We saw several lights-out wide receiver duos in college football last year, like LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross and Minnesota’s Tyler Johnson and Rashod Bateman. Plus, we had Alabama’s quartet that featured Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy. Each of these groups won't be returning to college football in tact next season, as some have already taken their talents to the NFL.
So, who’s going to be college football’s next set of elite wide receivers?
Using the massive PFF database, we are able to name the current duos that stand above all — as well as a couple Group-of-5 pairs to keep an eye on.
THE BEST BY A MILE:
Alabama's Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle
The Crimson Tide may have lost Ruggs and Jeudy when they went 12th and 15th overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, but they still return the best wide receiver duo in college football in DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
Smith came back to ‘Bama for his senior campaign to add more muscle to his 175-pound frame, but that doesn’t mean he can’t win in contested situations. He attacks the football in the air and has great body control, which led to him catching seven of his 12 contested targets. More often than not, though, he generated separation with his elite speed and crisp route-running — then he'd carve up defenses in an open field. Smith is incredibly shifty on his breaks and especially at the line, which shined when going up against press coverage. As a matter of fact, no receiver produced a higher raw grade against press in 2019. Smith averaged 29.7 yards per reception against press, which is nearly seven yards more than any returning wide receiver. He also gathered 4.3 yards per route run against press, a half yard more than any other returning Power-5 wide receiver.
As dangerous as Smith is in an open field, his teammate Waddle is the definition of a game-wrecker when he has no one around him. Coming out of high school, Waddle clocked a 40 time at 4.37 seconds. That’s absurd for a guy who has yet to step foot on the collegiate field. He made defenses look silly on screen plays, as he averaged over 22 yards after catch per reception on 10 screens in 2019. Overall, no receiver generated more yards after catch per reception than Waddle at 12.2, and he also tacked on an impressive eight broken tackles on 33 catches.
Over the last two years, Waddle ranks first in percentage of targets resulting in an explosive play of 15-plus yards at 33%, and Smith is right behind him at 32.9%. The two are likely to be first-round selections in 2021 and comprise the best duo in college football by a mile.