B1G's Best: Top 5 WRs entering 2018
Big 12 fans, look away. Or have a good laugh, it’s up to you.
The Big Ten had one 1,000-yard receiver in 2017. One. That was Maryland’s DJ Moore, who had 1,033 receiving yards to rank 26th in the FBS.
Moore is no longer around, having been selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers. So the top returning receiver in the Big Ten for 2018 is Nebraska’s Stanley Morgan Jr., who just missed the 1,000-yard barrier.
We’ll see if some of the top-rated receiving recruits in the Class of 2018, like Penn State’s Justin Shorter or Purdue’s Rondale Moore, wind up contributing right away. For now, we’re going with more known quantities.
Morgan tops our list of the B1G’s top 5 wide receivers (with one tight end thrown in) entering the 2018 season. We have already looked at the league’s best quarterbacks; look for the best running backs and defensive players coming up.
1. Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska
Morgan had 986 receiving yards last season, breaking Johnny Rodgers’ school record (942) which had stood since 1972. Now new Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost is bringing his up-tempo style to Lincoln. That style could really give Big Ten defenses nightmares and lead to big stats for Nebraska’s receivers — eventually. But there undoubtedly will be growing pains out of the gate in 2018 so Morgan’s skills will be critical for whoever starts at quarterback.
2. Noah Fant, Iowa
Wisconsin’s Troy Fumagalli and Penn State’s Mike Gesicki drew more attention and had more receiving yards, but no other Big Ten tight end found the end zone more often in 2017 than Fant. In fact, the big target (6-5, 241) for the Hawkeyes caught 11 touchdowns, most in the league and tied for 11th nationally. Now Fant heads into his junior season as the first-team preseason All-America selection by Athlon’s.
3. Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
Johnson, entering his junior season, was tops in the B1G and 18th in the nation at 19.3 average yards per reception last season. He could hardly be blamed for Minnesota’s struggles at quarterback, and the Golden Gophers head into this season with no QBs who have thrown a pass in college. Whoever starts needs to find Johnson more often than in 2017, when the 6-2, 190-pounder had 35 catches.
4. Juwan Johnson, Penn State
The Nittany Lions led the B1G in passing last season and Johnson is their leading returning receiver. Last season as a sophomore, the 6-4, 229-pound Johnson had 54 catches for 701 yards including a career-high 105 yards against Nebraska. He and DeAndre Thompkins might put up big numbers behind star quarterback Trace McSorley and a strong offensive line which returns four starters.
5. Felton Davis, Michigan State
The Spartans were in middle of the pack in offensive production in 2017, but their hopes for improvement might partly rest in the big hands of the 6-foot-4 Davis. The senior had 776 yards and nine TDs on 55 catches in 2017 and quarterback Brian Lewerke found Davis a bit more as the season went on. Davis had four receptions for 118 yards and a score in Michigan State’s 42-17 win over Washington State in the Holiday Bowl.