On Twitter, NFL.com senior analyst Gil Brandt said there are more quality wide receivers in college football than ever before. He's right. USC's Marqise Lee and Alabama's Amari Cooper are the headliners, but there will be an abundance of top wide receiver talent this season. Who do you predict will take home the Biletnikoff Award this season?
This might be the best group of college receivers with NFL potential that I can remember. This is even better than the 2004 class that had seven receivers selected in the first round of the draft. There were also six receivers selected in the first round in 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009. The fact that receivers are so much better is tied to the quality of quarterback play in college football. With so much talent at the position, I've narrowed my top Biletnikoff candidates down to six:
Marqise Lee of USC was the award winner last year and his chance to repeat is tied to new quarterback Max Wittek.
If you want to see how good Donte Moncrief of Ole Miss is, check out last year's Mississippi State game (173 yards, 3 TDs) and the Texas game (144 yards, 1 TD). He had great games against teams with two top cornerbacks.
Amari Cooper of Alabama is entering his sophomore season and had 1,000 yards receiving as a freshman. He is reminiscent of a young Julio Jones, possessing very good speed and is a good route runner.
Mike Davis has a chance to become Texas' all-time receptions leader. He'll be a four-year starter with speed and catching ability.
Mike Evans of Texas A&M was a basketball player who as a redshirt freshman had 82 catches. Standing 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Evans is a matchup nightmare.
Sammy Watkins of Clemson had some off-field problems and missed two games in 2012, and missed another game due to injury. After an 82-catch, 12-touchdown breakout 2011 season, Watkins' production really fell off in 2012 (57 catches, 3 TDs). So he probably learned a good lesson last year.
- Dan Greenspan NFL Draft 365
Lee will collect a second Biletnikoff Award
When Marqise Lee arrived at USC, he was simply an incredible athlete playing wide receiver. There was no technique per se, it was Lee simply out-running defenders using his track speed and out-leaping them by calling on his basketball background to high point the ball. Last season, Lee began to refine the nuances of the position and delivered a dominant campaign with eight games topping 100 receiving yards and double-digit receptions in seven. Now Lee is a wide receiver, the best in college football. He has the understanding to pair with his supreme physical gifts, as Lee will soon be able to pair the 2013 Biletnikoff Award with the one received in 2012.
- Mike Huguenin NFL Draft 365
Watch out for Watkins
I like Clemson's Sammy Watkins. He was incredible as a true freshman in 2011, then was just OK last season, when he admitted he often lost focus. Expect a return to his 2011 form: He unquestionably will be the go-to receiver for the Tigers and plays in an offense tailor-made for his skill set. He works with a big-time quarterback in Tajh Boyd, and a 100-catch season seems a distinct possibility.
- Chase Goodbread NFL Draft 365
Stars are aligned for Clemson standout
Look for Clemson's Sammy Watkins to take the Biletnikoff Award this year. He, Amari Cooper of Alabama and Marqise Lee of Southern California are the best three in the college game. But this is a stats award as much as any, and Watkins has a better chance to pile up huge numbers. Why? Lee will be working with a new quarterback, and certainly one less capable of getting him the ball than Matt Barkley was. Cooper will share touches with Alabama's typically dominant rushing attack, which won't give him quite as many opportunities. Watkins, by contrast, will face neither hindrance: A veteran quarterback in Tajh Boyd delivering him the ball in a pass-happy offense.
Sammy Watkins has been a forgotten man on the college football scene due to subpar sophomore season, but he is my dark horse to win the Biletnikoff Award this year. He is the focal point of a high-powered offense triggered by an NFL-caliber quarterback (Tajh Boyd) and orchestrated by a fearless play caller in Chad Morris. Watkins already provided the college football world a glimpse of his potential as a No. 1 receiver when he snagged 82 balls for 1,219 yards with 12 touchdowns as a freshman. He is vastly improved as a route runner and more experienced as a playmaker, which should allow him to thrive as the primary target. If Watkins can put up big numbers while leading the Tigers on a legitimate BCS run, he could garner enough interest and attention to come away with the prestigious award.