Against truly awful competition, even I, a 24-year-old white kid with asthma who golfed in high school, could look like a four-star wide receiver.
But I trust the early experts, and my own discerning eye, in saying that the following 10 wide receivers really could be gamebreakers at the next level.
What follows is a ranking of the 10 recruits receiving some early buzz at the high school level, and a word on their potential suitors.
I've included film for each so you can see how you'd rank them. This is a sports democracy, after all.
No. 10: Marvin Shinn (Alabama)
I'm troubled when a wide receiver's film is just footage of him beating cornerbacks and bad safeties deep. Over-the-top routes are covered much better by smarter, heavier-hitting defensive backs in college (particularly the SEC) than in high school.
Take Marvin Shinn's footage with a grain of salt if you agree with me. I see a tall receiver with good ball skills and great speed victimizing teams deep. But I don't see great over-the-middle play, and I would even call his style "tentative" after the catch.
When he does go over the middle, he gets rocked, and goes down like a ton of bricks.
I'll tentatively endorse him as a consistent deep threat, and there's always senior year. But as far as "well-roundedness" goes, Julio Jones he is not.
No. 9: Davaris Daniels
Daniels' offer list has been slower to fill up than some of these other receivers, though that might be because of geography more than anything else.
The Illinois native has a solid frame and shows a knack for adjusting to the ball in traffic.
I think his speed, while short of elite, will be an issue for scouts looking for a more complete threat.
He fills in at QB on Wildcat plays, so reading and setting up blocks is clearly a strength.
He's also a great two-way player for his home school, where he doubles as a defensive back. I could see him filling in at QB for pro-style schools that include the Wildcat wrinkle in their offensive scheme.
I think he'd be an ideal fit for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame. Kelly can get him matched up against inferior competition and turn him into a prolific possession receiver who also can turn on the burners once in a while, a la Mardy Gilyard.
He has an offer from the Irish, as well as from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin and Miami (FL).
No. 8: Kelvin Benjamin
No. 7: Trey Metoyer
Out of all these receivers, Trey Metoyer reminded me most of an NFL prospect.
He might not be tops in the speed department, but he has solid hands and great body control, especially in throws along the sideline.
When he out-muscles cornerbacks for a pass or fakes out defenders on a screen, he looks like Braylon Edwards in his prime at Michigan (that is, when he could catch).
He's always thinking one step ahead of his first tackler, but can occasionally make too many moves or play too smart in yards after the catch. Top end speed is also a concern.
Overall, he'll toe the line between possession receiver and deep threat throughout his career.
Considering he's a Texas kid, I'd like to see him at Houston or Texas Tech, catching a multitude of passes and using his dramatic YAC skills to make up for a lack of jets. LSU, Miami, the Longhorns and most of the Big 12 South have joined the Cougars and Red Raiders in pursuit.
No. 6: Charone Peake
Peake is a terrific athlete whose receiving talents are best suited for a spread scheme.
His elusiveness and quick-cutting mask some top-speed deficiency, so he'll need to find an attack that allows him to play in space and hit his fourth gear as quickly as he can. Note the extensive use of screens in the clip below from Peake's freshman season.
Since that time, he's put on about 15 pounds, but he's not a guy that can take a lot of defenders head-on.
He does run well after peripheral contact and is an able outside blocker. More muscle in a college strength and conditioning program should aid his ability to overwhelm a defense physically.
SEC teams have already jumped on him, but the in-state Clemson Tigers appear to be a leader, followed by Florida and Georgia.
No. 5: Jaxon Shipley (Texas)
Jaxon Shipley committed to the Longhorns shortly before Mrs. Shipley birthed him.
I won't be the last guy to compare Jaxon to his older brother Jordan, or claim that Jaxon's speed and field intelligence might even be an improvement over his brother.
Both players are terrific route runners that have a knack for sinking into a zone, turning the play upfield and making tacklers miss. Jaxon is also an accomplished return man, and, like his brother, runs like he's pedaling a bike.
He might even be a few clicks faster than Jordan, but we'll leave that to the experts to decide.
Still, Jaxon is a few pounds lighter than his brother was as a recruit, but he still has a senior season to go. Texas' enormous haul at wide receiver in 2010 might also allow him to redshirt and gain more durability.
Either way, it'll be deja vu for Longhorns fans as soon as he hits the field.
No. 4: DeAnthony Arnett
DeAnthony Arnett heads up a strong class of Michigan prospects drawing national interest on both sides of the ball.
Arnett has more ways to beat a cornerback off the line of scrimmage than I have B/R articles.
Better highlight videos of his in-game play are out there, but I chose this one from Michigan's recent Showcase at Glick Fieldhouse in Ann Arbor because it showed how physical he plays at the line of scrimmage. Also notice how smoothly he throws on the double-move. That's the first sign of an elite NFL talent.
Accordingly, he has professed his love of pro-style schemes and named an early top three of Michigan State, Notre Dame and USC.
Still, he lacks elite pro-style size (he's only about 5'11"), but in space, he can create some serious separation from cornerbacks.
I'd look for him to take on a strong national following before deciding on a school close to home. Having recently landed the No. 1 middle linebacker recruit in Lawrence Thomas, the Spartans are looking more and more like major players in the recruiting circuit. They're the likeliest of the top three barring an awful 2010 season.
No. 3: George Farmer
Speed, speed, speed is George Farmer's game.
The Southern California prospect is probably this classes' fastest receiver, a sub-4.4 talent who couples breakaway ability with the intelligence and vision necessary to make the speed useful.
Free video is a little hard to come by, but check out the below clip of Farmer playing with 2010 USC commit Robert Woods last fall. Note Farmer's jaw-dropping acceleration on a look pass.
Despite the Woods connection, Farmer recently refuted the assumption that he is a lock for the Trojans. He maintains that he will take all five official visits and will consider many Pac-10 schools along with Miami and Florida, who have both sent him offers.
The Oregon Ducks recently offered as well. In their offense, I could see him really excelling at the reverse/motion game, and wonder if they'll end up a major player, particularly since his goal is to play early. (I consider USC's epic 2010 WR haul a serious impediment to most 2011 prospects playing early).
Despite the refutation, I wouldn't bet against the Trojans landing Farmer. He's probably an official visit away from (at least) a soft commitment, if not more.
No. 2: Jarvis Landry (LSU)
He may not be a prototypical NFL receiver or promise a lot in one-on-one coverage, but Jarvis Landry's film was my favorite to watch.
He's an extremely smooth runner in the open field. He can make himself smaller and sneak around defenders as he stretches defenses laterally. And he can read clocks and react to their angles better than any other receiver on this list.
Plus, even if he's not the biggest kid, he has blue-chip balance and can run through arm tackles. He's got a great spin move, great acceleration and terrific top end speed.
He's currently committed to LSU, but could be looking around. As a Michigan fan, I'll be watching his recruitment closely.
Bottom line, he belongs in a spread scheme. As long as LSU is running something akin to it when he gets on campus, we can rest assured his talent is being put to good use.
No. 1: Kasen Williams
Watching Kasen Williams' highlight film brought a welcome comparison to my mind: former Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree.
Williams has the balance, the body control, the soft hands, the great feet and the tackle-breaking ability of Crabtree.
He showed he could take jailbreak screens the distance, but was also dangerous on the curl route and breakaway, and has a few more pounds on the former two-time Biletnikoff winner.
And best of all, he plays without fear of contact. Watch how he lowers his head and takes off after the catch. That's a receiver with outstanding confidence.
Playing with Scout's no. 1 QB recruit, Jake Heaps, as his high school QB definitely helped his outrageous production and ability. But considering that every top program is after him, he can count on that talent or better at the college level.
Washington fans are confident he'll remain in-state and become the top receiver in Steve Sarkisian's pro-style system. A few years of a Nick Montana-Kasen Williams connection does indeed sound intriguing, but the Huskies' recruiters will have to beat every other top program in order to make it so.