Philadelphia, PA – Despite a slew of talented wide receivers making the move to the NFL this year, there remains an impressive list of talented pass catchers still in the FBS ranks.
MARQISE LEE (USC): He may not have the prototypical size the NFL clamors for today, there isn't a wideout in the country who makes more plays than the 6- foot, 195-pound Lee. A Consensus All-American and Biletnikoff Award winner in 2012, Lee ranked second in the nation in receiving yards (1,721) while hauling in 118 balls and scoring 14 touchdowns. He has amassed 4,144 all-purpose yards in just two seasons at USC, with 27 touchdowns. Matt Barkley is no longer under center for the Trojans, but that doesn't mean Lee's numbers will dip as a result. If Lane Kiffin truly is on thin ice, getting the ball in the hands of Lee as much as possible can only help his cause.
JORDAN MATTHEWS (Vanderbilt): A unanimous First-Team All-SEC selection in 2012, this Commodore rewrote the school record books as a junior, finishing the year with 94 receptions for 1,323 yards and eight touchdowns, adding a ninth score on the ground. An argument could be made that Matthews is the most NFL- ready wideout on this list, with great size (6-3, 205), speed and field presence to go along with his penchant for coming up big when the spotlight is the brightest. Matthews was certainly a big reason that Vanderbilt won nine games a year ago (tying the school record), closing out the season with seven straight wins, including topping North Carolina State in the Music City Bowl. James Franklin has changed the way people view Vanderbilt football in two short years and there is no doubt Matthews has been key to that resurgence.
ALLEN ROBINSON (Penn State): The situation at Penn State painted a bleak picture entering Bill O'Brien's first season at the helm in Happy Valley. However, through the chaos emerged a true talent on the outside in the 6-3, 205-pound Robinson. As a sophomore last year, Robinson led the Big Ten in receptions (77), receiving yards (1,013) and touchdown catches (11). The 77 receptions is a single-season record for the school. He is a threat anywhere on the field, especially in the red zone, where his field awareness and body control make him one of the nation's toughest defensive assignments. There may be a new quarterback throwing him the ball this year, but that gunslinger would be best served to look Robinson's way often.
AMARI COOPER (Alabama): The two-time defending national champion Crimson Tide are best known for their stellar ground game and dominant defense, but sleeping on Alabama's aerial attack would be foolish, especially this season. As a true freshman a year ago, the 6-1, 190-pound Cooper burst on the scene as a real difference maker on the outside. He got off to a slow start in 2012, but Nick Saban realized the weapon he had after the first month of the season and called Cooper's number a lot more from that point forward. The result was Cooper leading the team in receptions (59), receiving yards (1,000) and touchdown catches (11). Cooper capped off a strong season by decimating Notre Dame's defense in the BCS Championship Game, hauling in six balls for 105 yards and two TDs. It is scary to think that Cooper has only scratched the surface of his potential. A third straight national crown for Alabama is certainly within reach, especially with Cooper continuing to make plays downfield.
SAMMY WATKINS (Clemson): As a freshman in 2011, there may not have been a better playmaker on the outside than the 6-1, 205-pound Watkins, who earned All-America honors (all-purpose) while being tabbed the National Freshman of the Year. He was just the third redshirt freshman in NCAA history to earn AP First-Team All-America honors, joining Herschel Walker (1980) and Adrian Peterson (2004). He finished 2011 with 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. Last year, however, Watkins played second-fiddle to DeAndre Hopkins, who turned a stellar season into an NFL first-round draft selection. Watkins played in only 10 games (suspension, injuries), finishing with modest numbers (57 receptions, 708 yards, three TDs). With Hopkins' departure and quarterback Tajh Boyd's continued success under center, expect Watkins to return to form and put up a monster season in Death Valley in 2013.
JOSH STEWART (Oklahoma State): It clearly doesn't matter who is under center in Stillwater, as Mike Gundy continues to find ultra-productive receivers to destroy opposing secondaries. First it was Dez Bryant, then Justin Blackmon. The new guy on the block is Stewart. The 5-10, 185-pounder really blossomed as a sophomore a year ago, leading the Cowboys in receptions (101), receiving yards (1,210) and touchdown catches (seven), while posting five 100-yard receiving games. Stewart always seems to get open and has the kind of athleticism to turn routine patterns into game-changing plays. OSU averaged over 330 yards passing last season and with a continued emphasis on the pass, look for Stewart's numbers to once again jump off the page.
AUSTIN HILL (Arizona): Rich Rodriguez's offensive scheme always seems to favor playmakers, so it isn't any wonder why, despite having the nation's leading rusher, Arizona still put up huge numbers through the air. A big reason for that was the emergence of the 6-3, 210-pound Hill, who caught 81 balls for 1,364 yards and 11 touchdowns. A Biletnikoff Award semifinalist and a Second- Team All-Pac-12 selection a year ago, Hill will have to get acclimated to a new quarterback in 2013, but it shouldn't take long for rapport to be built. Hill's straight-line speed and productivity after the catch should once again produce big numbers, especially with Rodriguez pulling the offensive strings in Tucson.
BRANDON COLEMAN (Rutgers): There may not be a more physically imposing receiver in the college ranks than the 6-6, 220-pound Coleman. He finished second on the team in receptions in 2012 with a modest 43 catches, but led in receiving yards (718) and touchdown grabs (10). NFL teams have to be salivating over the all-around talent Coleman brings to the table. With unmatched size, above-average speed and a knack for adjusting to the ball in the air, this Scarlet Knight could hear his name called very early in the 2014 NFL Draft.
CODY HOFFMAN (BYU): While not receiving the national attention of some of the other receivers on this list, the 6-4, 215-pound Hoffman's production was right up there with the best of them in 2012. Hoffman could have made the jump to the NFL this season, but instead returns to Provo for one more go-around. Last year, Hoffman earned All-America accolades by hauling in 100 balls for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers are even more impressive considering BYU signal-callers combined to complete just 59.4 percent of their throws. The Cougars offense will once again feature a heavy dose of Hoffman downfield and that should help the senior close out his collegiate career with another eye- popping stat line.
MIKE EVANS (Texas A&M): Although it seemed at times that Johnny Manziel was a one-man-show in College Station in 2012, the Heisman Trophy winner had plenty of help. The receiving duo of Ryan Swope and the 6-5 Evans combined for over 2,000 yards. While Swope found the end zone more, it was Evans who led the team in both receptions (82) and receiving yards (1,105), despite being just a freshman. With Swope having moved on to the NFL, Evans will command more passes. A sophomore slump is highly unlikely with "Johnny Football" pulling the trigger.
HONORABLE MENTION: Josh Huff (Oregon), Malcolm Mitchell (Georgia), Devin Street (Pittsburgh), T.J. Jones (Notre Dame) and Stefon Diggs (Maryland).