College football's best passing and catching duos

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo! Sports

One aspect of last weekend's NFL draft that went overlooked by most was that two pass-catch duos went in the first round.

There were quarterback Robert Griffin III and wide receiver Kendall Wright of Baylor, and quarterback Brandon Weeden and wide receiver Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State.

It was the first time in NFL draft history that two such pass-catch duos went in the first round. It also was just the third time in the past 15 drafts that a quarterback/wide receiver combination from the same school went in the first round. In 2007, it was LSU quarterback JaMarcus Russell and wide receivers Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis. In 1998, it was Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning and wide receiver Marcus Nash.

It could happen again next year.

Here's a look at the 12 best pass-catch duos heading into the 2012 season, listed in reverse order. Actually, we have cheated a bit: We picked the top 11, but couldn't decide the final one and instead chose four duos for that spot.

12. Washington State

Duo: Somebody to Marquess Wilson
Buzz: Wilson is a given; had he not been toiling in near-anonymity the past two seasons with the Cougars, he would be far better known nationally. As it is, he has 137 receptions for 2,394 yards and 18 TDs in two seasons. He should become even more productive in new coach Mike Leach's offense. The question is who will throw him the ball. Jeff Tuel began last season as the starting quarterback but was injured. Connor Halliday threw for 494 yards in his first college start, but he, too, was injured. Leach won't decide on a starter until fall drills.

Duo: Bryn Renner to Erik Highsmith
Buzz: Renner threw for 3,086 yards and 26 TDs as a sophomore last season, his first as the starter (heck, his first to even throw a pass). Leading receiver Dwight Jones is gone, meaning Highsmith (51 receptions, 726 yards, five TDs) needs to prove he can be the go-to guy. Renner is proven. Can Highsmith step up?

Duo: Keith Price to Kasen Williams
Buzz: Price had one of the quietest 33-TD seasons in memory; that's because he was overshadowed all season by the plethora of productive quarterbacks in the Pac-12. He will continue to be in the shadow of USC's Matt Barkley this season, but again will put up good numbers. Williams has to go from complementary receiver (36 receptions, six TDs) to go-to guy.

Duo: James Vandenberg to Keenan Davis
Buzz: Vandenberg threw for 3,025 yards and 25 touchdowns as a first-year starter last fall. The Hawkeyes have tweaked their offense and likely will throw it more this fall, assuming Davis proves he can be a No. 1 receiver. Davis was the No. 2 option last season, when he had 50 catches and four TDs.

Duo: Seth Doege to Eric Ward
Buzz: Another season, another prolific Red Raiders duo. Doege threw for 4,004 yards and 28 TDs last season, with Ward catching 84 passes, including 11 for scores. But he averaged less than 10 yards per catch and doesn't truly scare anyone with his speed.

Duo: Casey Pachall to Josh Boyce
Buzz: Pachall did a nice job replacing Andy Dalton as TCU's quarterback. He is athletic and has a nice arm, and he threw for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns. Boyce was his man receiver, with 61 catches and nine TDs. Look for the speedy Boyce to catch 70-plus passes for 12-plus TDs this fall.

Duo: Derek Carr to Jalen Saunders
Buzz: Carr, the younger brother of former overall No. 1 pick David Carr, was prolific as a first-time starter last season, throwing for 3,544 yards and 26 TDs. Saunders is a big-time deep threat, and he had 50 receptions for 1,065 yards and 12 TDs last season. He averaged a staggering 21.3 yards per catch.

Duo: Zac Dysert to Nick Harwell
Buzz: The RedHawks had a disappointing season, but the pass offense ranked 14th nationally. Dysert threw for 3,513 yards and 23 TDs, excellent numbers when you consider Miami rushed for just 73.8 yards per game (last in the nation). Harwell had 97 receptions for 1,425 yards and nine scores. If Miami can mount some semblance of a rushing attack this season, Dysert's TD numbers could increase to around 30 or so. It's hard to throw TD passes when the opposition doesn't have to worry about defending the run.

Duo: Tyler Wilson to Cobi Hamilton
Buzz: The biggest question for the Hogs this season is how much they will miss former coach Bobby Petrino's play-calling acumen. There is no question Petrino's presence on the sideline gave the Hogs an offensive swagger. Wilson threw for 3,638 yards and 24 TDs. Hamilton is talented, but has to prove he can go from No. 3 receiver to the guy. Hamilton had 34 receptions for 542 yards and four TDs last season.

Duo: Zach Maynard to Keenan Allen
Buzz: Allen is Maynard's younger half-brother, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise that they had a strong connection last season. Allen is the more talented of the two; he had 98 receptions for 1,343 yards but only six TDs last season. Maynard threw for 2,990 yards and 17 TDs, but he has to cut down on his interceptions (12).

Duo: Landry Jones to Kenny Stills
Buzz: Jones threw for 4,463 yards and 29 TDs in 2011, and heads into his senior season with 12,379 yards and 93 TDs. But his production dropped drastically last season after WR Ryan Broyles was lost for the season with injury. With Broyles now in the NFL, it's fair to wonder how Jones will, well, fare. Stills was a superb No. 2 receiver, but he also struggled after Broyles was hurt. It seems extremely likely that both these guys rebound and put up big numbers, but it's also worth watching early in the season to see how they produce.

Duo: Tyler Bray to Da'rick Rogers
Buzz: Rogers had 67 receptions for 1,040 yards and nine TDs last season. Those, frankly, were great numbers considering he worked with a backup quarterback for much of the season, played in an offense that couldn't run the ball and had no real receiving threat on the other side. Bray has drawn criticism for his, uh, "enthusiastic" ways, but he has a nice arm and works well with Rogers. The return of WR Justin Hunter from a knee injury gives the Vols what should be an extremely potent passing attack, and the Bray-Rogers duo is what really will make it go.

Duo: Geno Smith to Stedman Bailey (and Tavon Austin)
Buzz: Smith adapted quite nicely to coach Dan Holgorsen's pass-happy version of the spread last season, throwing for 4,385 yards and 31 TDs. Bailey also proved to be a great fit in the attack, finishing with 72 receptions for 1,279 yards and 12 TDs. Austin is great out of the slot, and had 101 receptions for 1,186 yards and eight TDs. (Half of the TDs came against Clemson in the Orange Bowl; the Tigers seemingly didn't understand that, yes, you can make defensive adjustments during a game.)

Duo: Tajh Boyd to Sammy Watkins
Buzz: Speaking of nicely adjusting to a new offense, here's Boyd; he seemingly was born to play in coordinator Chad Morris' attack. Boyd threw for 3,828 yards and 33 TDs. Watkins made a gigantic splash as a freshman, carving up opposing secondaries week and after week. He had 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Duo: Matt Barkley to Robert Woods (and Marqise Lee)
Buzz: That brings us to the Barkley-Woods connection, which should be the next pass-catch duo from the same team to go in the first round. Barkley almost certainly will leave USC with most of the school's major passing records, and he also could leave with a national title ring. Woods had 111 receptions for 1,292 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, and has 176 catches for 2,084 yards and 21 TDs in his two-year career. He likely would've been even more productive last season if not for Lee. Lee had 73 receptions for 1,143 yards and 11 scores; he had 46 catches and seven TDs in the Trojans' final five games. That sets up the big conundrum for USC opponents this season: Who do you double?

Other popular content on Yahoo! Sports:
Injured Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera vows to return | Jeff Passan: Superman broke
Video: Mavs coach Rick Carlisle blows his top over dicey call
50 Cent says pal Floyd Mayweather's upcoming jail time can be 'therapeutic'

What to Read Next