Deep threat or screen nightmare? Your best wide receiver options for the EA Sports College Football video game
It’s not exactly surprising considering the NCAA is involved, but we are coming down to the wire on the name, image and likeness (NIL) topic.
Legislation in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and New Mexico is set to take effect July 1, and the NCAA is now reportedly planning to vote on the NIL issue at their June 22-23 meeting. Don’t hold your breath.
Woven into this conversation is, of course, the incredibly important issue of the EA Sports College Football video game. We have already covered quarterbacks and running backs. Wide receivers are the logical next step.
A couple assumptions that carry over from the first two articles: NIL has been resolved and all FBS schools are participating in the game.
So, if you’re looking for that perfect deep-threat for a 50-yard bomb or a shifty player that can turn a routine screen pass into six points, Pat Rouleau and I bring you a collection of wide receivers that would be the most fun to play with on any given ~virtual~ Saturday.
There are a few schools that would dominate the list and leave little room for others had we not grouped them together, so the list begins with a few wide receiver rooms:
Alabama: Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith & Jaylen Waddle
When it comes to Alabama, you're pretty safe in assuming that all of their position rooms are full of five-star recruits and NFL talent, but the wide receiver position in recent years has produced an unrivaled set of stars. Alabama is the only school that has a Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation's best wide receiver, from three different players: Amari Cooper in 2014, Jerry Jeudy in 2018 and DeVonta Smith in 2020. The most recent Heisman Trophy belongs to Smith, who became only the third wide receiver to ever win it. Ridley, Jeudy and Ruggs III have had excellent starts to their NFL careers, and both Waddle and Smith were top-10 picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. If you want to play wide receiver on Sunday, head to Tuscaloosa.
Oklahoma: Dede Westbrook, Marquise Brown & CeeDee Lamb
While Oklahoma has produced fewer big names than Alabama in recent years, they are certainly one of the top programs for wide receivers going back to Ryan Broyles. Dede Westbrook, who played in Norman for two years in 2015-2016, finished fourth in the Heisman voting during his final season. He is one of only two wide receivers to finish in the top-5 of the Heisman race since 2016, the other being DeVonta Smith. Westbrook, Brown and Lamb averaged 18.4 yards per reception and combined for 70 touchdowns during their time in Norman as part of what is consistently one of the nation's best big-play teams. They are all current contributors on NFL offenses.
LSU: Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson & Terrace Marshall Jr.
The 2019 LSU wide receiver room was historically dominant. Ja’Marr Chase led the nation with 1,780 yards, and Justin Jefferson was third with 1,540 yards. How they managed to do this in the same offense remains shocking over two years later. Jefferson went on to have 88 catches for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns in his rookie season with the Minnesota Vikings. Chase was drafted fifth overall in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals, reuniting him with Joe Burrow, while Terrace Marshall Jr. was drafted 59th overall by the Carolina Panthers in this same draft.
#10: Justyn Ross - Clemson
Justyn Ross may be a surprise addition to this list, as he isn't done at Clemson just yet. Despite only having two years under his belt and missing out on the 2020 season due to injury, he is still touted as one of the best receivers in the country and is included on several watch lists for the upcoming 2021 season. He got his start as a part of that 2018 Clemson offense with Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne and Tee Higgins that ended up clobbering Alabama to win the College Football Playoff National Championship 44-16. Even as a freshman he was making remarkable plays, as is evidenced by this bobbling catch made against the Tide.
#9: Tyler Johnson - Minnesota
While Rashod Bateman seemed to generate the majority of the recent buzz in Minneapolis, Tyler Johnson had a terrific career as well, recording 1,100 yards and double-digit touchdowns in back-to-back seasons. After accounting for 86 catches, 1,318 yards and 13 touchdowns during his senior season, Johnson remains one of the more underappreciated receivers from the Big Ten in recent memory. This season was a magical one for the Golden Gophers, as they went 10-2 before capping off the season with a win in the Outback Bowl against Auburn. Johnson had an impressive final game with Minnesota, compiling 204 yards and two touchdowns on 12 catches.
#8: Michael Gallup - Colorado State
Gallup only played two years at Colorado State after beginning his college career at Butler Community College in Kansas, but his time in Fort Collins was impactful. Throughout his career, he surpassed the 100-yard mark for receiving yardage in a game 12 times and accounted for over 200 yards in three of those contests. As a junior in 2016, he caught 76 passes for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns. During his final collegiate season, he caught 100 passes for 1,418 yards and seven touchdowns. Gallup finished his career averaging over 15 yards per reception.
#7: Rondale Moore - Purdue
Moore’s freshman season was his best, as he was plagued by injury in 2019. During his first year at Purdue in 2018, he had 114 receptions for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. Moore was also a threat in the run game, recording three rushing touchdowns for the Boilermakers. At 5-foot-7, Moore does not have the height of many receivers, but his shiftiness after the catch makes up for it. In a 2018 game where Purdue destroyed Ohio State, Moore caught this screen pass and shook several (really good) Buckeyes for a touchdown. He finished the game with 12 catches for 170 yards.
#6: A.J. Brown - Ole Miss
Brown was a contributor for Ole Miss the moment he set foot in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, as he played in 11 games during his freshman season in 2016. In just three years in Oxford, Brown holds the Ole Miss record for most career receiving yards with 2,984 and has the most 100 yard games in school history with 12. If you need evidence that Brown is a freakish athlete, look no further than the 2016 MLB Draft. The San Diego Padres drafted him in the 19th round. Brown and Kyler Murray remain the only two athletes to have played in both the Under Armour All-America Football Game and the Under Armour All-America Baseball Game.
#5: Zay Jones - East Carolina
Zay Jones is a name diehard college football fans would recognize but may not know just how good he was during his time as a Pirate. Jones WENT OFF in the 2016 season, generating a casual 158 catches for 1,746 yards and eight touchdowns. The touchdown number isn’t glamorous, but that many catches is insane. For context, Louisiana Tech’s Trent Taylor had the second-most catches in college football in 2016 with 136, and only four receivers in the sport had 100+ catches that year. Jones holds the NCAA record for career receptions with 399 and is the American Athletic Conference (AAC) leader in career receptions with 337 after East Carolina joined the conference in 2014, Jones’ second season. He broke the NCAA record on this "beautifully run, post-corner route" reception thrown his way by Gardner Minshew. Yes, Gardner Minshew.
#4: Corey Coleman - Baylor
En route to winning the 2015 Biletnikoff Award and becoming a consensus All-American, Coleman accounted for 74 catches, 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns. He improved his numbers each year in every important receiving category - receptions, yards, yards-per-reception and touchdowns. His best game in a Baylor uniform came in November 2014 against Oklahoma, where he accounted for 224 yards on 15 catches and a touchdown.
#3: Dante Pettis - Washington
While Pettis’ career receiving yardage isn't as sexy as many of the other players on this list - he had 2,256 yards over four years - he was not just an impact player on the offensive side of the ball. Over the course of four seasons at Washington, Pettis returned an NCAA record nine punts for touchdowns, including four during his senior year. When he returned a punt against Fresno State in 2017, it marked his third straight game with a punt return for a touchdown, tying an NCAA record. Good luck finding a more dynamic return man for your team.
DANTE. PETTIS.— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) September 17, 2017
3 games in a row.
Tied for NCAA record. pic.twitter.com/LizINsryRM
#2: Corey Davis - Western Michigan
The third Group of Five player on the list is Corey Davis. He proved to be a playmaker for Coach P.J. Fleck and Western Michigan from 2013-2016, accounting for at least 1,400 yards during his last three seasons for the Broncos. He totaled 52 touchdowns over his career, the second-most in NCAA history. Additionally, he is the NCAA and Mid-American Conference (MAC) leader in career receiving yards with 5,278 and the MAC single-season leader in touchdowns with 19. Davis’ performances in Kalamazoo resulted in the Tennessee Titans selecting him fifth overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.
#1: James Washington - Oklahoma State
Despite being just a three-star recruit coming out of high school, Washington was one of the most productive wide receivers in the history of the Big XII. And as you know, this a conference that prides itself on explosive pass plays. After an impactful freshman season where he played in 12 games and had six touchdowns, Washington had three straight seasons with double-digit touchdowns and over 1000 yards each year. He finished his career in Stillwater with 4,542 yards, 40 touchdowns and an average of 19.8 yards per reception. Washington led the nation in receiving yards in 2017 and won the Biletnikoff. He became the second player to win the award from Oklahoma State after Justin Blackmon won it in both 2010 and 2011.