We are in a golden age for wide receivers. Teams are passing more than ever and the rules at the college and NFL levels benefit offensive players.
Therefore, even though the SEC lost several talented receivers to the NFL ranks in the 2019 NFL Draft, there still are plenty of incredible pass catchers on rosters all over the conference.
Alabama’s receiving corps has a chance to be truly special, with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith making up a position group even most NFL teams would envy.
But who in the SEC is the best of the best? Here, I put take the elite attributes from 5 SEC receivers to make the perfect pass catcher for the 2019 season:
Speed: Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
I could have gone with Ruggs or Waddle. However, it appears that Ruggs beat Waddle by a nose when the two squared off recently at practice:
— Joshua Hill (@_24Savage) April 30, 2019
Ruggs has been timed in the 4.25-second range in the 40-yard dash and could break the NFL Combine record when the time comes.
Also, any time you find a guy who can completely eliminate defenders’ angles like this, you know you have something special:
Remember watching this live from last year but still amazes me. Watching Tua but Henry Ruggs III speed is unreal. Numerous defenders appear to have an angle on him but in for the TD he goes. #RollTide #Alabama pic.twitter.com/CuR0Jzi6TY
— Rory-Joe Daniels (@rjdanielsnfl) April 30, 2019
He’s our speed guy, and there might not be anyone in the country faster than him on a football field.
Shiftiness: Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
NFL scouts are already drooling over the opportunity to draft Jeudy in 2020 (assuming he leaves a year early) and for good reason. Any time you have a highlight reel just for your juke moves, it’s an impressive feat:
Jerry Jeudy is different 👀 pic.twitter.com/zsJV2C0C6u
— Receiver Life (@ReceiverLife_) November 11, 2018
Jeudy is the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner, so he’s a great all-around receiver, but his shiftiness makes him elite. Trying to tackle him in open space is a fool’s errand, and you’d better pray that your teammates are there to back you up.
Hands: Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt
Lipscomb led the SEC in receptions last year with 87, edging second-place A.J. Brown (though Brown played in 1 fewer game due to Ole Miss’s bowl ban). The Commodores star catches everything thrown his way, and that’ll be a valuable skill this fall as Vandy breaks in a new starting quarterback.
Lipscomb will be counted on to continue catching everything in sight. He didn’t average as many yards per catch as some of the SEC’s other top receivers (only 10.5 yards in 2018), but that’s still enough to move the chains.
Versatility: Johnathon Johnson, Mizzou
If you need a guy to work the middle of the field from the slot, Johnson can do that. If you need a guy to get behind the safeties and go deep, Johnson can do that, too:
Drew Lock GOES DEEP! pic.twitter.com/DInfZdtyWC
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 31, 2018
Oh, and he can also return punts if needed. Yes, his hands haven’t always been the steadiest, but he’s made progress every year in Columbia.
With Emanuel Hall off to the NFL, he’s the most experienced receiver on the Mizzou roster, so he’ll need to help new QB Kelly Bryant as much as possible this fall.
Red-zone ability: Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
Defenses tighten up in the red zone, as there is less space to defend. That doesn’t matter for Edwards, who is as good at getting open in the end zone as anyone.
Here, he manages to get separation from a Mizzou defender on a corner route to make an easy catch:
Bryan Edwards “@Edwards_Bryan4” had his 2nd multi TD game yesterday and is already tied for most TD’s in a season so far in his career at 5. With 6, maybe 7 games remaining in the regular season he could easily hit double digits in receiving TD’s. pic.twitter.com/4hiUJM51zQ
— Zach (@VZRSportsZach) October 7, 2018
Here, against Georgia from 2017, he uses every inch of his 6-3 frame to stretch for this touchdown:
Impressive TD catch by South Carolina's Bryan Edwards to give the Gamecocks a 17-10 lead over Arkansas at halftime. pic.twitter.com/Kp3UMrP4V3
— Yahoo Sports College Football (@YahooSportsCFB) October 7, 2017
With Deebo Samuel gone, Edwards will be the main guy at South Carolina this fall. After catching 7 touchdowns in 2018, we’ll see if he can snag even more in 2019.