Devy Report: Small School WR Sleepers

Devy Report: Small School WR Sleepers

This article is part of our Devy Report series.

This Devy Report article will look at eight standout underclassmen wide receivers outside of the Power Five conferences. These guys are generally off the mainstream radar, and as devy assets they should be thought of as general long shots.

A lot of small school receivers start off great, only to turn out to be an Eric Page, Nick Harwell, Penny Hart, Thomas Sperbeck, or some other such memorable college star who was quickly rejected by the NFL. Some of the others, though, turn out to be T.Y. Hilton, Courtland Sutton, Michael Gallup, Emmanuel Sanders, Corey Davis, Anthony Miller, Diontae Johnson, Robby Anderson, Andy Isabella, or even Antonio Brown. There's no reason to expect any particular star in the group, but these things usually catch us by surprise by the time they're obvious.

Listed in generally descending order of present fantasy value...
 
 
C.J. Johnson, WR, East Carolina (6-2, 229) (So/So)

Even in the presence of competent, older fellow wideouts like Tyler Snead and Blake Proehl, it only took about six weeks for Johnson to establish himself as the top wideout at East Carolina last year, and in the next six games he produced 43 receptions for 800 yards and four touchdowns. Johnson is already a big, well-built wideout, and he goes into his true sophomore season with strong peripheral numbers – 55.7 percent catch rate and 9.4 YPT in an offense that completed just 59.9 percent of its attempts at 7.7 YPA. Johnson's recruiting background was overqualified for East Carolina, as Rivals reports that he also received scholarship offers from North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina State. Johnson should probably be owned in most or all devy leagues going into 2020.
 

 
Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State (6-0, 195) (Jr/Jr)

At a quick glance, Shakir looks quite a bit like Dante Pettis. Lightly built and somewhere between tall and short, Shakir is neither big nor an obviously imposing athlete, but his skills are quickly apparent on tape. Those skills show up in the box score, too, where as a true sophomore Shakir more or less matched the production of then true junior John Hightower, who might go as high as the third round in the 2020 NFL Draft. While Hightower functioned more downfield, reeling in 51 of 91 targets for 943 yards and eight touchdowns (56.0 percent catch rate, 10.4 YPT), Shakir was Boise's top wideout underneath and in the intermediate, turning 97 targets into 63 receptions for 872 yards and six touchdowns (65.0 percent catch rate, 9.0 YPT). Boise State completed 61.9 percent of its passes at 7.9 YPA, so both wideouts outproduced the team's baseline. Shakir seems less speedy than Hightower but is better built already, so the size-adjusted athleticism might grade as well or better than in Hightower's case, and it's otherwise encouraging to note that Rivals reported UCLA, Arizona, Arizona State, and Colorado among Shakir's other scholarship offers. Like Johnson in the previous blurb, Shakir should probably be owned in most or all devy leagues for the 2020 season.
 


 
Dante Wright, WR, Colorado State (5-9, 170) (So/So)

Wright was dynamite as a true freshman last year, providing Colorado State with efficient and explosive production both as an open-field runner and as a downfield target. Playing in an offense that completed 62.8 percent of its passes at 8.2 YPA, Wright caught 72.2 percent of his targets at 10.2 YPT while producing 57 receptions for 805 yards and four touchdowns. Wright further demonstrated his upside with 17 carries for 214 yards and two touchdowns. His weight is perilously low, but if Wright can push for 180 pounds or so while maintaining his current athleticism, he would be well on his way to an NFL projection. It's fair to worry that Wright is more likely the next Eric Page than the next Diontae Johnson, but I think his uniquely strong production in 2019 makes him a justifiable pickup in any devy league.
 

 
Alec Pierce, WR, Cincinnati (6-3, 212) (Jr/Jr)

There's probably no need to acquire Pierce in most formats, but he could quickly make himself widely owned with a few more good games. Pierce should fill in to about 220 pounds within the next two years, at which time he should have both an ideal build for his frame as well as potentially two years of strong age-adjusted production at Cincinnati. He only played special teams as a true freshman in 2018, but in 2019 Pierce established himself as Cincinnati's top pass catcher, effectively demoting the team's two most senior returning pass catchers (Rashad Medaris and Josiah Deguara). Playing in an anemic Cincinnati passing game (55.2 percent completion rate, 6.8 YPA), Pierce produced 25.6 percent of the Bearcats' receiving yardage while catching 57.8 percent of his targets at 10.2 YPT.
 

 
Victor Tucker, WR, Charlotte (5-11, 182) (Jr/Sr)

With Tucker we're probably getting a bit more into the weeds, but I think he's a justifiable pickup in most devy leagues and could very well be a mainstream devy asset not long from now. As much as he's undersized and has a high burden of proof as a fourth-year player, he's already made a strong case for himself with his production from the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Tucker carried the Charlotte passing game both of the last two years, amassing 106 receptions for 1,621 yards and nine touchdowns on 180 targets (58.9 percent catch rate, 9.0 YPT) in an offense that completed 60.7 percent of its passes at 7.9 YPA in the games he was active. It's further encouraging that Tucker produced 34 percent of Charlotte's receiving yardage in those 23 games. Although he's a fourth-year player, Tucker won't turn 21 until August, so his production isn't cheapened any by an age advantage.
 

 
Skyy Moore, WR, Western Michigan (5-9, 195) (So/So)

Moore was shunned as a recruit but was awfully impressive for Western Michigan last year, his true freshman season. Already well built for his short frame, Moore has already proven he can withstand the beating of playing a YAC-centric slot wideout role. Playing in an offense that completed 59.6 percent of its passes at 7.6 YPA, Moore led Western Michigan in receiving yardage (802) while catching 59.3 percent of his targets at 9.3 YPT. His 2019 freshman season was reminiscent of Jayden Reed, who transferred afterward and might start for Michigan State in 2020. 
 

 
Kaylon Geiger, WR, Troy (5-10, 170) (Sr/Gr)

Geiger would ideally bulk up a bit, because at this weight he'll need to run and jump very well to get the attention of the NFL. Perhaps he has such athleticism, though, because his production really stood out as a JUCO transfer in 2019. Troy completed 64.4 percent of its passes at 7.7 YPA, while Geiger caught 77 passes for 873 yards and five touchdowns on 101 targets (76.2 percent catch rate, 8.6 YPT). Geiger will turn 23 in November, though, so he needs to put up big numbers in 2020.
 

Quian Williams, WR, Eastern Michigan (6-0, 187) (Jr/Sr)

Playing alongside two seniors last year, Williams caught 52 receptions for 661 yards and six touchdowns on 61 targets. That volume is nothing special, especially for a third-year player, but the insane efficiency of Williams' production makes him a player to monitor. Eastern Michigan completed 67.3 percent of its passes at 7.9 YPA last year, yet Williams not only averaged 10.8 yards per target, but he somehow caught a ridiculous 85.3 percent catch rate. If Williams can take a bigger share of Eastern Michigan's receiving production while vaguely maintaining his 2019 efficiency, he could quickly establish himself as one of the top mid-major wideouts.
 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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