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NCAA Prospects To Watch: Week 13: Wide Receiver Edition


Now that we’re into the final few weeks of the college football regular season, we changed the format of this piece. We began looking at a different fantasy position and highlighting some of the key future fantasy stars to watch on Saturday. In order to give dynasty owners and owners in larger leagues a leg up, we’re not solely going to focus on the likely first-round picks but also players who could be drafted later in the NFL Draft but emerge as impactful fantasy stars.

This will be the first of two articles on the wide receiver position since it's among the deepest in recent memory. There are many prospects who might be first-round talents in other drafts that will hear their name called late on day two. Which means there are tons of good prospects who won't go until day three.

For this piece, we'll look at some wide receivers playing this Saturday who should be taken in the first three rounds this year. First, let’s look at how last week’s featured players performed.

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Week 12's Featured Players

Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin – Projection: 2nd Round Pick – Taylor ran all over Nebraska for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. He also caught two passes for eleven yards. He doesn’t have the open field ability to make him the dynamic three-down back that gets selected in the first round, but he will be a second-round pick and a starter for a while.

Chubba Hubbard, Oklahoma State - Projection: 3rd Round Pick – Hubbard ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries, while also adding 42 yards on two receptions. He’s not going to be in the first round discussion and with the way that running backs are currently being values in drafts, lots of top backs will still be around in the 2nd, which is why I think he ends up in round three as a dynamic playmaker.

Najee Harris, Alabama State - Projection: Late Day Two / Early Day Three – Harris showed his all-around gamed with 88 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 17 carries while adding 51 yards and another touchdown on three catches. His versatility and overall talent level should push him into the back of the 3rd round.

D’Andre Swift, Georgia - Projection: First Round Pick – Swift was held in check, relatively speaking, by a tough Auburn defense. He finished with 106 yards on 17 carries but only negative-three yards on two catches. Games like this will keep him in the mid to first round because he’s not a guy who seems likely to take over every game, like Christian McCaffrey or Saquon Barkley, who both went much higher.

Travis Etienne, Clemson - Projection: Second Round Pick – Etienne carried the ball 16 times for 121 yards and a touchdown and, importantly, added 37 yards on three catches. Overall, it was a solid day at the office in a blowout and not one that is going to move the needle on his draft stock much.

Eno Benjamin, Arizona State – Projection: Early Day Three Pick – Benjamin disappointed with 70 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries against a mediocre defense. He added 27 yards on five catches, which was nice to see, but I just don’t see a starting NFL running back here.

Scottie Phillips, Ole Miss – Projection: Late Day Three – Phillips didn’t play due to injury. I just want to see him back on the field.

Michael Warren, Cincinnati – Projection: Day Three Pick – Warren rushed for 134 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and was also the Bearcats’ leading receiver with 30 yards on two catches. He’s not going to vault up into the day two conversation, but he might wind up being a 4th or 5th round pick that can carve out consistent playing time. He’s a good football player.

 

Week 13 Matchup to Watch - Saturday Early Games

This series covers players featured in nationally televised games who could likely emerge as fantasy assets after next year’s NFL draft.

 

Western Carolina - Alabama 12:00 PM ET

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama – Projection: Top 15 Pick

Jeudy is an athletic marvel. He has top-end speed, which makes him a deadly deep threat, but he also used deft footwork on his routes to create easy separation. He’s a good hands catcher and despite being a little smaller than teams would like for their top wide receiver, he’s the clear top prospect in one of the best receivers classes in years.

Henry Ruggs III, Alabama - Projection: 1st Round Pick

If Jeudy is fast, Ruggs is faster. He might be the fastest receiver in the draft but isn’t limited to being just a deep threat. Alabama uses him a lot in the red zone, despite being only 6’0”, because of his leaping ability and his body control after the catch. He’s also dangerous with the ball in his hands in the open field, so think more Will Fuller than Robert Foster.

 

Minnesota - Northwestern 12:00 PM ET

Tyler Johnson, Minnesota - Projection: Late 1st Round Pick

One of the rising stars in this year’s draft class, Johnson has tremendous ability to high point the ball and go up and get passes in traffic. He runs solid routes and creates defensive hesitation with his footwork, but he’s not going to leave corners in the dust. However, Johnson’s strong hands, solid breaks on routes, and ability to go over defenders at 6’2” reminds me of Stephon Diggs. He may lack Digg’s top-end speed, but with a 4.46 40-yard dash, Diggs wins with acceleration and quickness more than flat out speed, something Johnson is also able to do.

 

Penn State - Ohio State 12:00 PM ET

KJ Hamler, Penn State Projection: 2nd Round Pick

At 5’9” 175 pounds, Hamler is one of the smaller receivers being talked about as an early-round pick, but he also might be the most explosive. He can win on deep routes or simple break people’s ankles the ball in his hand. He’s a lot like Tyreek Hill in that way. His smaller stature may prevent him from being a primary red-zone target, but he has good strength after the catch and can make a fantasy team's day in just one play, as evidenced by this:

 

Week 13 Matchup to Watch: Afternoon Games

Texas - Baylor 3:30 PM ET

Collin Johnson, Texas - Projection: 3rd Round Pick

At 6’6” 220 pounds, Johnson may be the polar opposite of Hamler. He uses his strength and long arms to win rather than his speed. He’s not going to make many people miss in the open field and he sometimes struggled to disengage from corners at the line of scrimmage, but he can make catches in traffic, which makes him an ideal red-zone target. I don’t think he’ll become a game-breaker at the next level, but he will always carry fantasy value with the high-quality targets he’ll get.

Denzel Mims, Baylor - Projection: Late 2nd or early 3rd Round Pick

Mims is another receiver who is flying up draft boards. After a slight step back in his junior year, Mims has exploded in his senior season, already totaling 767 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games. He has an incredible catch radius and impressive body control to make plays in the red zone and on the sideline. However, he was also an impressive track athlete and has the deep speed and burst to beat defenders deep. Mims is truly a well-rounded threat, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him keep climbing. This catch against Texas Tech was one of the best I’ve seen:

 

Indiana - Michigan 3:30 PM ET

Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan - Projection: 3rd Round Pick

Peoples-Jones’ draft status will be based on upside and raw talent rather than performance. He’s been in a Michigan offense that has largely depended on the run and was otherwise chaotic earlier this season as they tried to find an identity under a new offensive coordinator. However, DPJ has the quickness and footwork to beat man coverage and create separation on his routes and the hands to make tough catches in traffic. As a punt returner, he’s also shown good open-field ability which could present more yards-after-catch value in the NFL and lead to even more big plays.

Week 13 Matchups to Watch: Night Games

LSU- Arkansas 7:00 PM ET

Justin Jefferson, LSU Projection: 3rd Round Pick

With Joe Burrow taking the next step in his development, Justin Jefferson has been able to make similar leaps in his game, already catching 11 touchdowns and 1,010 yards. Listed at 6’3” 195 pounds, Jefferson has the size and strength to win over the middle of the field or in contested situations. He also is another in a long line of natural athletes in this class, which gives him good body control on sideline and red-zone catches. He’s not fast, but he’s certainly quick enough and deft enough with his footwork to create consistent separation on his routes.

 

TCU - Oklahoma 8:o0 PM ET

CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma – Projection: Top 10 Pick

Lamb is the engine that drives Oklahoma’s impressive offense. At 6’2” 190 pounds, he has good size for the position and is simply a naturally gifted athlete. He has impressive suddenness in his movements and agility to go up and make tough catches. He runs a varied route tree and sets up those routes well enough to beat any type of coverage. He lacks the deep speed of Jeudy but has enough speed and wiggle to create big plays, which will make him a dynamic NFL receiver and a high-quality fantasy option. Think of him as an Odell Beckham Jr type of receiver: not a burner, but a high-level route runner with ridiculous hands who can beat you in many ways.

Jalen Reagor, TCU – Projection: 2nd or 3rd Round Pick

Reagor has cooled a little bit after a strong start, but that has more to do with his offense than his ability. He’s another explosive athlete in this class, who was a record-setting high school track athlete. He’s smooth in his routes, setting them up cleanly to create separation or fight through creases. He has the ability to go up and make plays on contested catches despite his 5’11” frame, but he needs to be more consistent in that regard in order to take the next step as a receiver. Still, with his elite speed and fluidity as an athlete, he could be a prospect in the mold of DeSean Jackson – a true one-play game-breaker.

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