2014 Preseason All-American Projections: Wide Receivers

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2014 college football season, WalterFootball.com will debut our projections for the nation’s leaders during the fall. The All-American teams always have some surprises, and this coming fall’s stars could be the headline players next May for the 2015 NFL Draft.

First-Team Wide Receivers:

Rashad Greene, Florida State

Other receivers on this list will probably be drafted earlier than Greene, but the senior could produce a massive season. He is Jameis Winston’s favorite receiver and saw more targets than any other Seminole last year. With Greene returning and Kelvin Benjamin in the NFL, Greene could see even more passes thrown his direction in 2014. As the No. 1 receiver in Florida State’s 2014 offense, Greene should put up huge numbers.

In 2013, Greene totaled 76 receptions for 1,128 yards and nine touchdowns. He is a great route-runner, has good hands and is extremely reliable. Winston clearly trusts him more than any other receiver.

Playing with the Heisman Trophy winner Winston will shine a big spotlight on Greene’s production. The 6-foot, 180-pounder doesn’t have great size or elite speed for the NFL, but he should dominate the ACC and could easily be one of the nation’s leading receivers.

Nelson Agholar, USC

The 6-foot, 185-pound Agholor looks very similar to other USC wide receivers Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. They all have some burst and quickness while not being the biggest of receivers. Both Lee and Woods produced massive seasons in their respective collegiate careers, and with both of them in the NFL, it could be Agholor’s turn for a huge year.

With Marqise Lee drawing lots of attention, Agholor broke out in 2013. The sophomore replaced Robert Woods as a starter and had a solid debut. Agholor actually outproduced Lee in 2013 with 56 receptions for 918 yards and six scores.

The Trojans should have a well-rounded offense under new head coach Steve Sarkisian. With an experienced quarterback in Cody Kessler, a talented running game and strong offensive line, Agholar should be set up to produce. He has the physical talent to put up big numbers and now has the opportunity.

Second-Team Wide Receivers:

Stefon Diggs, Maryland

Diggs is one of the most electric players in college football and should be poised for a breakout junior season. As a freshman, Diggs made an immediate impact. He caught 54 passes for 848 yards with six touchdowns in 2012. Diggs had a big impact on special teams as well. He averaged 10 yards per punt return and 28.5 yards on his kick returns. The freshman also had two kicks brought back for touchdowns.

Diggs was off to a great start last year as he recorded 34 receptions for 587 yards (17.3 average) and three touchdowns before breaking his right fibula in October. The injury caused the sophomore to miss the rest of the season.

The ingredients seem to be there for Diggs to have a huge season. Maryland has some weak opponents early in the year before some challenging Big Ten programs. Diggs could pad his stats against the weak teams and add to those numbers as the Terrapins trail against the better opponents and feature Diggs to try to compete with the likes of Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.

Ty Montgomery, Stanford

Montgomery is a big-play receiver who has gone under the radar because Stanford is known for its smash-mouth running offense. However, Montgomery has special speed to go along with excellent size. If he had received more opportunities during his first three seasons, the senior would receive more attention.

As a freshman in 2011, Montgomery worked well with Andrew Luck in limited playing time and recorded had 24 receptions for 350 yards with two scores. The next season, Montgomery’s numbers were down, but he produced well in 2013. The junior caught 61 passes for 958 yards and 10 touchdowns. Montgomery also has been a weapon on special teams. The senior has the speed to get vertical and the size to outfight defenders for the ball.

Even though David Shaw likes to feature the ground game, he has a veteran quarterback in Kevin Hogan and a speed receiver in Montgomery. For the second-straight year, the Cardinal has lost its starting running back to the NFL, so the program brings back more experience in the passing game. Teams always load the box to stop Stanford on the ground, so Montgomery should see good matchups. If the Cardinal throws the ball often, Montgomery could put up big totals.

Third-Team Wide Receivers:

Amari Cooper, Alabama

From a skill-set perspective, Cooper could easily be the top-rated receiver in college football. The 6-foot-1, 202-pounder is fast and explosive when healthy, and plays bigger and more physical than his listed measurements indicate. Cooper was an immediate mismatch in the SEC as a freshman in 2012 and he should be even better as a junior.

Cooper collected 45 receptions for 736 yards and four touchdowns in 2013, but was dealing with a toe injury that really slowed him down. In the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma, he was excellent (9-121); he was healthier than he had been all year. Cooper had a great freshman season and helped Alabama repeat as National Champions. Even though there were more experienced receivers, Cooper carried the Crimson Tide’s passing attack. He caught 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns. No other receiver had 30 receptions or 500 yards through the air.

The reason I have Cooper on the third team is because Alabama prefers a running offense. To add to that preference, the Crimson Tide will be breaking in a new starting quarterback. Nick Saban has always been very conservative while playing with inexperienced quarterbacks. That could hurt Cooper’s numbers compared to other receivers.

Sammie Coates, Auburn

Similarly to Cooper, if Coates played in a different offense, he easily could be rated higher. The 6-foot-2, 201-pound Coates is a play-maker with the speed to stretch a defense vertically. In 2013, he caught 42 passes for 902 yards (22 average) with seven touchdowns. With defenses focused on stopping Auburn’s rushing attack, the redshirt sophomore made them pay downfield.

The Tigers could throw the ball more in 2014 as they return Coates and quarterback Keith Marshall while losing running back Tre Mason to the NFL. Still, the Auburn offense is based on the running game, so Coates shouldn’t see the type of targets that players like Greene and Agholar will see.

Honorable Mentions: Arizona State’s Jaelen Strong, Baylor’s Antwan Goodley, Houston’s Deontay Greenberry, Oklahoma’s Dorial Green-Beckham, Ole Miss’ Laquan Treadwell, Miami’s Stacy Coley, Tennessee’s MarQuez North, Oregon’s Bralon Addison, Georgia’s Malcolm Mitchell, South Carolina’s Shaq Roland, Arizona’s Austen Hill, Washington’s Kasen Williams, North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis, Louisville’s DeVante Parker and Notre Dame’s Davaris Daniels.

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