If you're searching for the nation's best wide receivers, look to the West.
A strong case can be made that four of the top five wide receivers in the nation play in the Pac-12. Each of the quartet had at least 73 receptions, at least 1,143 yards and at least six TDs (three had at least 11 scores).
This is the second part of our breakdown of the nation's best players at each position; we're picking the top 25 wide receivers and the top 10 tight ends. Part one of our position breakdowns was on running backs.
"Best" doesn't necessarily mean the most pro potential or even the most talent. Instead, it's a mix of what the player has accomplished and how we think the player will do this season. But production does trump potential.
We will look at a position a day until Aug. 27, when we rank all 124 of the nation's quarterbacks. Saturday, we will look at interior offensive linemen.
Here are the wide receiver rankings; the tight end rankings are below those.
25. Cody Hoffman, BYU
Particulars: 6-4/215, Jr.; San Diego Del Norte
Buzz: Hoffman is a physical receiver who also has the speed to get deep. He led BYU with 61 receptions last season and averaged 15.5 yards per catch. Hoffman had 10 touchdowns, and he and Ross Apo form an excellent receiving duo for QB Riley Nelson.
24. Conner Vernon, Duke
Particulars: 6-1/200, Sr.; Miami Gulliver Prep
Buzz: Vernon has been a steady performer for some bad Duke teams. For his career, he has 198 receptions, 2,675 yards and 13 TDs. Vernon is the NCAA's active leader in receptions and receiving yardage. He is the only player in ACC history with two seasons of at least 70 receptions. He also is the only active player nationally with three seasons of at least 50 receptions.
23. Devin Street, Pittsburgh
Particulars: 6-4/190, Jr.; Bethlehem (Pa.) Liberty
Buzz: Street is a physical receiver who needs to get into the end zone more often. He had 53 receptions for 754 yards but just two TDs last season. Street had three 100-yard games last season, including a career-high 166 yards against Iowa.
22. Keenan Davis, Iowa
Particulars: 6-3/215, Sr.; Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Washington
Buzz: Davis caught 50 passes for 713 yards and four TDs as Iowa's No. 2 receiver last season, but with the graduation of Marvin McNutt, he has to make the jump to go-to guy. He shouldn't have any problems.
21. Markus Wheaton, Oregon State
Particulars: 6-1/182, Sr.; Chandler (Ariz.) High
Buzz: Speaking of receivers who need to get into the end zone more often, meet Mr. Wheaton. He had 73 receptions for 986 yards in 2011, but just one TD. He did have four 100-yard games. Wheaton is dangerous on fly sweeps; he has had 52 carries in the past two seasons.
20. Darrin Moore, Texas Tech
Particulars: 6-4/216, Sr.; Blinn College (Texas), preceded by Irving (Texas) McArthur
Buzz: Moore played one season (2009) at Blinn, where his quarterback was Cam Newton. He was a backup in 2010 for the Red Raiders, then moved into a starting role last season. But Moore was bothered by injuries and missed three full games, finishing with 47 receptions for 571 yards and eight touchdowns. He still was third on the team in receptions, and if he remains healthy, he should lead the team in receptions and be a contender for All-Big 12 honors.
19. Tracy Moore, Oklahoma State
Particulars: 6-2/215, Sr.; Tulsa (Okla.) Union
Buzz: Moore's biggest selling point, other than good physical ability, is that he will be the go-to receiver for an offense that still will throw the ball all over the place despite the departures of QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon. Moore is Oklahoma State's leading returning receiver; he had 45 receptions last season as the Cowboys' No. 3 guy and has 73 in his career.
18. Darius Johnson, SMU
Particulars: 5-10/175, Sr.; Missouri City (Texas) Hightower
Buzz: He is heading into his third season as a starter. He had 79 receptions for 1,118 yards and eight touchdowns last season, and has 168 catches for 2,067 yards and 15 TDs in his career. He had six 100-yard outings last season and has 10 in his career. Johnson has been the MVP in SMU's bowl game in each of the past two seasons.
17. Quinton Patton, Louisiana Tech
Particulars: 6-2/195, Sr.; Coffeyville (Kan.) CC, preceded by LaVergne (Tenn.) High
Buzz: Patton made a big splash with the Bulldogs last season after transferring from junior college. He started all 13 games and had 79 receptions for 1,202 yards and 11 TDs. The yardage total is seventh in school history for a season and the TD total is tied for fourth on the Bulldogs' single-season list. He had four 100-yard games and three games with multiple TDs.
16. Ryan Swope, Texas A&M
Particulars: 6-0/206, Sr.; Austin (Texas) Westlake
Buzz: He had the best receiving season in school history last season with 89 receptions and 1,207 yards. He also had 11 TDs, which is No. 2 on the single-season list. Swope had six 100-yard games last season, including a 206-yard, four-TD outing against Baylor.
15. Nick Harwell, Miami (Ohio)
Particulars: 6-1/193, Jr.; U.S. Air Force Academy Prep School, preceded by Missouri City (Texas) Elkins
Buzz: He set single-season school records last season in receptions (97) and yards (1,425), and also caught nine TD passes. His yardage total is the most for any returning receiver this season. He had nine 100-yard games last season, including four with more than 150. Harwell also had five games with at least 10 catches, and he caught 43 passes in the final three games. He already has 161 career receptions.
14. Terrance Williams, Baylor
Particulars: 6-2/205, Sr.; Dallas White
Buzz: Williams quietly put together an 11-TD season in 2011, catching 59 passes for 957 yards (16.2 ypc). With Kendall Wright gone, he'll be a bigger part of the offense this season. He is heading into his third season as a starter. Williams is tied for fifth in school history with 15 career TDs, is ninth in career yards with 1,502 and is 11th in career receptions with 105.
13. Kenny Stills, Oklahoma
Particulars: 6-1/190, Jr.; Carlsbad (Calif.) LaCosta Canyon
Buzz: Stills, who had 61 receptions and eight TDs last season, is expected to become OU's go-to guy with the graduation of Ryan Broyles. Stills has 122 receptions and 13 TDs in his career. He reached 1,000 career receiving yards with his 77th reception, the second-fastest Sooner to reach that plateau (Broyles did it on his 69th career reception).
12. Cobi Hamilton, Arkansas
Particulars: 6-3/209, Sr.; Texarkana (Texas) Texas
Buzz: Hamilton was the Hogs' fourth-leading receiver last season, finishing with 34 receptions for 542 yards and four TDs. As the go-to guy this fall, he should at least double each of those totals this season. In fact, Hamilton this season might approach his career totals (85 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 TDs). His mom, Deborah, was one of the first two African-American women's basketball players at Arkansas; she played in the late 1970s.
11. Tevin Reese, Baylor
Particulars: 5-10/165, Jr.; Temple (Texas) High
Buzz: Reese was overshadowed by numerous teammates but still put together a solid season – 51 receptions for 877 yards and seven TDs. He is a big-time deep threat, as evidenced by his average of 17.2 yards per catch. Reese, nicknamed "Sweet Feet," is a phenomenal athlete (4.31 seconds in the 40, 45.5-inch vertical leap, 11 feet 4 in the broad jump) who will truly explode on the national scene this fall.
10. Justin Hunter, Tennessee
Particulars: 6-4/200, Jr.; Virginia Beach (Va.) Ocean Lakes
Buzz: Hunter has only 33 career catches, but they have gone for 729 yards (22.1 yards per catch) and nine TDs, and he already is showing up as a first-round pick in numerous 2013 mock drafts. He played in just three games last season before suffering a torn ACL, and he didn't play much as a true freshman in 2010 until late in the season. But he has excellent size and is a big-time athlete. He was one of the nation's best high school long jumpers, triple jumpers and high jumpers as a senior.
9. Stedman Bailey, West Virginia
Particulars: 5-10/193, Jr.; Miramar (Fla.) High
Buzz: He is heading into his third season as a starter and again gets to work with QB Geno Smith, who also played with Bailey in high school. Bailey is a big-time deep threat; he averaged 17.8 yards per reception on 72 catches last season, and scored 12 touchdowns. He had six games with at least seven catches and had seven 100-yard outings. He has 16 TD catches in his career.
8. Josh Boyce, TCU
Particulars: 6-0/203, Jr.; Copperas Cove (Texas) High
Buzz: Boyce is a burner who had 61 catches for 998 yards (16.4 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns; he was 2 yards shy of becoming just the second 1,000-yard receiver in school history. Boyce also started as a redshirt freshman in 2010; he is averaging 17.3 yards per catch and has 15 TD receptions in his career. Boyce played high school ball with former Baylor QB Robert Griffin.
7. Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee
Particulars: 6-3/208, Jr.; Calhoun (Ga.) High
Buzz: Rogers has a ton of talent. He is big and physical, and also possesses good speed. Alas, he also has a knack for ticking off his coaches, and spends a lot of time in coach Derek Dooley's doghouse. Rogers came on strong in the second half of the 2010 season as a true freshman, then became the Vols' go-to guy last season; he finished with 67 receptions for 1,040 yards and nine TDs.
6. Tavon Austin, West Virginia
Particulars: 5-9/174, Sr.; Baltimore Dunbar
Buzz: Austin was a good player as a freshman and sophomore, but truly blossomed last season, his first in coach Dana Holgorsen's pass-happy version of the spread. Austin is a great fit as a slot receiver. He had 101 receptions for 1,186 yards and eight TDs, and also was a weapon on jet sweeps and as a punt and kick returner. He came up huge in WVU's 70-33 evisceration of Clemson in the Orange Bowl: 12 receptions for 123 yards and four TDs, along with three rushes for 40 yards.
5. Keenan Allen, California
Particulars: 6-3/210, Jr.; Greensboro (N.C.) Northern Guilford
Buzz: He is heading into his third season as a starter for the Golden Bears. Last fall, he had 98 receptions for 1,343 yards and six TDs. The touchdown number needs to be higher this season, and that partly depends on QB Zach Maynard, who is Allen's half-brother. Allen, a five-star recruit out of high school, has 144 receptions and 11 TDs in his career.
4. Marqise Lee, USC
Particulars: 6-0/195, Soph.; Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra
Buzz: Even though teammate Robert Woods put up big numbers as well, Lee exploded on the scene for the Trojans last season. Lee had 73 receptions for 1,143 yards (an average of 15.7 yards per catch) and 11 TDs. His 11 TD catches were the second-most nationally by a freshman in 2011, and 10 of his 11 TD catches covered at least 24 yards. Lee also was dangerous as a kick returner.
3. Marquess Wilson, Washington State
Particulars: 6-4/185, Jr.; Tulare (Calif.) Tulare Union
Buzz: This guy has put up big numbers already, and now gets to play in new coach Mike Leach's pass-happy offense. Wilson had 82 receptions for 1,388 yards and 12 TDs, averaging 16.9 yards per catch, last season; in his career, he has averaged 17.5 yards on his 137 receptions, with 18 TDs. He led the nation last season with five catches covering at least 60 yards.
2. Sammy Watkins, Clemson
Particulars: 6-1/200, Soph.; Fort Myers (Fla.) South Fort Myers
Buzz: Watkins was a five-star recruit and more than lived up to his billing last season. He had 82 receptions for 1,219 yards (14.9 yards per catch) and 12 TDs. He also was effective on wide receiver sweeps and as a kick returner (25.0 yards per return, with a TD). Watkins had seven touches that covered at least 50 yards.
1. Robert Woods, USC
Particulars: 6-1/190, Jr.; Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra
Buzz: He has started all 25 games in his Trojans career and has 176 receptions for 2,084 yards and 21 touchdowns. He should set USC career records in receptions and receiving yards this season. Woods had four games last season with double-digit receptions and finished the season with 111 catches for 1,292 yards and 15 TDs.
Here are the tight end rankings.
10. Jack Doyle, Western Kentucky
Particulars: 6-6/253, Sr.; Indianapolis Cathedral
Buzz: Doyle, who hasn't redshirted, will be a four-year starter for the Hilltoppers. Doyle is a good blocker and had 52 receptions for 614 yards last season for one of the worst pass offenses in the nation; he had 31 percent of WKU's receptions (just 168 as a team). He had three 100-yard games and was the only WKU receiver to reach that plateau last season.
9. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
Particulars: 6-5/245, Sr.; Dublin (Ohio) Dublin Coffman
Buzz: Stoneburner had just 14 receptions last season, but half of them went for touchdowns. While new coach Urban Meyer has installed the spread offense, which normally doesn't make much use of a tight end, Stoneburner's speed and athleticism means he will be on the field, much like Aaron Hernandez was for Meyer at Florida. Stoneburner has nine career TD receptions, and needs two more to set the school record for tight ends.
8. Philip Lutzenkirchen, Auburn
Particulars: 6-5/255, Sr.; Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter
Buzz: Lutzenkirchen has just 44 career catches, but 14 have gone for touchdowns. Last season, seven of his 24 receptions resulted in scores. While he has been underutilized in the past, look for him to get more opportunities this season with new coordinator Scot Loeffler tweaking the offense.
7. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin
Particulars: 6-4/237, Jr.; Menominee (Mich.) High
Buzz: Pedersen had 30 receptions for 356 yards and eight touchdowns last season, when he started seven games. He is one of the few proven receiving threats on this season's team, so expect him to be a favorite target for new QB Danny O'Brien.
6. Chris Gragg, Arkansas
Particulars: 6-3/236, Sr.; Warren (Ark.) High
Buzz: Given the rebuilding taking place with the Hogs' wide receiver corps, Gragg seems a good bet to improve on last season's numbers, which were solid: 41 receptions for 518 yards and two TDs. Gragg was a wide receiver as a true freshman in 2008, then missed '09 with a fractured ankle; he has played tight end since returning for the 2010 season.
5. Ryan Otten, San Jose State
Particulars: 6-6/245, Sr.; Loomis (Calif.) Del Oro
Buzz: He will be a four-year starter for the Spartans, though he was injury-plagued earlier in his career. He had 52 receptions for 739 yards (14.2 yards per catch) and a team-high five TDs last season for a Spartans squad that was 23rd in the nation in passing offense. He averaged 67.2 receiving yards per game, which was the highest total for a tight end in the nation. Otten has soft hands and the ability to get deep.
4. Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
Particulars: 6-6/255, Jr.; Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita Catholic
Buzz: He is heading into his third season as a starter. He had 51 receptions for 780 yards and seven touchdowns; all three figures were second on the team. He had a huge game against Boise State, with eight receptions for 113 yards and two scores. He also scored twice against Washington State. He played the second half of last season with a broken hand.
3. Levine Toilolo, Stanford
Particulars: 6-8/265, Jr.; La Mesa (Calif.) Helix
Buzz: He was part of the nation's most productive tight end group last season, and the graduation of Coby Fleener should mean he and Zach Ertz will be more productive this season. Toilolo is a great athlete who had 25 catches for 343 yards and six TDs. He had a 102-yard day against Arizona. He has three uncles (Dan Saleaumua, Edwin Mulitalo and Joe Salave'a) who played in the NFL. He'll be there soon.
2. Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Washington
Particulars: 6-6/266, Soph.; Gig Harbor (Wash.) High
Buzz: He started as a true freshman last season and barely scratched the surface of his potential, finishing with 41 receptions for 538 yards and six TDs. He is an incredible athlete (he also played for the Huskies' basketball team), and should be a key component in Washington's passing attack this fall. He is fast and strong, and can run past linebackers and run over defensive backs.
1. Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame
Particulars: 6-6/251, Jr.; Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Dwenger
Buzz: Eifert unquestionably is the nation's top tight end. He has a nice all-around skill set, which includes the ability to get deep. Eifert had 63 receptions for 803 yards and five TDs last season, and had at least six catches in six games. His numbers should increase this season, as the Irish lack a proven go-to wide receiver. Eifert, who redshirted in 2009, toyed with the idea of turning pro after last season but decided to remain in school.
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