As part of a new series, we're taking power rankings from macro to micro. Instead of looking at the best teams that are dominating the college football landscape, we're focusing on something more specific in this series.
This week, we're looking at the biggest playmaking position on the field: wide receiver. From soft hands to burning speed, here are the best in the game at snagging the ball out of the air and taking it to the house.
This isn't a look at the top NFL draft prospects nor a preview of wide receiver rankings you'll see from scouts. It's simply a look at the best at the position in CFB. Without further ado, here are the rankings:
1. Amari Cooper, Alabama
You'll find varying opinions about who the top player is for nine of the 11 offensive positions, but there are two juniors who would be the unanimous pick at their spots: Georgia's Todd Gurley at running back and Cooper at wide receiver. The Crimson Tide star is fourth in receiving touchdowns, second in receiving yards per game, fourth in receptions and first in receiving yards. All this while playing against some stud corners with an inexperienced first-year starter throwing him the ball. If you don't double team Cooper, chances are he is already running past your secondary.
2. Kevin White, West Virginia
His numbers dipped for a couple of games before he rebounded vs. Texas, but ask around the Big 12 as to who coaches really have to stop, and White's name will be at the top of the list. He's still averaging 120 yards per game and is second in the country in receptions. Perhaps most telling is the fact that White might lead the country in pass interference flags drawn. The scary part is Mountaineers coaches think he's just scratching the surface of his potential, too.
3. Rashard Higgins, Colorado State
Few have heard of Higgins outside of the Mountain West, but he's a serious threat to win the Biletnikoff Award as the best pass-catcher in the country. He ranks first or second in the FBS in every receiving category except one, ranking ninth in receptions per game, which indicates that he's more productive with the ball in his hands than others.
4. Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
The country became familiar with Strong's skills thanks to a terrific, spinning, one-handed touchdown catch against Notre Dame that might have been one of the best all season. That's not even his best of the year, though, considering he caught a Hail Maryto beat USC at the last second. He's not as fast as others, but he's big, strong and knows how to use his body against physical defensive backs. The Sun Devils' resurgence despite playing two quarterbacks can be traced to the consistent play out of the junior in the passing game.
5. Nelson Spruce, Colorado
Last year it was current Seattle Seahawks rookie Paul Richardson who was causing heartburn for defensive coordinators charged with stopping Colorado. It's Spruce's turn this year, and he's having an even better season. He's made 99 catches already and will own just about every single-season receiving record for the Buffs by the time all is said and done. He has great hands, good speed and understands how to get open, no matter the coverage.
6. Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Is there a more underrated player in the Big 12 than Lockett? He's set just about every career and single-season record at the school, despite the team's steady reliance on the running game and the conservative nature of head coach Bill Snyder. He's a big play waiting to happen and is often double-covered as the lone threat on the offense this year down the field. Plus, he's a terrific return man.
7. Rashad Greene, Florida State
Florida State isn't as dominant as it was a season ago, but don't tell that to Greene, who has been the go-to target for quarterback Jameis Winston. The speedster is a savvy route runner who knows when to shut things down to find an opening and has speed to burn if he needs to stretch the defense. He gets knocked for his size (6-foot, 180 pounds), but his terrific hands more than make up for that.
8. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma
It's pretty simple -- Shepard is the Sooners' passing offense. Injuries have hurt his overall stats, but when he's been in the lineup, there are few better in the country at catching the ball and getting up the field. He's one of the best at snagging the over-the-shoulder catch and adds another dimension in the return game and as a rusher on certain plays.
9. Tony Lippett, Michigan State
Lippett is averaging an impressive 19.6 yards per catch. The Big Ten doesn't have a ton of standout receivers, but Lippett is one of them, hauling in at least one touchdown in all but three games as the go-to guy for quarterback Connor Cook. He's smooth off the line and understands defenses better than most. He's not an extremely physical or fast guy but gets the job done.
10. Keevan Lucas, Tulsa
There are not many bright spots for Tulsa this season, but Lucas is one of them, and he's the most off-the-radar member of this list. Despite a host of issues across the board for the offense, Lucas has exceeded 100 yards in five games and has caught a touchdown in all but two games. Tulsa's running game is non-existent, but the speedster is still among the FBS leaders in receiving yards (one of 12 WRs with 1,000 yards or more this season). He makes a living crossing over the middle and then cutting upfield.