It’s time to ramp up the preview for the 2022 college football season as Week 0 is just over a month away.
The 2022 PFF College Football Preview Guide has just dropped and in conjunction with that is an expansion of PFF’s preseason positional rankings that will be rolled out over the next couple of weeks.
Below are PFF’s picks for the top-25 wide receivers entering the 2022 college football season along with some superlatives at the end, including the biggest projections and sleepers.
Note: This has nothing to do with pro potential.
The Top Dog
The wide receiver factory in Columbus, Ohio, has another elite talent in its hands with Smith-Njigba, who had a record-breaking ending to his 2021 sophomore season when he hauled in 15 passes for 336 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s Rose Bowl, helping him earn a Power Five-best 91.7 PFF grade for the year. Smith-Njigba also generated a 141.8 passer rating on his targets last year — the fourth-highest by a Power Five receiver with at least 100 targets since 2017. He has elite short-area quicks and ball skills, along with route-running ability, that holds up to the Ohio State standard. He was the nation's most productive receiver in 2021 and it’s hard imagining that changing much in 2022.
Demus is only listed as a projection because he is coming off a major knee injury. When healthy, there’s no denying he is one of the best in the nation. Demus was on his way to star status last year before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 5, as the 6-foot-3, 217-pound receiver tallied 3.36 yards per route run and a 146.5 passer rating when targeted in 2021 before that injury. He shined a deep threat, ranking in the top-10 nationally in 20-plus yard receptions (seven) and yards (279) through Week 5. Demus also averaged 9.9 yards after the catch and broke seven tackles from his 28 receptions for the year.
Like Demus, Bell is also coming off a major knee injury. He missed nearly the entire 2021 season after going down in Week 1. When healthy in his four years at Michigan, the 6-foot, 192-pound receiver has been a productive after-the-catch threat, breaking 22 tackles and averaging 9.7 yards after the catch from 81 receptions.
There are only two FBS wide receivers returning this season who earned an elite PFF grade above 90.0 in 2021: Smith-Njigba and Cowing. The Arizona transfer accomplished this accolade with the UTEP Miners, where he established himself as a deep threat. His 32 receptions from passes thrown over 20 yards downfield since 2019 are the second-most in the FBS over that span. Numerous Power Five programs sought out the 5-foot-11, 170-pound slot receiver’s services when he entered the transfer portal, but Arizona came out on top. Now, Cowing will partner with Washington State transfer quarterback Jayden de Laura to help turn the Wildcats program around.
Neyor broke out in a big way with Wyoming in 2021 and will now be a key factor in Texas’ passing game in 2022, as his 85.5 receiving grade ranked 17th in the FBS last year. The 6-foot-3, 215- pounder is a big, downfield weapon, as his seven deep touchdowns and 15 total contested catches in 2021 both ranked sixth or higher at the position.
Despite losing Jahan Dotson — a 2022 first-round pick — Penn State still has one of the best wide receiver tandems in college football with Parker Washington and Tinsley. The Nittany Lions plucked Tinsley out of the transfer portal from Western Kentucky, where he finished as one of the 15 most valuable wide receivers in the FBS last season, according to PFF's wins above average (WAA) metric. Tinsley brings reliability and physicality, earning a 79.9 receiving grade for the Hilltoppers in 2021 while catching 13 of 26 contested opportunities and dropping just 2.5% of catchable targets.
Rudolph has flown under the radar playing for the NIU Huskies in MACtion. He was a big-play threat for his team in 2021 and finished with 3.18 yards per route run on the year — a top-10 mark among FBS wide receivers. While undersized, Rudolph is an electric player who can do damage in space and downfield. He joined 2022 first-round picks Jameson Williams and Treylon Burks as the only players who ranked inside the top 25 nationally in yards after catch per reception and deep receiving yards in 2021.