Part two of my series now begins with a review of the top five underrated talents at the wide receiver position in college football. Inspired by my colleague and friend, David Creekmur, I am exploring the top five underrated talents across the nation in each position group for the 2019 season of college football.
What is an underrated player in my opinion? The underrated player is someone either a) not receiving enough love from the media presence, b) someone who I believe will have a much better season than projected or c) someone so under everyone’s radar that even the coaches at the schools have missed on this player.
Also included in this piece: A couple of players who I believe are seriously overrated. Without further ado, here are the top five underrated wide receivers in all of college football.
5. Trey Knox, Arkansas
It’s hard to include a true freshman prospect on one of these lists, but Trey Knox is seriously something special. I seriously had no idea who he was until I saw this play:
— John D. A. Vogel (@johndavogel) May 19, 2019
I’m still not incredibly sure that I saw that correctly. Then I looked him up, and wow! Standing at 6’5″ and 218 pounds, Knox is a force entering college football. Knox had a pretty incredible career at Blackman High in Murfreesboro, TN. Phil Steele listed Knox as the 29th best wide receiver prospect coming out of high school! He isn’t even the most highly rated freshman on the Arkansas roster!
Knox was in for the spring, so expect him to start and begin his legacy early. He’s about to dominate in the SEC.
4. Marquez Callaway, Tennessee
One of Tennessee’s three starting receivers returning in 2019, this senior prospect seems to be overlooked by most analysts. Callaway led the deep Volunteer group in receptions (37) and receiving yards (592) in 2018. Now, he returns with more to prove in 2019.
A deep threat potential, Callaway stretches a defense with his phenomenal ability to turbo-burst during his route. He seems to pull away better the deeper he gets into his route. Callaway has struggled with a few injuries throughout his career, but stayed healthy in 2018 and hopes to do the same in 2019.
Most Overrated: Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
Yeah, this is going to get me some hate mail.
Oklahoma State enters 2019 with a lot of unknown at quarterback, now that Taylor Cornelius has graduated. He had a huge season in 2018, catching 86 passes for 1491 yards and 12 touchdowns. His efforts earned him first-team All-American honors.
Now, Cornelius is projected by Athlon Sports to win first-team All-American honors again. Really? Over Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and Clemson’s Tee Higgins? Hehe, yeah, I don’t know about that.
Not only do I expect his production to significantly slump in 2019, but the NFL isn’t going to be fond of him either. Because of the spread scheme that Oklahoma State plays, his route tree is significantly limited and he would have a lot to learn when moving to the next level. I think that Wallace is a little overrated heading into 2019.
3. Jeff Thomas, Miami (Fl)
Jeff Thomas enters the 2019 season with a world of opportunities. Miami has probably their best quarterback in years with Tate Martell, the Hurricanes depth chart at wide receiver slimmed significantly for this season, and now he enters the season ranked as Phil Steele’s 57th ranked NFL Draft prospect at the wide receiver position.
Delpit this. DBU that. Jeff Thomas ate all that up with Rosier at QB. pic.twitter.com/hq50Oeaoxj
— Tia (@TiaCarter_) June 26, 2019
What a slap in the face. Thomas isn’t the biggest man, standing at 5’10” and 170- pounds, and didn’t have the best season ever, catching just 35 passes for 563 yards and 3 scores in four starts.
Thomas is a very fine slot receiver and should get drafted at least day three. His quickness is uncanny. He’s got the potential to rip into day two, with a season where he stays healthy and shows improvement with his drops.
2. Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
Tyler Johnson has dealt with poor quarterback play for what feels like ages. The Golden Gophers have some hope now, with sophomore quarterback Zack Annexstad fixing to take significant strides forward. Despite not ever having a quarterback who can consistently get him the football, Johnson caught 78 passes for 1169 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Johnson is the definition of a number one wide receiver. He has good size (6’2″ and 200 pounds) and has a set of ankle-breaking cuts in his routes. He’s tough for cornerbacks to keep with because of his quickness.
That being said, somehow Johnson isn’t getting any All-American hype. Come on, I’m not saying first-team All-American, but maybe some projections to the second or third team would be nice! Nope. Johnson is getting no love from outside of the Big Ten media.
Expect a big year for Johnson. He has a lot potential and could be a first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Most Overrated: Laviska Shenault, Colorado
Yeah, I’m going to get some hate mail for this one too.
Laviska Shenault (what a fun name to pronounce) broke out on the scene this past season as a sophomore and has quickly become one of the top 2020 NFL Draft names, as he led Colorado receivers with 86 receptions, 1011 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Shenault was also effective in the run offense, as he swept away for another five scores. He missed the last three games of the year with an injury.
Shenault has good size, 6’2″ and 225 pounds, and plays a lot to the same skillset that Cordarrelle Patterson did in Tennessee. He’s very raw but talented.
Colorado’s schedule is much more difficult this season, and Shenault will be matched up against much better cornerbacks than he was all of last season. Considering that Colorado played the toughest defenses that they faced while Shenault was hurt last season, it’s interesting to speculate how well he would have performed in those games. With trips to Oregon, Washington State, UCLA, and Utah, it’s going to be a tough season for the Buffalos in general.
1. Denzel Mims, Baylor
Baylor is probably the biggest sleeper team in the nation, as head coach Matt Rhule has re-assembled the roster very well during his stay in Waco. Rebuilding from the Art Briles penalties hasn’t been an easy task, but Baylor is ready for a monster year in 2019
Denzel Mims is arguably the best player on the Baylor roster. Overshadowed last season by Tennessee transfer Jalen Hurd, Mims has the skillset and the tools to be a legitimate NFL Draft prospect himself. His frame (6’3″ and 208 pounds) is a perfect size, and the wide open Baylor scheme allows his talents to be used fruitfully.
Mims averaged 14.4 yards per catch last season and scored 8 touchdowns. I would expect monster numbers from Mims in 2019, his senior year, as he looks to establish himself as a solid NFL prospect.