Heartland’s preseason receiver rankings are in for the Big 12 and there’s a clear number one. For the second position in a row we have a unanimous pick at the top (Oklahoma led the way at the quarterback position) with Oklahoma State taking the top spot at the receiver position. There’s also a bit of a surprise with Iowa State coming in at #2 and then a clear middle of the pack with rankings 3-6 only being separated by 7 points.
The points system was based on value of the vote. For example, a first-place vote was worth 10 points, second-place 9, third 8, and so on. Below the rankings is how our staff voted and some of their logic in doing so.
|Consensus Preseason WR Rankings|
— OSU Sports Extra (@OSUSportsExtra) July 20, 2017
The Cowboys may not only have the best receiving core in the Big 12, but possibly one of the best in the nation as well. The Pokes will be returning James Washington, who was already one of the best last season. Having a quarterback like Mason Rudolph will make Oklahoma State very dangerous through the air this year.
I never would’ve thought that the Cyclones would make it into the top three on my list, but here we are. They will be returning a senior in Allen Lazard, who had a monster season last year. If Iowa State can find time to throw the ball, they could be one of the better offenses in the Big 12.
The Longhorns land in the number three spot for me due to their athletic ability. Texas has some of the best athletes at the position in the conference. They are returning Collin Johnson as well as several other key guys. They will need to find a “go-to” guy for this season, as they were unable to last year.
The Mountaineers have one of the more interesting receiving groups in the Big 12 as they try to move a quarterback to that position. Many athletes have done it in the past and been very successful. If this works out for them, they could move up the list throughout the season. However, for now, they will be at number nine.
The Wildcats are at the bottom of the list for me due to their youth at the receiving position. They didn’t lose anyone at the position last year, but they still don’t have any experience. It will be interesting to see if Coach Snyder can find guys for Jesse Ertz to throw to.
If you’re not aware of the assets that Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph has at his disposal then you’ve either been under a rock or have turned a blind eye. James Washington may be the most explosive player in the conference and speedster Jalen McCleskey isn’t too far behind him. There’s a lot more in the cupboard for Cowboys’ head coach Mike Gundy as well.
Texas Tech lost Patty Mahomes to the NFL and now we’ll find out if it was the quarterback making the receivers or the receivers making the quarterback. I’m thinking that it was a little bit of both. Dylan Cantrell was top five in the conference in receptions per game last season, while Jonathan Giles and Keke Coutee were top ten in receiving yards.
I know that Iowa State doesn’t really pass the initial eye test but Allen Lazard has a very solid NFL career ahead of him, and more consistency at the quarterback position may result in him having a career season.
On the bottom three I’ve got West Virgiia, Baylor & TCU. Shelton Gibson and Daikiel Sorts were two of the better receivers in the conference a year ago but their departure leaves some really big holes to fill in Morgantown.
Speaking of holes to fill, Baylor seems to have the across the roster, especially at the receiver position.
Finally, no, I don’t believe that TCU has the worst receiving corps in the Big 12. However, they’re the one school with the biggest question mark. Emanuel Porter makes the art of the clutch catch look routine but he’s never exceeded 250 receiving yards in a season. Then there’s KaVontae Turpin who has all-world talent but has also been victim of injury and was in Coach Gary Patterson’s doghouse in the spring. I expect the Frogs to perform better than where they are currently ranked, but I just don’t know how much.
With Oklahoma State’s James Washington, you’re looking at the single best receiver in the conference. However, adding a talent like Tyron Johnson pushes the Cowboys over the edge. After sitting out due to a transfer rule, Johnson looks to make an immediate impact as a sophomore. He’ll compliment Washington as the No. 2 target while presenting a homerun threat with each snap. With these two explosive receivers and a quarterback like Mason Rudolph in tow, this unit may easily be one of the best in the country.
Iowa State benefits in the receiving department with the return of All-Big 12 Allen Lazard. Eclipsing the 1,000 yard mark a year ago, expectations remain high for the now senior. Bringing in an JUCO talent, the Cyclones look to go three deep with viable options for the first time in a long time. However, ISU has typically found one of the better tight end options dating back to E.J. Bibbs. Could the Cyclones be taking over the title of “Tight End U” from the Iowa Hawkeyes?
Looking at the bottom two, West Virginia hopes to turn a quarterback hopeful into the No. 1 receiver. It’s not always an easy shift but it happens more frequently than I’d like to mention. What concerns me is the production from the rest of the crew. In a pass happy conference with programs able to chop up yardage, how will the Mountaineers keep pace?
Finally, Baylor is also hoping a position change can provide favorable momentum. Former Tennessee running back Jalen Hurd joined the Bears and appears to be primed for a role with the receiving corps. However, Hurd will not be available until 2018…so I’m at a loss for what to expect from this group. That alone ranks them last on my list.
Oklahoma State is an easy choice to top the Big 12 in wide receiver talent. Quarterback Mason Rudolph could be in Heisman talks throughout the season, and with a wide array of very capable receivers, he won’t struggle to sling the ball around. Wideout James Washington is one of the top receivers in the nation, and he and Rudolph made a point to return for their senior seasons together. LSU transfer Tyron Johnson should also have an immediate impact in open field. Throw Jalen Mcleskey, Chris Lacey, and Marcel Ateman in to the mix, and there’s no telling how many yards this corp may rack up this season.
All Big 12 receiver Allen Lazard accounted for nearly half of Iowa State’s receiving yardage last season, and he will undoubtedly be primed and ready for another big year. If the Cyclones can stay consistent at quarterback with Jacob Park, something they were unable to do for much of last season, then Lazard and the rest of the receiving crew in Ames should see a boost in their numbers.
Every year I look at all the guys that Texas Tech has lost due to graduation or whatever reason, and I think there is no way they recover with as potent an offense as the last season, but every year, they prove me wrong. I suspect the same will be the case this season. Jonathan Giles, the leading receiver for the Red Raiders from last season, announced he was transferring back in May, but Tech still has its next top 3 receivers from last year in KeKe Coutee, Dylan Cantrell, and Cameron Batson. The trio put up over 2000 yards and 23 touchdowns, and if the Red Raiders can solve their quarterback controversy sooner than later, they should put up big receiving numbers for the season.
West Virginia falls in at number 9 due to the simple fact that there are so many unanswered questions. Will Grier could be a potential solid quarterback, but he has not played since 2015. With the top receiver for the Mountaineers looking to be a former quarterback David Sills, much of this team’s success will rely on Grier’s ability to make plays.
Baylor is nothing short of a dumpster fire at this point in time. Quarterback Anu Solomon, who transferred from Arizona, has a lot of potential talent, but the Bears are strapped at the receiver position, having lost over 2000 yards and 21 touchdowns from last season in KD Cannon and Ish Zamora. Much like West Virginia, whether or not this receiving corp can put up numbers will be heavily reliant on Solomon.
|Heartland’s 2017 BIG 12 Preseason WR Rankings|
|Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State||Oklahoma State|
|Iowa State||Texas Tech||Iowa State||Iowa State|
|Texas||Iowa State||TCU||Texas Tech|
|Kansas||Kansas State||Oklahoma||Kansas State|
|Baylor||West Virginia||Kansas State||Kansas|
|West Virginia||Baylor||West Virginia||West Virginia|