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Published: Oct. 7, 2016 at 11:59 a.m.
Updated: Oct. 8, 2016 at 06:04 p.m.

10 WRs who will one day be an NFL QB's favorite target

Quarterback is the most difficult position to play in any professional sport, and even the best QBs need reliable, playmaking receivers.

When Aaron Rodgers didn't have a healthy Jordy Nelson in 2015, the Packers' offense didn't run as efficiently. A.J. Green makes Andy Dalton a better quarterback. And we all saw last weekend what the Falcons' offense can do when teams can't slow down Julio Jones.

I believe these 10 CFB receivers will become the playmakers at the next level that all quarterbacks want -- and need.

10 Photos Total

  • Jones won't overwhelm NFL cornerbacks with great size (6-foot-1, 197 pounds, per school measurements) or elite speed. He will, however, become a quarterback's safety valve on Sundays because he's a reliable route-runner and pass-catcher. He'll work the middle of the field like Randall Cobb does for Green Bay, moving the offense down the field and occasionally making the big play if defenses overlook him while trying to cover a bigger receiver on the outside. 10

    Sean Rayford/Associated Press

    10. Zay Jones, East Carolina

    Jones won't overwhelm NFL cornerbacks with great size (6-foot-1, 197 pounds, per school measurements) or elite speed. He will, however, become a quarterback's safety valve on Sundays because he's a reliable route-runner and pass-catcher. He'll work the middle of the field like Randall Cobb does for Green Bay, moving the offense down the field and occasionally making the big play if defenses overlook him while trying to cover a bigger receiver on the outside.

  • Unfortunately for Dupre, he hasn't been part of a solid passing attack. The Tigers ranked 114th in passing efficiency in 2014, 105th in 2015 and currently rank 116th (out of 128 teams) in the FBS. But I have a feeling that once Dupre suits up for a team that can take advantage of his speed, catching radius, and agility, he'll be a featured player. Adding some upper-body strength through an NFL weight program will only make him more dangerous. 9

    Bob Levey/Associated Press

    9. Malachi Dupre, LSU

    Unfortunately for Dupre, he hasn't been part of a solid passing attack. The Tigers ranked 114th in passing efficiency in 2014, 105th in 2015 and currently rank 116th (out of 128 teams) in the FBS. But I have a feeling that once Dupre suits up for a team that can take advantage of his speed, catching radius, and agility, he'll be a featured player. Adding some upper-body strength through an NFL weight program will only make him more dangerous.

  • Washington has become a go-to playmaker for the Cowboys. If QB Mason Rudolph wants to throw deep, Washington can beat his man with a double-move or physicality at the top of the route. He's constantly winning the hand-play battle down the sideline, has made multiple one-handed catches during his career and can high-point the ball quite well despite being of average height (listed at 6-0) for the position. 8

    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    8. James Washington, Oklahoma State

    Washington has become a go-to playmaker for the Cowboys. If QB Mason Rudolph wants to throw deep, Washington can beat his man with a double-move or physicality at the top of the route. He's constantly winning the hand-play battle down the sideline, has made multiple one-handed catches during his career and can high-point the ball quite well despite being of average height (listed at 6-0) for the position.

  • Davis looks like a man among boys in the MAC. Even though he won't have the same sort of size and speed advantage in the NFL, he will still be difficult to track. Davis is capable of accelerating past defenders once in stride, taking advantage of seams in defenses to break off chunks of yardage. If he proves able to beat press coverage from veteran corners, and his quarterback is able to lead him correctly, Davis will make big plays at the next level. 7

    7. Corey Davis, Western Michigan

    Davis looks like a man among boys in the MAC. Even though he won't have the same sort of size and speed advantage in the NFL, he will still be difficult to track. Davis is capable of accelerating past defenders once in stride, taking advantage of seams in defenses to break off chunks of yardage. If he proves able to beat press coverage from veteran corners, and his quarterback is able to lead him correctly, Davis will make big plays at the next level.

  • Like former teammate Laquon Treadwell (2016 first-round pick of the Vikings), Stringfellow is the sort of receiver quarterbacks love because near the goal line or over the middle, Stringfellow's frame provides shelter for his passer's throws. He's going to be a valued asset in the red zone and on third downs in the NFL. 6

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    6. Damore'ea Stringfellow, Ole Miss

    Like former teammate Laquon Treadwell (2016 first-round pick of the Vikings), Stringfellow is the sort of receiver quarterbacks love because near the goal line or over the middle, Stringfellow's frame provides shelter for his passer's throws. He's going to be a valued asset in the red zone and on third downs in the NFL.

  • Brown is just scratching the surface of his potential. Against Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago, the redshirt sophomore showed what a nightmare he his size/speed combination presents for opposing defenses, scoring four times against the Sooners, <a target="_blank" href="http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/0ap3000000716331/Ohio-State-WR-Noah-Brown-highlights">including on this ridiculous catch</a>. The team really hasn't needed him to make a huge impact in its other three games (they were blowouts wins). When quarterback J.T. Barrett needs a big play, however, you bet he'll be looking Brown's way. 5

    Ric Tapia/Associated Press

    5. Noah Brown, Ohio State

    Brown is just scratching the surface of his potential. Against Oklahoma a couple of weeks ago, the redshirt sophomore showed what a nightmare he his size/speed combination presents for opposing defenses, scoring four times against the Sooners, including on this ridiculous catch. The team really hasn't needed him to make a huge impact in its other three games (they were blowouts wins). When quarterback J.T. Barrett needs a big play, however, you bet he'll be looking Brown's way.

  • We're starting to see the Smith-Schuster we expected to see at the start of the season. Last weekend, the Trojans' star scored three times, albeit against a porous Arizona State defense. Smith-Schuster probably won't put up blazing-fast 40-yard dash times, but he has a strong frame, and could be a dominant force like Brandon Marshall has been in the NFL for years. Now that QB Sam Darnold has taken control of USC's offense, Smith-Schuster will be able to show off his skills each week. 4

    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    4. JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC

    We're starting to see the Smith-Schuster we expected to see at the start of the season. Last weekend, the Trojans' star scored three times, albeit against a porous Arizona State defense. Smith-Schuster probably won't put up blazing-fast 40-yard dash times, but he has a strong frame, and could be a dominant force like Brandon Marshall has been in the NFL for years. Now that QB Sam Darnold has taken control of USC's offense, Smith-Schuster will be able to show off his skills each week.

  • I see shades of Houston Texans Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins in Rudolph's stop-start ability and elusiveness with the ball. He'll get fed on Sundays, using his speed and quickness to turn short throws into big gains while also working as a deep threat. 3

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    3. Travis Rudolph, Florida State

    I see shades of Houston Texans Pro Bowl receiver DeAndre Hopkins in Rudolph's stop-start ability and elusiveness with the ball. He'll get fed on Sundays, using his speed and quickness to turn short throws into big gains while also working as a deep threat.

  • A physical receiver, Williams can beat press coverage and win downfield by separating with his strength and foot quickness. NFL quarterbacks will love being able to throw to a spot on a slant or comeback and know that Williams will get there. He's also been able to go over defenders to win 50-50 balls. Speed is great for a receiver, but in today's NFL, if you don't have enough strength to win the physical game, it's tough to be a consistent playmaker. Williams shouldn't have that problem. 2

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    2. Mike Williams, Clemson

    A physical receiver, Williams can beat press coverage and win downfield by separating with his strength and foot quickness. NFL quarterbacks will love being able to throw to a spot on a slant or comeback and know that Williams will get there. He's also been able to go over defenders to win 50-50 balls. Speed is great for a receiver, but in today's NFL, if you don't have enough strength to win the physical game, it's tough to be a consistent playmaker. Williams shouldn't have that problem.

  • Ridley won't lead the country in receiving because of Alabama's style of play. But the 6-1, 188-pound receiver will one day be an NFL quarterback's primary target. His speed and quickness are impressive, but his ability to adjust to the ball in the air is extraordinary. Last weekend, Kentucky found out what happens when the Tide makes getting the ball to him a priority, as he made 11 catches for 174 yards and two scores. 1

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    1. Calvin Ridley, Alabama

    Ridley won't lead the country in receiving because of Alabama's style of play. But the 6-1, 188-pound receiver will one day be an NFL quarterback's primary target. His speed and quickness are impressive, but his ability to adjust to the ball in the air is extraordinary. Last weekend, Kentucky found out what happens when the Tide makes getting the ball to him a priority, as he made 11 catches for 174 yards and two scores.