Ranking the collective wide receivers, league by league, for the 2017 season

national wide receivers

Do good receivers make good quarterbacks, or is it the other way around?

Well, since we’re high on the quarterbacks in the Pac-12 (especially) and SEC this season, it might not be surprising that we think highly of the receivers in those leagues, as well.

We broke down the wide receivers in each of the 10 FBS leagues in four ways. First, we picked the top one in each league. We listed wide receivers who already are in the top tier nationally (for this exercise, “top tier” means one of the top 10 nationally). We listed wide receivers who could move into the top tier. We also listed wide receivers who already are in or could move into the second tier (a top-25 or -30 receiver nationally).

(We have done the same thing with quarterbacks and with running backs.)

Here’s how we rank the leagues, from 10th to first.

10. Sun Belt

Marquee attraction: Troy’s Emanuel Thompson.
Top tier nationally: None.
Potential top tier: None.
2nd tier, now or potential: Thompson.
The skinny: The Sun Belt was the only league without a 1,000-yard receiver last season. Thompson did have 80 receptions in 2016, but he is not a deep threat.

9. Mid-American

Marquee attraction: Toledo’s Cody Thompson.
Top tier nationally: None.
Potential top tier: Thompson.
2nd tier, now or potential: Thompson, Bowling Green’s Scott Miller, Central Michigan’s Corey Willis.
The skinny: Thompson and Willis are 1,000-yard returnees. Given Toledo’s offense, Thompson seems a lock to reach the plateau again. He averaged 19.8 yards per catch on his 64 receptions and had 11 TD grabs. He also is a big-time deep threat: As cfbstats.com shows, he had 10 receptions of at least 40 yards and six of at least 50. Miller would benefit from more consistent quarterback play. Willis could suffer from his quarterback play, too.

8. Conference USA

Marquee attraction: Middle Tennessee’s Richie James.
Top tier nationally: James.
Potential top tier: None.
2nd tier, now or potential: Western Kentucky’s Lucky Jackson, Southern Miss’ Allenzae Staggers, Florida Atlantic’s Kalib Woods, ODU’s Jonathan Duhart.
The skinny: James is one of the best wide receivers in the nation. A junior, he has 213 career receptions and is on pace to become the career leader in receptions in Division I history. Those catches have gone for 2,971 yards and 20 TDs. James is a shifty guy with legit top-end speed: He ran track in high school in Florida and has been clocked as fast as 4.37 seconds in the 40. Jackson plays in a pass-happy attack and will be the go-to guy for prolific QB Mike White. Woods will benefit from Lane Kiffin’s new offense at FAU; Woods had 68 receptions for 934 yards but just one TD last season. Barring injury, he will reach 1,000 yards and 10 TDs this season. Staggers will be working with a new quarterback, but is a deep threat who had two 200-yard games last season.

7. Mountain West

Marquee attraction: Colorado State’s Michael Gallup.
Top tier nationally: Gallup.
Potential top tier: None.
2nd tier, now or potential: Boise State’s Cedrick Wilson, UNLV’s Devonte Boyd, Wyoming’s C.J. Johnson.
The skinny: Gallup had 76 receptions for 1,272 yards (16.7 yards per catch) and 14 TDs last season, his first in the FBS ranks after transferring from junior college. His TD receptions total is second-most among returning wide receivers. Wilson averaged 20.2 yards per catch on his 56 receptions and scored 11 times. His yards-per-catch average was the best nationally among the 100 receivers who had at least 55 receptions. Boyd will produce if UNLV quarterbacks can get him the ball. Wyoming lost its top three receivers, and that means Johnson should benefit. He’ll be the top receiver for gifted QB Josh Allen.

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