5-star WRs in the last decade: stars, busts and in between
As we examine the 5-star recruits over the last decade, read about each position:
The 2015 class is bursting at the seams with five-star receivers, according to the 247Sports composite rankings: Calvin Ridley (Alabama), Deon Cain (Clemson), Tyron Johnson (LSU), George Campbell (Florida State), Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), Preston Williams (Tennessee) and Terry Godwin (Georgia).
How many of those seven will indeed play like superstars for their respective SEC and ACC schools?
The last decade shows us that five-star receivers can be superstars (Julio Jones) or complete busts (Thomas Johnson). There have been 38 five-star receivers in the last 10 recruiting classes, according to those same 247 composite rankings.
How does history judge them?
2005 — 4 WRs
Patrick Turner: He left the Volunteer State in favor of Los Angeles and USC, playing all four years. Turner caught 138 passes for 1,752 yards and 17 touchdowns, but never quite performed at the level of a five-star receiver for the Trojans before a limited NFL career.
Derrick Williams: An OK receiver at Penn State who later became a short-lived third-round pick, Williams caught 161 passes for 1,743 yards and nine TDs in four seasons, and he returned 66 punts and 50 kickoffs for a total of 1,819 yards and five touchdowns.
Fred Rouse: Rouse is one of the biggest busts on the list, as he left FSU after his freshman year for UTEP. He caught just 31 passes for 493 yards and three touchdowns during his career. Rouse later transferred to Concordia College.
DeSean Jackson: Jackson was a budding star at Cal. He excelled at WR and as a punt returner. He caught 162 passes for 2,423 yards and 22 touchdowns, while returning 38 punts for 633 yards and six touchdowns during his three-year career. At just 5-foot-10, he’s amassed more than 7,000 receiving yards and nearly 1,300 punt return yards in the NFL for Philadelphia and Washington.
WRs ranked lower: Mike Wallace, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Brandon LaFell
2006 — 2 WRs
Percy Harvin: A hallmark of the Urban Meyer championship teams at Florida, Harvin proved electric with the football in college. He combined for 3,781 yards and 32 touchdowns on offense in three seasons, and he never returned kicks or punts at Florida. He helped lead the Gators to two national championships. He’s developed a reputation as an enigma in the NFL, at times looking like an all-time great and at other times a major liability.
Vidal Hazelton: After sitting behind Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett as a true freshman, he caught 50 passes as a sophomore, but a confluence of events led to a disappointing ’08, and he transferred to Cincinnati for his final college season. Outside of his sophomore year, he caught 13 passes combined in three college seasons. He’s gotten looks from multiple NFL teams as an undrafted free agent, but never latched onto a roster.
WRs ranked lower: Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Hakeem Nicks
2007 — 3 WRs
Terrence Toliver: A productive receiver at LSU for four seasons, Toliver never really dominated, breaking his hand in a bar incident before his senior season. He caught 53 passes for 735 yards in 2009 as a junior, his best college year. He’s bounced around the NFL since 2012, but never played in a game.
Arrelious Benn: He flat-out produced in three seasons at Illinois, including a 1,000-yard season in ’08 as a true sophomore. A second-round pick in ’10, Benn hasn’t stuck in the NFL after two solid initial seasons with the Tampa Bay Bucs.
Deonte Thompson: At one time a can’t-miss prospect headed to Florida, Thompson caught just 101 passes in five years with the Gators. His best season: 38 catches for 570 yards in 2010. He’s scratched out a few years in the NFL without much notable production.
WRs ranked lower: Torrey Smith, Dez Bryant, Golden Tate
2008 — 5 WRs
Julio Jones: Alabama fans are spoiled after Amari Cooper followed this man, whom many view as the cornerstone of the class Nick Saban used to turn around the Crimson Tide. Jones arguably was the most SEC-ready receiver ever exiting high school, from a physical standpoint. He caught 179 passes for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns in three seasons at Alabama and is a two-time Pro Bowl player in the NFL.
A.J. Green: He provided an excellent rival for Jones. Green caught 56, 53 and 57 passes at Georgia, putting up 963 receiving yards on 17.2 yards per catch as a true freshman. He missed the first four games of the 2010 season due to selling his ’09 bowl jersey, but still put up 848 yards and nine touchdowns. A first-round draft choice, he’s 4-for-4 in terms of 1,000-yard receiving seasons in the NFL — with 544 more yards than Jones.
DeAndre Brown: Brown was one of the brightest stars in high school and was a big-time physical specimen entering college. But his devastating leg injury marred the latter half of his career, and he only played three years at Southern Miss. He caught 134 passes for 2,207 yards and 24 touchdowns for the Golden Eagles, but went undrafted and never made an NFL roster.
Jonathan Baldwin: The 6-foot-4, 230-pound specimen proved a tough cover in college, including a sophomore season with 57 catches for 1,111 yards (19.5 yards per catch). He totaled 2,337 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns in three seasons at Pitt, earning a first-round pick. But in the NFL, he became best known for a locker room fight with Thomas Jones, and a lack of on-field performance as well as injuries led to what appears to be a pretty big flameout.
Michael Floyd: At Notre Dame, Floyd weathered a long suspension due to a citation for drunken driving to string together four unbelievable seasons. He caught 271 passes for 3,686 yards and 37 touchdowns for the Fighting Irish before the Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the first round. He’s spent three years as a reliable No. 2 option behind Larry Fitzgerald.
WRs ranked lower: Randall Cobb, Tommy Streeter, Travis Benjamin
2009 — 3 WRs
Rueben Randle: The big-play threat for the Tigers showed steady improvement all three seasons at LSU, culminating in a 53-catch 2011 season in which he averaged 17.3 yards per reception. Randle has followed a similar pattern in the NFL, catching a career-high 71 passes for 938 yards in his third season.
Andre Debose: After catching a combined 26 passes during his redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons, Debose got a rare sixth year of NCAA eligibility for medical reasons. By his final season in 2014, however, he caught just one pass for minus-three yards. Debose never developed as a viable SEC receiver, but finished his college career as a punt and kickoff return specialist.
Marlon Brown: The 6-foot-5 receiver has enjoyed two productive seasons with the Baltimore Ravens after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia. Brown struggled with injuries in Athens, where he caught 27 passes for 469 yards in his best college season in 2012. Those aren’t embarrassing numbers, but Brown’s production never matched the hype at UGA.
WRs ranked lower: Alshon Jeffery, Tavon Austin, Orson Charles
2010 — 5 WRs
Robert Woods: One of the best receivers at USC in the last decade, Woods caught 252 passes for 2,930 yards and 32 TDs in his college career, including 111 catches in 2011. A second-round pick by the Buffalo Bills in 2013, he managed a strong second NFL season with 65 catches.
Kyle Prater: After redshirting at USC in ’10, Prater transferred to Northwestern to be closer to home. He entered his senior year with 20 combined college catches, but managed 50 receptions in 2014 to go out on a good note. Still, it only somewhat mitigated his bust label.
Mike Davis: Davis caught at least 45 passes in all for seasons for the Longhorns despite shoddy quarterback play in a consistent, if unspectacular, career. An honorable-mention All-Big 12 in 2013, it looks like he’s not going to become a professional receiver at the NFL level.
Da’Rick Rogers: He caught 78 passes for 1,207 yards and 19 touchdowns in two seasons at Tennessee, including a first-team All-SEC selection as a sophomore. But Rogers transferred to Tennessee Tech after a drug-related suspension with the Vols. He contributed to the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted rookie, but the team released him in September after it came out that he was arrested for a DUI.
Darius White: White totaled six receptions at Texas in two seasons, then transferred to Missouri. He barely saw the field in 2013, but emerged as a sometimes-injured semi-competent option in 2014, finishing the season with 30 catches for 372 yards.
WRs ranked lower: Jordan Matthews, Kenny Stills, Paul Richardson
2011 — 4 WRs
George Farmer: He finally saw significant playing time after struggling with injuries for years. His 25 catches for 314 yards in 2014 aren’t what you expect from a fourth-year five-star, but my guess is USC will take it at this point. Farmer has one more year of eligibility remaining.
Trey Metoyer: He went to prep school in ’11 and enjoyed a modest first season at Oklahoma in ’12, but got kicked off the team after two felony counts of indecent exposure in 2013. He got arrested for indecent exposure again in 2014.
Sammy Watkins: He produced 1,219 receiving yards as a freshman and 1,464 as a junior at Clemson, not to mention terrific contributions as a kickoff returner and occasional rushes. He fell just shy of a 1,000-yard rookie NFL season after the Buffalo Bills selected him with the fourth overall pick.
Jarvis Landry: He exploded as a junior at LSU, catching 77 passes for 1,193 yards, building on a very strong sophomore season. Then, as a second-round pick, Landry corralled 84 passes in his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins.
WRs ranked lower: Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin, Odell Beckham Jr.
2012 — 4 WRs
Dorial Green-Beckham: After catching 87 passes for 17 touchdowns in two seasons, Green-Beckham’s off-field troubles caught up to him as Missouri booted the receiver from the team. He transferred to Oklahoma and attempted to get a waiver to allow him to play in 2014, but when that failed, he entered the NFL draft. Green-Beckham played a tremendous 2013 season for the Tigers, but still didn’t quite live up to his status as the No. 1 overall player in his class.
Stefon Diggs: He recovered from a season-ending injury in 2013 to produce his best season yet for Maryland, catching 62 passes and resuming kickoff return duties. Easily the team’s No. 1 target, Diggs reached the 150-catch mark for his career with one season of eligibility remaining.
Nelson Agholor: He finished the season ninth in the country with 1,313 receiving yards as one of eight FBS players with at least 100 catches. He closed his USC career with more than 2,500 receiving yards and should be an early-round NFL draft pick.
Thomas Johnson: Though he was listed at just 5-foot-11, Johnson looked every bit the part of a five-star recruit as he racked up 30 catches in 10 games as a true freshman. Then, after A&M knocked off No. 1 Alabama on the road, Jefferson just vanished with no explanation. At one point the police were looking for him, and to this day it remains a mystery to the general public what happened. According to his mother, Johnson was working out and hoping to return to college football as of April.
WRs ranked lower: Amari Cooper, Travin Dural, Davante Adams
2013 — 3 WRs
Laquon Treadwell: The Rebels went from clear College Football Playoff contender to sinking stone in one play. It happened to be a gruesome injury for Treadwell, but also a controversial goal line fumble that cost Ole Miss the game against Auburn. Before the injury, even drawing double coverage constantly, Treadwell collected 48 catches for 632 yards in nine games, improving almost five yards per catch from 2013.
Robert Foster: The 6-foot-3 wideout redshirted in 2013 and only caught six passes in 2014, but the Tide lose their top three receivers — including Biletnikoff Award winner Amari Cooper — from this year’s team. Will Foster step up and make his mark in 2015?
Robbie Rhodes: After a 10-catch redshirt freshman season at Baylor, Rhodes was dismissed after multiple drug-related incidents. He transferred to Bowling Green and sat out the season.
WRs ranked lower: Tyler Boyd, Mike Williams, Marquez North
2014 — 5 WRs
Speedy Noil: An injury hampered Noil at the end of September. He made some NFL-worthy highlight catches, caught two touchdowns against Mississippi State and hammered the touted Ole Miss secondary for 105 yards, but went through ups and downs as a pass-catcher despite finishing with 46 catches. He also showed potential to become an All-SEC returner.
Malachi Dupre: The much-anticipated receiver caught “only” 14 passes in 2014, but believe it or not, his 318 receiving yards were second on the team at LSU. His four catches for 120 yards against Mississippi State represented a large chunk of his season output, but Dupre flashed the skills that made him a five-star prospect. If the Tigers can improve at quarterback, he could have a breakout season in 2015.
Ermon Lane: Although Lane wasn’t even the best true freshman receiver on the Seminoles (13 receptions), he caught two passes in the College Football Playoff semifinals. AT 6-foot-3, Lane will present whomever wins the quarterback job after Jameis Winston with a tall target, and seems on track to develop into one of the better receivers in the ACC in the next two years.
KD Cannon: The burner is an ideal fit for Art Briles’ system at 6-feet, 170 pounds, and his true freshman season at Baylor proved as much. Cannon threatened to become the unquestioned No. 1 option for a lot of the year, but settled as an equal part of a three-receiver attack. Cannon finished the season with 1,030 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, averaging a whopping 17.8 yards per catch. He also torched Michigan State’s vaunted defense for 197 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl.
John “JuJu” Smith: USC won’t miss Nelson Agholor as much as you’d think. That’s because the team returns QB Cody Kessler, who could be the top signal-caller in the Pac-12 next year, and the freshman sensation Smith. At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, labeled as an “athlete” out of Signal Hill, Calif., Smith caught 54 passes as a true freshman. He could become a household name soon.
WRs ranked lower: Travis Rudolph, Josh Malone, Trey Quinn
LIVED UP TO THE HYPE
- DeSean Jackson, Cal
- Percy Harvin, Florida
- Julio Jones, Alabama
- A.J. Green, Georgia
- Jonathan Baldwin, Pitt
- Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
- Robert Woods, USC
- Sammy Watkins, Clemson
- Jarvis Landry, LSU
- Nelson Agholor, USC
GOOD CAREERS BUT MIXED REVIEWS
- Patrick Turner, USC
- Derrick Williams, Penn State
- Terrence Toliver, LSU
- Arrelious Benn, Illinois
- DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss
- Rueben Randle, LSU
- Mike Davis, Texas
- Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee/Tennessee Tech
- Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri/Oklahoma
- Fred Rouse, FSU/UTEP/Concordia College
- Vidal Hazelton, USC/Cincinnati
- Deonte Thompson, Florida
- Marlon Brown, Georgia
- Andre Debose, Florida
- Kyle Prater, USC/Northwestern
- George Farmer, USC
- Trey Metoyer, Oklahoma
- Thomas Johnson, Texas A&M
- Darius White, Texas/Missouri
- Stefon Diggs, Maryland
- Laquon Treadwell, Ole Miss
- Robert Foster, Alabama
- Robbie Rhodes, Baylor
- Speedy Noil, Texas A&M
- Malachi Dupre, LSU
- Ermon Lane, Florida State
- KD Cannon, Baylor
- John “JuJu” Smith, USC