My series previewing the top college football prospects for season 2020 looks today at what is stacking up to be another incredibly deep and star-studded group of wide receivers.
Ja’Marr Chase – junior, LSU – 6’1’’, 200 pounds
He played in all 13 games as a true freshman in 2018, which tells the tale of LSU’s next generational pass-catching talent. The winner of the 2019 Fred Biletnikoff Award as the top receiver in college football, Chase finished the Tigers’ national championship-winning season with 84 catches, 1780 yards and 20 touchdowns. He is a player who shines brightest in the big moments, exhibited by his domination of Clemson’s number one-ranked pass defence with nine receptions, 221 yards and two touchdowns in the national championship game. He likely would have been the first receiver drafted in 2020 if he was eligible in what was already an incredible wide receiver group and will certainly be first picked next year barring any unforeseen circumstances. He is the most decorated wide receiver in LSU history.
Rashod Bateman – junior, Minnesota – 6’2’’, 210 pounds
He has 111 receptions for 1923 yards and 17 touchdowns over his first two seasons with the Golden Gophers. He proved to be one of the most electric wide receivers in all of college football last season with his knack for both contested catches and yards-after-the-catch abilities. He averaged 20.3 yards per catch in 2019 and was named Big Ten wide receiver of the year despite playing second fiddle to eventual draftee Tyler Johnson. Bateman’s size coupled with his excellent hands and body control suggests all the hallmarks of a legitimate number one receiver at the next level. With former teammate Johnson off to the NFL, Bateman will pair with quarterback Tanner Morgan to form one of the better combinations in college football.
Devonta Smith – senior, Alabama – 6’1’’, 175 pounds
Smith looks like he will crack the 50-games-played mark before his time is up at Alabama. He is currently on 41 games played. Perhaps most famous for his touchdown catch in overtime to defeat Georgia in the 2016 national championship game, Smith is a deep-threat speedster who caught 68 passes in 2019 for 1256 yards and 14 touchdowns (more than both 2020 first-round picks Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs). Smith currently averages 17.9 yards per catch for his career, a total currently second all-time by an Alabama pass-catcher with at least 100 receptions. With Jeudy and Ruggs now gone, Smith rises to the top of the depth chart and will be in the first-round discussion throughout the season.
Jaylen Waddle – junior, Alabama – 5’10’’, 182 pounds
The Crimson Tide could legitimately have two wide receivers drafted in Round 1 for the second consecutive year. Waddle has caught 78 passes for 1408 yards and 13 scores in his first two seasons at Alabama. Due to the absurd talent ahead of him, Waddle has been utilised on special teams, where his impressive speed has netted two punt return touchdowns (average of 19.4 yards per return) and one kick-off return touchdown (average of 35 yards). In 2019, Waddle led the nation in punt return average at 24.4 yards per return with 20 returned punts for 487 yards and a touchdown, including a long of 77. Like Smith, Waddle will look to cement his name as a genuine first-round talent in season 2020.
Justyn Ross – junior, Clemson – 6’4’’, 205 pounds
He won’t play in season 2020 and his career hangs in the balance after a congenital fusion in his spine was diagnosed earlier this week. He came to Clemson in the same recruiting class that gave the school quarterback Trevor Lawrence and has proven to be one of the quarterback’s favourite targets. He has registered 112 passes for 1865 yards with 17 touchdowns in 29 games across two seasons for the Tigers. He burst onto the scene as a freshman in a national title-winning season with 46 catches, 1000 yards and nine touchdowns, including six catches for 153 yards and a touchdown in the national championship game against Alabama. He had a slightly down season statistically in 2019 despite starting all 14 games, logging 66 receptions for 865 yards and eight touchdowns. He is a devastating loss to a Clemson football program that has its sights set on a third national championship in five seasons.
Other players to watch are Purdue’s Rondale Moore, Ohio State’s Chris Olave, Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace, USC’s Amon-Ra St Brown, Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt, Auburn’s Seth Williams and Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry.
The best non-draft-eligible player to watch is Georgia’s George Pickens.