Now that we’re into the month of July it’s time to start our Big 12 position breakdowns. Each of the Heartland Sports writers give their take on a specific position, ranking them from first to worst. Each writer is asked to defend their top three and bottom two rankings.
The consensus rankings come from a points system. A first place selection is worth 10 points, second place is 9 points, and they continue in descending order with tenth place equaling 1 point.
The explosive offenses of the Big 12 greatly benefit the receivers of the conference. The NFL is littered with pass catchers from around the Big 12 and that’s a tradition that isn’t expected to stop anytime soon.
|Heartland Sports Consensus Receiver Rankings|
|T1. West Virginia||38|
|4. Oklahoma State||27|
|5. Iowa State||24|
|9. Texas Tech||8|
|10. Kansas State||5|
- Oklahoma: The Sooners were primed with young talent at the receiver position a season ago. That young talent will now be a year older and a lot more dangerous. Quarterback Kyler Murray will have a ton of targets in his receiving corp led by Marquise Brown.
- West Virginia: West Virginia might have the best receiver in the Big 12 with Gary Jennings. However, as far as top to bottom talent, they aren’t quite at the level that the Sooners are. That doesn’t mean they won’t have a solid duo in Jennings and David Sills. That combination with Will Grier at quarterback could be deadly for the Big 12 defenses.
- Baylor: The Bears come in at the number three spot in my rankings due to the duo of Denzel Mims and Chris Platt. Matt Rhule has been in the process of rebuilding this Baylor program, and he has the talent at the receiver position to turn some things around this year. If the Bears can get solid play from their quarterback, offense certainly won’t be the issue this year.
- Oklahoma State
- Iowa State
- Texas Tech: Texas Tech has been loaded with talent at the receiver position for years. Now, that has all changed. The Red Raiders lost their top three receivers from a year ago. Tech will hope Antoine Wesley will lead the way. However, you need more than one guy to have a solid offense. Without a quarterback to throw to as well, Kliff Kingsbury might be in some trouble with this team.
- Kansas State: The Wildcats have never been known to have a solid receiving corp from top to bottom. They’ve have some great talent over the years at that position, but it’s just not the style of offense that they play. That being said, keep an eye out for Isaiah Zuber this season. If the Wildcats are going to have a deep ball threat, it’s gonna be this guy.
- Oklahoma: The Sooners are returning an experienced core group at the receiver position thanks to Grant Calcaterra entering the equation last year as a freshman. Adding the size of the tight end to the speed of Marquise Brown and ability of CeeDee Lamb and it’s easy to see why this group is at the top of the list. Behind this unit, the offense should remain productive despite breaking in a new quarterback.
- West Virginia: Depth is a strong suit for the Mountaineers this season. However, depth means little without experience and skill. Gary Jennings and David Sills provide all of that and more for a group looking to challenge for the Big 12 Title this year.
- Iowa State: This ranking remained a toss up for me but eventually, the potential of Hakeem Butler pushed ISU over the edge. Assuming Bulter has a breakout season like many expect, it’ll take pressure of a few of the other receiving candidates. I expect the Cyclones to continue where they left off a year ago in surprising the league once again.
- Oklahoma State
- Texas Tech: Attrition remains tough on Kliff Kingsbury and the Red Raiders. A year ago, many thought this position would be stacked. However, fast forward to today and Texas Tech lost the top three receivers from last season. It’ll be anyone’s guess as to how good this group can be. But for now, TTU remains near the bottom for me.
- Kansas State: Failing to produce a 1,000 receiver, the Wildcats lose the top target from a year ago. The next three failed to eclipse 100 receptions combined — that includes 51 from from Isaiah Zuber. On paper, this unit appears to be in bad shape and will need a ‘pick-me-up’ sooner rather than later.
- West Virginia: Senior David Sills tied for a nation-high 18 receiving touchdowns a season, and senior Gary Jennings hauled in a Big 12-leading 97 receptions. Add in junior Marcus Simms, who had a quiet yet productive year, and quarterback Will Grier has a lot of familiar faces to throw the ball to down field. This offense will be able to hit from just about anywhere on the field.
- Oklahoma: Junior Marquise “Hollywood” Brown led the Sooners with 1,095 yards, along with seven touchdowns, on his way to garnering national attention as a sophomore who went from role player to starter/playmaker by the end of the season. Brown might be the most talented receiver in the Big 12, but don’t forget about sophomore CeeDee Lamb. Lamb racked up 591 yards and six touchdowns, and his role will continue to increase this season. Last but not least, tight end Grant Calcaterra spent his freshman season in the shadow of Mark Andrews, but Calcaterra was still able to find the end zone three times on his 10 receptions. He could be a quarterback favorite around the redzone this season.
- Oklahoma State: The Cowboys had one of the best receiving corps in the nation a season ago, but after losing James Washington and Marcell Ateman, it can be hard to recover. Oklahoma State might struggle initially as they get settled in with a new quarterback, but senior Jalen McCleskey, sophomore Dillon Stoner, and junior Tyron Johnson all come with plenty of experience from a season ago. McCleskey and Stoner were very close statistically in receptions, yardage, and touchdowns, while Johnson lagged behind. Johnson completely disappeared at times a season ago, but he will likely be used to fill the shoes of James Washington as a downfield threat.
- Iowa State
- Texas Tech
- Kansas: Steven Sims, Jr., returns for his senior season after consecutive 800-plus yard seasons, but despite his talent, the Jayhawks are simply not a talented football team. They don’t throw the ball successfully enough for Sims to break into the spotlight, but maybe they can move up the rankings by season’s end.
- Kansas State: The Wildcats are confused at quarterback for now, and when they do decide, whoever they go with will likely not be much of a passer. Kansas State ranked dead last in passing yards last season, and they are unlikely to change their strategy too much in what will likely be Bill Snyder’s last season in Manhattan.
- West Virginia: Keep in mind that a key part to the success of the receiver is the play of the quarterback. West Virginia has the most experienced signal caller in the league and that will help David Sills become the top receiver in the conference. I’m also a big fan of the combo with Sills and Gary Jennings. Throw in Marcus Simms and that’s a pretty good trio.
- Oklahoma: Speaking of trios, CeeDee Lamb, Marcus Brown, and Grant Calcatterra are going to be pretty hard to contend with. The edge still goes to the Mountaineers but I would rank the Sooners as a 1a option rather than #2.
- Baylor: I like Denzel Mims as the top NFL receiver prospect from the Big 12. He’s a big and athletic target (6-3/197) and he runs clean routes. Last season he averaged 17.8 yards per reception in an offense that wasn’t quite up to par with the Big 12.
- Oklahoma State
- Iowa State
- Kansas State: Dominique Heath and Isaiah Zuber are good receivers but style of play and questions at quarterback are going too big of question marks to rank the Wildcats any higher.
- Texas Tech: It’s crazy how low we’ve ranked the Texas Tech offense so far. I don’t think it’s going to get better as we go because attrition and poor recruiting have finally caught up with the Red Raiders. Antoine Wesley has only 10 career receptions, Quan Shorts has 14, and T.J. Vasher leads the trio with 31.