Big 10 conference play is about to enter conference play across the board this weekend with big-time early matchups on the college football horizon. Today, we examine the conference's top-10 wide receivers according to our PFF signature stat: wide receiver rating.
Wide receiver rating is very simple and straightforward. It takes into account the number of times a receiver was the primary target on a pass pattern, the number of receptions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions that were thrown to that specific receiver and generates the passer rating the quarterback generates on such throws.
(For sample size, we limited this list to receivers who have seen at least 20 percent of their respective team's targets so far in 2018.)
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10. KJ Hamler, Penn State – 116.4 WR Rating
The talented freshman has lit up the Penn State offense (and special teams) with electric speed and elusiveness. Hamler could possibly have been higher on this list but had a 47-yard touchdown reception called back in the Nittany Lions’ last game vs Kent State.
9. Johnnie Dixon, Ohio State – 117.4 WR Rating
Starting with redshirt senior Dixon, the veteran of the Ohio State receiving corps, the Buckeyes are well represented here. Dixon's biggest night coming against Rutgers when he saw a perfect passer rating of 158.3 on four catches and two touchdowns. However, in the Buckeyes' most recent win over TCU, Dixon hauled in just four receptions from six targets for 39 yards.
8. Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska – 118.5 WR Rating
Morgan and the rest of the Cornhuskers have only two games worth of data due to Nebraska’s weather canceled opener. He also played last week with backup, walk-on quarterback Andrew Bunch in the lineup. Despite that, he’s improved from last year’s grading through two games with a higher overall performance than last year (90.9) by nearly 30.0 points. Morgan will have to keep up his strong play as it does not get easier as he and Nebraska head to Ann Arbor to play Michigan this Saturday.
7. Tyler Johnson, Minnesota – 123.0 WR Rating
Johnson already has 35 targets on the season and he has scored all five of Minnesota’s receiving touchdowns which leads all Big Ten receivers through three weeks. The issue is that Johnson has only caught 57 percent of the passes thrown his way and has four drops as well a fumble on the season. Some drops and missed passes are understandable with such a high volume, but he’ll have to tighten up his catch percentage to stay on this list going forward.
6. A.J. Taylor, Wisconsin – 123.1 WR Rating
Taylor's stats are buoyed by his Week 2 performance against New Mexico where he hauled in 5-of-6 targets for 134 yards and a touchdown. That game, however, is overshadowed by Wisconsin’s loss to BYU last week where he posted a grade of 77.1. It remains to be seen if Taylor can gain consistency in his performance and if Danny Davis III’s return from suspension will affect his targets. Davis drew more targets than Taylor in his first game back even though his grade was not much better on a day that the whole passing game struggled.
5. Felton Davis III, Michigan State – 131.6 WR Rating
In Davis' two games this season, he has been a favorite target of quarterback Brian Lewerke. He has over 60 yards in each game to go along with a touchdown and only one drop. He has the lowest catch percentage among the top five on this list, but only one of those is his fault via a drop. The task gets tougher for Davis and Michigan State who face an Indiana pass defense that has a PFF grade of 89.3 through three games.
4. K.J. Hill, Ohio State – 135.8 WR Rating
Hill can claim that he has the most impressive stat line of this Top-10 list, not missing a pass through three games. The redshirt junior has hauled in a perfect 17-of-17 targeted passes for 202 yards and a touchdown. His best game of the season came in primetime when he caught six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in the win over TCU. Hill, Dixon and the final Buckeye on this list form a formidable trio for Ohio State’s passing attack.
3. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan – 150.4 WR Rating
Peoples-Jones flashed talent during his freshman year at Michigan in 2017. Injuries and inconsistencies at quarterback for Michigan held the whole offense back but it seems that Peoples-Jones has turned the corner in 2018 with Shae Patterson under center. He's posted a catch percentage north of 90 percent through three games after he was held in check against Notre Dame. After a three-touchdown performance vs SMU last week, he showed what kind of red-zone threat he can be at 6-foot-2.
2. Parris Campbell, Ohio State – 151.5 WR Rating
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the team that has scored 169 points through three games and passed for 890 yards and 11 touchdowns would have three receivers on this list. Campbell has scored a touchdown in each game this season, including a 61-yarder in the third quarter against TCU. To that point, Ohio State had only put up 10 points through two and a half quarters and his long touchdown breathed life into an offense that had previously struggled. Campbell has been consistent too and has recorded a passer rating when targeted of over 120.0 in every game so far heading into a Buckeyes final non-conference game vs Tulane.
1. Cody White, Michigan State – 153.9 WR Rating
White put up monster numbers in the Spartans fourth-quarter collapse vs Arizona State in Week 2. His nine receptions on 11 targets are more impressive when you consider that seven of those were for first downs. White has only one drop on the season and has hauled in all but two passes thrown his way. With his size and speed, White is a threat to every level of the defense and can do damage if Lewerke can find him on a regular basis as he has so far.