This is the third in a series of posts evaluating the SEC offensive skill positions.
In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we took a look at the SEC’s best quarterbacks and running backs. With the emergence of a few more accomplished quarterbacks this season, wide receivers should be piling up the numbers in 2012.
2012 represents a ‘changing of the guard’ of sorts when it comes to the receiving corps. Power at the position – recently dominated by the Razorbacks trio of Jarius Wright, Greg Childs and Joe Adams – now shifts to the east and the Tennessee Volunteers.
Here’s the RBN take on how the SEC’s wide receivers stack up this season.
1. Justin Hunter, Junior, Tennessee (17 Rec, 314 RecYds, 2 TDs in 2011) — The Vols were devastated last season when the 6-4 Hunter went down with a torn ACL in first series of the third game vs. Florida. Blessed with 4.4 speed and tremendous leaping ability, the athletic Hunter can create space and can run down the deep ball better than anyone in the country. Participated in spring ball and his recovery is on schedule. Elite.
2. Da’Rick Rogers, Junior, Tennessee (67 Rec, 1,040 RecYds, 9 TDs in 2011) — Trailing only Jarius Wright (1,117) in receiving yards last year, Rogers carried the Vols after Hunter’s injury. The big, strong target (6-3, 215) likes to work the middle of the field and has great body control and hands. The total package.
3. Cobi Hamilton, Senior, Arkansas (30 Rec, 542 RecYds, 4 TDs in 2011) — Ready to take his turn as the bell cow for the Razorbacks receiving corps, Hamilton will be the go-to guy this fall. With NFL size, and track sprinters speed, Cobi should approach 1,000+ receiving yards with Tyler Wilson at the helm.
4. Dorial Green-Beckham, Freshman, Missouri (119 Rec, 2,233 RecYds, 24 TDs in 2011 at Springfield (Mo.) Hilcrest HS) — The one that got away, Green-Beckham chose to take his talents to Columbia last spring on signing day. Freakish size (6-6, 220) and speed (4.43), DGB has been compared to NFL star Calvin Johnson in his playmaking abilities. Might take a year to acclimate to the SEC, but should top this list in 2013.
6. Tavarres King, Senior, Georgia (47 Rec, 705, 8 TDs in 2011) – On the strong arm of Aaron Murray, King emerged with a productive season last year. Solid route runner with good hands, King was especially dangerous in the red zone last year for the Bulldogs. A monster game against Michigan State in the Outback Bowl (6 Rec, 205 RecYds, TD) could foreshadow a breakout year in 2012.
7. Ryan Swope, Senior, Texas A&M (89 Rec, 1,207 RecYds, 11 TDs in 2011) — Swope had a super year last year on the back of Ryan Tannehill, but his numbers are destined to drop without him. His 89 catches and 1,207 yards were both Aggie records. Excellent route runner and sure handed, Swope excels with yards after the catch. Not a burner (4.52).
8. Jordan Matthews, Junior, Vanderbilt (41 Rec, 778 RecYds, 5 TDs in 2011) – Matthews had a breakout season in 2011 thanks in large part to the emergence of Jordan Rodgers at quarterback. His NFL size (6-3, 205) allows him to work the middle of the field. Great yards after the catch for this rising star.
Mitchell’s omission from Georgia’s post spring wide receiver depth chart. While Mark Richt would like for him to play more snaps at cornerback this year, Mitchell is too good to keep off the field offensively. Great speed and hands…a tough match up for most SEC defenders.
10. Andre Debose, Junior, Florida (16 Rec, 432 RecYds, 4 TDs in 2011) — Debose is the pure definition of the term ‘burner.’ Elite speed (4.29) allowed him to get open down the field continuously last year, but the problem was the Gators didn’t have anyone who could get him the ball. That doesn’t diminish his skill, as most NFL services have Debose in the top 10 receivers in his class.
11. Emory Blake, Senior, Auburn (36 Rec, 613 RecYds, 5 TDs in 2011) — When healthy last year, Blake was one of the SEC’s best. Missing or limited in five games due to nagging ankle and foot injuries, Blake still went for 600+ yards and 5 TDs. Widely regarded as one of the most underrated receivers in the league. Limited by the quarterback tandem of Clint Moseley and Kiehl Frazier.
12. T.J. Moe, Senior, Missouri (54 Rec, 649 RecYds, 4 TDs in 2011) — With Blaine Gabbert gone and the ‘run-first’ James Franklin at the helm, Moe saw his 2011 number shrink. Moe has great hands and doubles as the Tigers punt/kick returner. Will Green-Beckham’s presence hurt or help the veteran?
Honorable Mention: Uzoma Nwachukwu (Texas A&M), Odell Beckham (LSU), Kenny Bell (Alabama), La’Rod King (Kentucky), Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss), Chris Black (Alabama), Chad Bumphis (Mississippi State), DeAngelo Smith (South Carolina), Amari Cooper (Alabama), Jaquay Williams (Auburn), Russell Shepard (LSU), Ace Sanders (South Carolina).