As we continue to rank the best players in college football entering the 2015 season, perhaps no position is harder to narrow down than wide receiver.
A ton of star receivers have gone on to the NFL the last couple years -- Amari Cooper, Sammy Watkins, DeVante Parker, Kevin White, Tyler Lockett, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, etc. -- leaving few proven All-America types left this year. That doesn't mean there aren't a ton of talented players, however. It's the toughest position to narrow down because the rankings are largely populated with younger rising stars and breakout candidates, a group that stretches far beyond 25 players.
Aside from a handful of stars at the top of the list, the gap may be quite small between players ranked in the top 20 and players who missed the cut and may rank in the 40s. There is plenty of room for new national stars to emerge at the position, and there is no shortage of potential candidates.
So, we must make some tough cuts, but below are the top 25 college wide receivers for 2015, followed by the top 15 tight ends (a group that is much easier to narrow down).
25. Marquez North, Tennessee. North's breakout didn't really happen last year, but that can be blamed on various injuries, an unsettled quarterback situation until the second half of the season and a season-ending shoulder injury that sidelined him for much of Joshua Dobbs' breakout over the last several weeks. The 6-foot-4, 224-pound North has a chance to re-emerge as the Vols' best -- and one of the best in the country -- if he stays healthy, especially now that Dobbs has established himself as a viable option at QB. North caught 30 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns in that limited action last year, but 2015 should be much different.
24. De'Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State. QB Dak Prescott became a star last year, and the biggest beneficiary was Wilson, a physical 6-foot-5, 225-pound former basketball player. He emerged as the top target last year, in an offense that revolves around Prescott's read-option game and play-action passes. Wilson caught 47 passes for 680 yards and nine touchdowns as a sophomore, and while his play was erratic much of the season, he starred late in the year.
23. DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State. Offensive line play was by far Penn State's biggest problem last year, in contributing to Christian Hackenberg's frustrating sophomore season at quarterback, but it didn't help that a young receiving corps struggled to get separation consistently. Hamilton, fortunately, was a revelation. As a redshirt freshman -- and despite the offense's issues -- Hamilton led the Big Ten with 82 catches, for 899 yards and two touchdowns. The latter two numbers won't turn any heads, given the number of catches, but Hamilton proved to be a valuable weapon, as Hackenberg's most consistent target and someone capable of picking up yards after the catch. His catch total will probably go down this year as a young receiving corps matures around him, but he'll be in better position to make some big plays if the offensive line stabilizes.
22. Travin Dural, LSU. Don't put blame for LSU's passing game woes on the receiving corps. The Tigers have won of the best groups of young receivers in the country, with Dural, a junior, joining sophomores Malachi Dupre, Trey Quinn and John Diarse. They just didn't get to do a whole lot, with LSU completing only 138 passes (120th nationally) all season. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound Dural is a good fit for what the offense wants to do with a mix of power running and downfield passing, as even with last year's inconsistent passing game, he averaged 20.5 yards per catch, finishing with 37 catches for 758 yards and seven touchdowns. Much of that production came in the first half of the season, though, as he struggled down the stretch in SEC play. He's going to need some help from his quarterbacks.
21. Michael Thomas, Ohio State. Hybrid H-back/receiver/tailback/playmaker Jalin Marshall could also go here, but instead we'll go with Ohio State's most proven wideout. Although Devin Smith got more attention because of his game-changing ability as a deep threat, Thomas was the Buckeyes' leader in catches last year, with 54 for 799 yards and nine touchdowns. Nobody can match Smith's ability to track deep balls, but Thomas is a more complete receiver, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound junior with the speed to make plays downfield but also the all-around receiving skills to be the go-to weapon for whichever quarterback emerges as the starter.
20. Byron Marshall, Oregon. Despite losing Marcus Mariota, the Ducks remain deep with weapons, including the versatile Marshall. Marshall has achieved a rare feat over the last two years, generating a 1,000-yard rushing season and a 1,000-yard receiving season. He was the team's leading running back in 2013, then shifted to a slot receiver role last year and excelled, catching 74 passes for 1,003 yards and six touchdowns in 15 games. While he doesn't have prototypical receiver size at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, he has proven to be a fairly natural fit, giving Oregon a weapon who can get make plays in space -- and he still ran for 392 yards last year too in a hybrid role.
19. D.J. Foster, Arizona State. Foster is one of the hardest players to gauge in these player rankings, but he certainly belongs somewhere on these lists. Like Oregon's Byron Marshall last year, Foster is moving to receiver despite rushing for 1,000 yards. Foster had 194 carries for 1,081 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014 as a junior, but in Arizona State's quick-strike offense he also caught 62 passes for 688 yards and three touchdowns. With promising sophomore Demario Richard and others at tailback, the Sun Devils are shifting Foster to more of a slot receiver role, and there's plenty of evidence already that he'll excel in that position as a senior as he gets ready to potentially play that position in the NFL.
18. Josh Reynolds, Texas A&M. Speedy Noil and Ricky Seals-Jones were more acclaimed recruits who could play their way onto this list, but Reynolds stole the show as the most consistent threat for the Aggies offense last season. A juco transfer, the 6-foot-4, 190-oound Reynolds broke out with a team-high 842 yards and 13 touchdowns on 52 catches. While he doesn't make the highlight-reel plays of Noil, he was consistently good for the Aggies, providing a reliable target for a young offense in flux. He'll only get better as he develops a stronger rapport with QB Kyle Allen.
17. Corey Davis, Western Michigan. Davis produced at a high level even in the Broncos' miserable 2013 campaign, so it's no surprise that he hade a huge season as part of a team that contended for the MAC title last season. Davis caught 78 passes for 1,408 yards and 15 touchdowns in 12 games, including 176 yards and three touchdowns in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl vs. Air Force. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Davis already has 145 career catches in two seasons, and with nearly the entire Western Michigan offense returning -- including QB Zach Terrell -- he's poised for big things in 2015.
16. Cayleb Jones, Arizona. Jones signed with Texas as one of the nation's top wide receiver recruits in 2012, but he caught only two passes there before transferring to Arizona after he was charged with assault. After sitting out a year, he emerged as the top target in a talented receiving corps for young QB Anu Solomon in Arizona's breakthrough 2014 season. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Jones finished with 73 catches for 1,019 yards and nine touchdowns, although he did struggle against some of the best opponents on the Wildcats' schedule. While he lacks explosive speed, his size and physicality can make him a matchup nightmare.
15. Mike Williams, Clemson. After biding his time behind Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, Williams stepped into a starring role as a sophomore alongside freshman Artavis Scott last year. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Williams gives QB Deshaun Watson a big, physical target with great hands and ball skills on the outside. Williams caught 57 passes for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns last year, averaging 18.07 yards per catch, and he should have no problem repeating that success if Watson overcomes his injury problems.
14. Artavis Scott, Clemson. A four-star recruit in the class of 2014, Scott made an instant impact, quickly becoming one of the nation's best young receivers in a young offense with a ton of upside behind QB Deshaun Watson. Scott caught 76 passes for 965 yards and eight touchdowns in stepping in for Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant, including 185 yards vs. South Carolina (much of it on shovel passes) and 114 vs. Oklahoma to end the season. At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he's undersized, but he has excellent quickness and burst to make him a threat after the catch. He should continue to blossom into a star alongside Watson.
13. JuJu Smith, USC. Smith made an instant impact as five-star recruit, but USC didn't need to lean on him to be its star receiver. The Trojans had Nelson Agholor for that. With Agholor off to the NFL, and with Adoree Jackson playing cornerback in addition to some receiver, Smith should step up to the No. 1 receiver role for highly productive senior QB Cody Kessler. He had 54 catches for 724 yards and five touchdowns in a complementary role last year, showing flashes of stardom that he can build upon as a sophomore, with a 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame and big-play speed to go along with it.
12. KD Cannon, Baylor. Baylor's endless supply of high-quality receivers in the Art Briles era continues with Cannon, an instant-impact freshman in 2014. A five-star recruit, the 6-foot-, 175-pound Cannon can fly. The Bears offense relies heavily on spacing and downfield passing, and Cannon proved to be a perfect fit, catching 58 passes for 1,030 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 17.8 yards per catch. Not surprisingly, he was a bit boom-or-bust as a freshman deep threat, with a quiet second half of the season, but he went out on a high note with eight catches for 197 yards and two touchdowns vs. Michigan State's acclaimed secondary in the Cotton Bowl.
11. Nelson Spruce, Colorado. The Buffaloes have had few bright spots the last several years, but Spruce emerged as one of the nation's most reliable playmakers at receiver, ranking third nationally with an average of 8.8 catches per game as a junior. He caught 106 passes for 1,198 yards and 12 touchdowns, and now he'll return for his senior season, hoping to boost a Colorado team that is still trying to escape the Pac-12 basement. For a team still searching for any sort of consistency, Spruce has become a huge asset as a reliable chain-mover.
10. Will Fuller, Notre Dame. Despite Everett Golson's turnover problems, and despite the unexpected loss of DeVaris Daniels, the Notre Dame passing game still occasionally produced in a big way last year. Much of that is a credit to Fuller, who had caught only six passes as a freshman in 2013. Last year, he emerged as the Fighting Irish's top target, catching 76 passes for 1,094 yards and 15 touchdowns. He's a terrific big-play threat with explosiveness after the catch, and while the offense will change with the more run-oriented Malik Zaire at quarterback, Zaire has a big arm and should mesh well with Fuller.
9. Leonte Carroo, Rutgers. Rutgers got only one year out of Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator, but he improved the game of QB Gary Nova -- which in turn paved the way for a breakout season from Carroo. In 2013, nine of Carroo's 28 catches went for touchdowns, setting the table for a star turn last year in which he had 55 catches for 1,086 yards, which ranked second in the Big Ten, and averaged 19.8 yards per catch. Carroo returned for his senior season, but both Nova and Friedgen are gone, with an uncertain QB situation still to resolved. Regardless, Carroo is one of the best weapons in the Big Ten, a speedy threat with solid size who is capable of elevating shaky quarterback play.
8. Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina. Cooper first emerged as a versatile jack-of-all-trades type as a freshman in 2013, then became the Gamecocks' big-play threat as a wide receiver last year, breaking out with 69 catches for 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns. He also ran 27 times for 200 yards and two TDs, showcasing his versatility and big-play ability. The 5-foot-11, 208-pound Cooper was a bit inconsistent, but he had four games with over 100 yards, including 11 catches for 233 yards against Tennessee, and he finished second in the SEC in receiving yards. South Carolina's uncertain quarterback situation raises some concerns, but Cooper has become the Gamecocks' primary offensive weapon with his quickness and open-field ability.
7. Josh Doctson, TCU. Nobody benefited from TCU's move to an Air Raid style offense more than quarterback Trevone Boykin, but Doctson came close. He led the team in receiving during the ugly 2013 season with only 36 catches for 440 yards and four touchdowns; last year, he caught 65 passes for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns, becoming one of the best players in the Big 12. The rise of TCU's offense was one of the best stories in college football, and now nearly every contributor returns to this offense, including Boykin and Doctson, who is joined by fellow senior receivers Kolby Listenbee and Deante' Gray in a deep, explosive offense. Doctson is the best of the bunch, a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder with great hands, deep speed, leaping ability and ball skills that can make him difficult for smaller corners to handle.
6. Corey Coleman, Baylor. After finishing fourth on the team in receiving as a freshman, Coleman broke out last year, stepping up as the Bears' most effective receiver. Now a 5-foot-11, 190-pound junior slated to start on the outside, Coleman caught 64 passes for 1,119 yards (17.5 per catch) and 11 touchdowns, despite playing in only 10 games (he missed the first three games, against cupcake nonconference opponents, with a hamstring injury). Coleman's stellar output included 15 catches for 224 yards against Oklahoma and seven catches for 150 yards and a rushing touchdown against Michigan State. Even with the change in quarterbacks, and even with a deep receiving corps, he should be primed for a repeat performance this fall.
5. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma. A lightning-quick weapon for the Sooners, Shepard transcended the team's quarterback inconsistency to dominate the opposition for the first half of last season before a groin injury derailed things on Nov. 1. Shepard caught only two passes in Oklahoma's final six games, yet he still finished with 51 catches for 970 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 19 yards per reception. That included 215 yards against TCU, and 15 catches for 197 yards vs. Kansas State. Now, an assistant coaching change could serve him well: While the quarterback battle is still up in the air, Shepard should benefit from the presence of new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who coached two 1,000-yard receivers at East Carolina last year.
4. Duke Williams, Auburn. A juco transfer last year, Williams wisely returned for his senior season, as he now has a chance to become a bit more consistent and further refine a raw game, with a better thrower at quarterback in Jeremy Johnson. Drops hurt him last year, but he still caught 45 passes for 730 yards and dive touchdowns, despite missing three of the final four games because of an injury and then a bowl suspension. Williams flashed stardom and first-round NFL potential, though, with a 6-foot-2, 224-pound frame, physicality and great ball skills.
3. Rashard Higgins, Colorado State. While he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award finalist and an All-American, Higgins never got a ton of national attention until the end of last season, when everyone suddenly noticed his mind-boggling receiving stats as a sophomore. He caught 96 passes for 1,750 yards and 17 touchdowns in 12 games, missing one game and catching one pass in the season-opener. The rest of the season, he had at least 98 yards every game, putting up double-digit catches five times and flirting with 200 yards a couple times. He was a consistent star, and now comes a big test: He lost his coach, Jim McElwain, to Florida. He lost his quarterback, Garrett Grayson, to the NFL. He even lost his running back, Dee Hart. He may not duplicate last year's numbers, but he'll be fine. According to Pro Football Focus, Higgins racked up nearly 1,000 yards after the catch last season. The 6-foot-2, 188-pound junior will likely head to the NFL draft after this season, and for good reason.
2. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh. Playing in a run-heavy offense -- Pitt attempted only 23.7 passes per game -- Boyd still continued to shine as a sophomore. After catching 85 passes for 1,174 yards as a freshman, Boyd had 78 catches for 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns last year, with no other Panther catching more than 21 balls. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Boyd is a fluid athlete who also excelled late last season on kick returns. He's a pure wide receiving talent, a great all-around player who can makes plays anywhere on the field, both as a big-play threat and a reliable possession receiver.
1. Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss. One of Ole Miss' standout five-star recruits in 2013, Treadwell lived up to the hype over his first two seasons before a devastating season-ending leg injury last November against Auburn. A freakish athlete, the 6-foot-2, 229-pound Treadwell will be a highly coveted NFL prospect, especially if he continues to make a speedy recovery from the leg injury. He caught 72 passes as a freshman but averaged only 8.4 yards per catch, then had 48 catches for 632 yards and five touchdowns in nine games before his injury as a sophomore. Without Treadwell, the Rebels were shut out by Arkansas and scored three points against TCU. There are some problems to clear up here as Ole Miss attempts to find a new quarterback, and as Treadwell tries to get back to his pre-injury status, but if his trampoline backflips are any indication, he's going to be just fine. On the field, no receiver can match his combination of size, speed and physicality.
Honorable Mention (alphabetical order): Bralon Addison, Oregon; Devon Allen, Oregon; Victor Bolden, Oregon State; Devonte Boyd, UNLV; Darren Carrington, Oregon; Stacy Coley, Miami; River Cracraft, Washington State; Amara Darboh, Michigan; Quinshad Davis, North Carolina; Malachi Dupre, LSU; Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech; Jakeem Grant, Texas Tech; Pig Howard, Tennessee; Allen Lazard, Iowa State; Kenny Lawler, California; Roger Lewis, Bowling Green; Kolby Listenbee, TCU; Keevan Lucas, Tulsa; Jalin Marshall, Ohio State; Speedy Noil, Texas A&M; Jordan Payton, UCLA; De'Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska; Corey Robinson, Notre Dame; Demarcus Robinson, Florida; Travis Rudolph, Florida State; Ricky Seals-Jones, Texas A&M; Tajae Sharpe, Massachusetts; Brandon Sheperd, Oklahoma State; Jordan Westerkamp, Nebraska; Dontre Wilson, Ohio State; Jesus Wilson, Florida State
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15. Evan Baylis, Oregon. Pharaoh Brown suffered one of the worst injuries of the season last year, with a nasty knee injury that nearly cost him part of his leg. Brown had emerged as one of the nation's best tight ends, and now his timetable for a potential return remains up in the air as he works to get back on the field. Baylis replaced Brown at the end of the season and could be poised for a breakout in a potentially crowded receiving corps after he had 11 catches in Oregon's two playoff games.
14. Kyle Carter, Penn State. Carter hasn't quite been as consistent as hoped, and the Penn State tight ends haven't been as big of a part of the offense as expected since Christian Hackenberg took over as quarterback. Carter caught only 16 passes for 153 yards and a touchdown last year, and he's still trying to recapture the magic of his freshman season in 2012, when he had 36 catches for 453 yards in just nine games.
13. Jake Butt, Michigan. Butt made a quick comeback from a torn ACL last year. He suffered the injury in February, yet he returned to play in 10 games anyway as he became the top tight end with Devin Funchess moving to receiver. Now, he'll hopefully be 100 percent healthy as a new coaching staff -- and a new offense -- comes in, with Jim Harbaugh known for utilizing his tight ends. Butt caught 21 passes for 211 yards and two TDs last year, and he brings a complete skill set to the position because of his blocking ability.
12. David Grinnage, N.C. State. An overlooked recruit from Delaware in 2012, Grinnage has developed into a valuable part of N.C. State's improving passing game with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. He finished second on the Wolfpack with 27 catches for 358 yards and five touchdowns as a sophomore, and with leading receiver Bo Hines transferring, Grinnage will certainly be leaned on heavily. At 6-foot-5, 274 pounds, he also brings plenty of extra size to the position, but he's found value as a big-bodied tight end who can move around the formation.
11. Josiah Price, Michigan State. Price has been a steady complementary receiver for the Spartans in each of his first two years. He finished fourth on the team with 26 catches for 374 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore, giving Michigan State a solid all-around player who has developed a nice rapport with Connor Cook as a safety valve in a passing game that often tries to stretch the field.
10. Nick Vannett, Ohio State. Vannett is poised for a possible breakout as a senior this fall with Jeff Heuerman off to the NFL. In sharing the role last year, he caught 19 passes for 220 yards and five touchdowns -- numbers he could improve upon this year -- and he also proved himself as a capable blocker, which is a big plus for tight ends in this scheme.
9. Jonnu Smith, FIU. Smith quietly led all tight ends in receiving last year, catching 61 passes for 710 yards and eight touchdowns for a Golden Panthers team that ranked 115th in passing. Like many modern tight ends, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Smith is essentially a tight end/wideout hybrid, one capable of moving around the formation to create favorable matchups in the passing game.
8. Steven Scheu, Vanderbilt. In a tough first year for coach Derek Mason at Vanderbilt, Scheu emerged as the Commodores' best receiver following the loss of Jordan Matthews. He led the team with 39 catches for 525 yards and four touchdowns, serving as a reliable outlet for a revolving door of quarterbacks. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Scheu has excellent size and has developed into one of the nation's best receiving tight ends, making him into a potentially intriguing option in the NFL.
7. Braxton Deaver, Duke. A torn ACL last August cost Deaver his senior season, but the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility, allowing him to return as one of the best tight ends in the country. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Deaver caught 46 passes for 600 yards and four touchdowns during Duke's breakthrough ACC Coastal championship season in 2013. He's a reliable target who has suffered unfortunate luck throughout his career, as he also tore his ACL in 2012. Now, he hopes to return 100 percent to a Duke program that has gone from six total wins his first two seasons to 19 wins over the last two.
6. Austin Hooper, Stanford. Stanford's run of tight end production finally died down in 2013 after both Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo were lost to the NFL, but Hooper has picked things back up again. As a redshirt freshman, the 6-foot-4, 249-pound Hooper caught 40 passes for 499 yards and two touchdowns in an impressive debut season in which he was a consistently strong option for an inconsistent Cardinal offense.
5. Cam Serigne, Wake Forest. Serigne was easily the biggest positive in a massive rebuilding effort for the Wake Forest offense in Dave Clawson's first season as head coach. As a freshman tight end, Serigne led the Demon Deacons in receiving, catching 54 passes for 531 yards and five touchdowns. He proved to be an effective security blanket for then-freshman QB John Wolford, a rapport that is sure to continue, with the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Serigne quickly turning into one of the best receiving tight ends in the nation after redshirting in 2013, as a 215-pound, two-star recruit.
4. O.J. Howard, Alabama. Everyone has been waiting for Howard to become a bigger part of the Alabama offense, and perhaps that will happen now with Amari Cooper gone (not to mention DeAndrew White and Christion White). With 17 catches for 260 yards last year, Howard is Alabama's leading returning receiver. A former five-star recruit, he's shown flashes of big-time ability, with fantastic speed to go with a 6-foot-6, 242-pound frame. Now, it's a matter of developing a rapport with another new quarterback -- he's had a different QB every year -- and making Lane Kiffin make him a focal point of the offense. He hasn't quite put it all together yet, but he has a high ceiling with the ability to be a matchup nightmare.
3. Bucky Hodges, Virginia Tech. The Hokies have desperately needed new weapons to emerge, and they got that last year with a trio of freshmen leading the team in receiving for Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer at quarterback. One of those three was Hodges, the tight end, a former four-star recruit who redshirted in 2013, then broke out with 45 catches for 526 yards and seven touchdowns. At 6-foot-6, 249 pounds, he has prototypical tight end size, and he has phenomenal natural receiving ability and athleticism to go with it.
2. Hunter Henry, Arkansas. Henry gives Bret Bielema's offense a traditional in-line weapon who is the most complete tight end in the country. He can line up and be physical in the running game, which is key for the Razorbacks' offense, but he has also proved to be a valuable weapon in the passing game. He moves well for someone who is 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and he finished second on the team last year as a sophomore with 37 catches for 513 yards and two touchdowns.
1. Evan Engram, Ole Miss. Engram, a three-star recruit, wasn't as hyped as some of his classmates in Ole Miss' famous class of 2013, but he's played like a five-star tight end. He's a modern flex-type tight end, listed at just 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, with the ability to move around the formation. As an NFL prospect, he'll need to bulk up and become a stronger blocker, but he's a dangerous weapon capable of creating mismatches because of his athleticism. Last year, he caught 38 passes for 662 yards, averaging an absurd 17.4 yards per catch -- with 176 yards in the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State.
Honorable Mention (alphabetical order): Jeb Blazevich, Georgia; Alan Cross, Memphis; Jake Duzey, Iowa; J.P. Holtz, Pittsburgh; Jordan Leggett, Clemson; Rodney Mills, Massachusetts; Jake Roh, Boise State; Joel Ruiz, Georgia State