2016 Preseason All-American Projections: Wide Receivers

By Charlie Campbell
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Heading into the 2016 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 the stars of next fall could be the headlining players next May in the 2017 NFL Draft.

First-Team Wide Receivers:

JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC

After a solid debut freshman season (54-724-5), Smith-Schuster took his game to another level as a sophomore, totaling 89 receptions for 1,453 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also produced against top opponents like Stanford (8-153-1), Notre Dame (6-139-1) and Arizona (8-138-1).

In 2015, Smith-Schuster (6-2, 215) made a lot of plays downfield. He got the better of defenses vertically and had enough speed to get separation. The sophomore was tremendous with his run-after-the-catch skills. Smith-Schuster is a physical runner who runs through tackles and has a vicious stiff arm. He has a burst in the open field to rip off yards in chunks, and his second gear takes defenders by surprise. Smith-Schuster also has a real nose for the end zone with a knack to finish his receptions for six. It wouldn’t be surprising if Smith-Schuster has a big junior year and is one of the top receivers in college football.

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

I think Kirk is going to explode this season. I’ve had NFL sources say that his game reminds them of Odell Beckham Jr., and they believe that Kirk has the potential to be a star. Kirk had a tremendous debut as a freshman with 80 receptions for 1,009 yards and seven scores in 2015. He showed serious, speed, athletic ability, and play-making skills.

The big question for Kirk this season will be the quarterback play at Texas A&M, but that was an issue at times last year and Kirk still managed to produce despite a lot of veteran receivers. I think Kirk could dominate as a sophomore and end up being one of the best wide receivers in college football.

Second-Team Wide Receivers:

Mike Williams, Clemson

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if looking back on this that I have Williams too low. He plays in a point-machine offense with a superb college quarterback in Deshaun Watson. Williams caught 57 passes for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2014, his last season of college football. In the 2015 season opener, Williams fractured his neck and was lost for the year. Williams has a ton of upside, and he could easily have a huge 2016 going against some weak ACC defenses with Watson as his quarterback.

Corey Davis, Western Michigan

Sources say the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Davis was receiving second-round grades for the 2016 NFL Draft before he decided to return for his senior year. He has impressed evaluators with good route-running, hands and deceptive speed. Davis was banged up somewhat in 2015, but still produced, totaling 90 receptions for 1,436 yards with 12 touchdowns. In 2014, Davis was excellent with 78 catches for 1,408 yards and 15 touchdowns. He had quality production as a freshman as well (67-941-6). With Daniel Braverman in the NFL, Davis should get even more targets this fall and could be in store for a massive season. However, I don’t think Davis will get first-team consideration from voters because they tend to unjustly ignore smaller schools for players at high-profile programs.

Third-Team Wide Receivers:

Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech

Ford made an immediate impact as a freshman in 2014 when he hauled in 56 passes for 709 yards and six touchdowns. The sophomore then broke out in 2015 with 75 receptions for 1,156 yards with 11 touchdowns. To end the season, Ford was on fire as he lit up North Carolina, Virginia and Tulsa, closing out the season with 26 catches for 503 yards and three touchdowns in that span. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound Ford is a vertical speed receiver who could be poised for a massive season.

Gabe Marks, Washington State

Marks was a productive receiver last year with 104 receptions for 1,192 yards with 15 touchdowns. There is no reason to think he won’t have a big season as a senior with quarterback Luke Faulk returning and them playing in Mike Leach’s air-raid offense that puts up staggering passing numbers. I would be surprised if Marks isn’t one of the most productive wideouts in the nation during 2016.

Honorable Mentions: Florida’s Antonio Callaway, Miami’s Stacy Coley, Oregon’s Darren Carrington, Michigan’s Jehu Chesson, LSU’s Travin Dural, LSU’s Malachi Dupre, Texas A&M’s Ricky Seals-Jones, Texas A&M’s Speedy Noil, Middle Tennessee’s Richie James, Boise State’s Thomas Sperbeck, Baylor’s K.D. Cannon, Mississippi State’s Fred Ross and Florida State’s Travis Rudolph.

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