1.) Stefon Diggs, Maryland (JR)
The Big Ten loses quite a few solid receivers from last season (Allen Robinson, Jeremy Gallon, Jared Abbrederis to name a few), so there’s a dearth at the top of the receiving charts. Enter Stefon Diggs. Diggs has the potential to be the most dynamic receiver in the Big Ten by a long shot, and it’s hard to say there’s anyone more explosive at his position in the conference.
Diggs finished with 587 yards last season despite missing half the season, and had 848 yards and 6 touchdowns his freshman year. Those stats don’t even relay to you how much of a threat Diggs is from a decoy standpoint and (occasionally) in the return game. Diggs will constantly face man-to-man coverage next year thanks to Maryland’s depth, and there’s a good chance he finally tops 1,000 yards.
2.) Shane Wynn, Indiana (SR)
Wynn is likely to rack up a whole lot of yardage this season with the departure of three top talents from the program in Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, and Ted Bolser. The Wes Welker clone is going to catch two different balls from two different quarterbacks, sure, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of easily hitting the 1,000 yard mark in a very high-octane offense.
3.) Kenny Bell, Nebraska (SR)
Bell, despite his amazing afro, had a major slump his junior campaign with only 577 yards receiving and four touchdowns, but that’s compared to his sophomore season in which he caught 50 balls for 863 yards and eight touchdowns (17.3 yards per reception). Bell should be focused his senior season with another year of catching balls from Tommy Armstrong and a rebuilt offensive line. It also helps that he has one of the best running backs in the country distracting defenses.
4.) Deon Long, Maryland (SR)
On almost any other team, Deon Long is probably the best receiver on the team. Yet if you only look at his 489 yards and 1 touchdown from last season, it isn’t that amazing. Still, Long is an elite talent with size and speed commensurate with an NFL receiver. Unfamiliarity with a system and a little rust held back long last year, but assuming he comes back from a broken leg perfectly Long will become yet another major threat for the Terrapins.
5.) Tony Lippett, Michigan State (SR)
Lippett doesn’t have a lot of “wow” factor to him when you watch him play, and his stats are just solid (44 receptions for 613 yards and two touchdowns), so why is he this high? Because someone has to catch balls from Connor Cook, and Michigan State’s second best receiver from last year is the likely candidate. Cook should see a lot of balls thrown his way after finishing last year strong with 94 yards and a touchdown in the Spartans Rose Bowl victory over Stanford.
6.) Devin Smith, Ohio State (SR)
Smith is the most proven talent on the Buckeyes roster after recording 660 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Smith is an explosive player, who had longs of 90 yards, 54 yards, and 47 yards last season (all for touchdowns) and averaged 15 yards per catch last year. That number was actually down from his sophomore and freshman seasons where he averaged 20.5 yards per catch. Another year with Braxton Miller and being the clear first-option means his stats could be insane.
7.) DeAngelo Yancey, Purdue (SO)
DeAngelo Yancey has a chance to be the centerpiece of the Purdue offense if they get some solid quarterback play. Yancey averaged 17.1 yards per catch and could have had more if he hadn’t caught one or zero balls in seven games last season. He’s explosive, has good size, and should get as many balls thrown his way as he can handle.
8.) Christian Jones/Tony Jones (SR)
Either one of these players is capable of hitting that 1,000-yard mark…but that’s contingent on Northwestern not running the option every play. Northwestern is transitioning to more pass happy offense, and their receivers should benefit from this. Considering the Joneses hit over 600 yards despite never being primary options, they could get a lot better next season.
9.) Devin Funchess, Michigan (JR)
Funchess isn’t even a wide receiver according to the depth chart, but then neither is Jimmy Graham. Funchess hit 748 yards last year, and even though he’s 6’5 and jacked, he’s still Michigan’s best receiving option. Funchess could become even more of a threat if Devin Gardner doesn’t move to wide receiver (because there’s no one else to throw to).
10.) Macgarrett Kings Jr., Michigan State (JR)
This was hard enough because of how paltry the Big Ten is at the receiving position, but Kings rounds out the top ten nicely. With 513 yards last season and three touchdowns, Kings was a solidly consistent option for the Spartans. Problem is, Cook spreads the ball around so well that there is no clear-cut secondary option in their offense. Kings will still perform well, but not amazingly well.