Receivers are the most old school unit to rank. I would like to use catch rate, and maybe break down the units by their target rates versus their actual catches, but I know of no place on the internet to get reliable numbers on this front.
Bill C was our old go-to, but he’s gone off to ESPN and while his 2018 numbers are still out there, for some reason, his google doc has deleted all the receiving numbers for Florida. This chart of the receiving numbers for receivers and tight ends last season is therefore missing the Gators.
2018 Receiving Units by Yds/Target
So we’re stuck using good old fashioned receptions and yards. The best I can find from the advanced analytical toolkit is OAYP (opponent adjusted net yard and points per play). Even that data is incomplete, but I can at least add a column to show what the stat geeks think of the traditional numbers.
Here’s last year’s leaders, returning this season. I put an asterisk on the tight ends. Hopefully, that’s a good starting point.
WR/TE returning leaders
|Bryan Edwards||S Carolina||55||846||7||65.1||3rd||0.54|
|Lynn Bowden, Jr.||Kentucky||67||745||5||57.3||-1.14|
|Shi Smith||S Carolina||45||673||4||56.1||0.23|
|Henry Ruggs III||Alabama||46||741||11||49.4||1st||1.31|
|Quartney Davis||Texas A&M||45||585||7||45||-0.12|
|Camron Buckley||Texas A&M||34||474||1||36.5||-0.34|
|Stephen Guidry||Miss St||19||440||3||33.8||2.72|
|Osirus Mitchell||Miss St||26||427||4||32.8|
1. Alabama. Damn, Bama dominates here. They return the best receiver in the country in Jerry Jeudy, and the entire top four in OAYP. Henry Ruggs III got the other first team All-SEC bid, and he might have taken it from the more deserving player on his own team, Jaylen Waddle. They have top end talent, depth and experience. This isn’t just the best unit in the nation, this might be the best receiving unit I have ever seen. That 11.97 yards per target makes my head spin.
2. South Carolina. They lose longtime stud Deebo Samuel, who is out of what seemed like his nine years of college eligibility, yet still return two guys who were top ten in yards per game among returning receivers. Bryan Edwards is a legit No. 1 and Shi Smith will continue to keep the pressure off and keep defenses from focusing on one guy.
3. Missouri. This could be a real under the radar unit. Johnathan Johnson is among the tops in the SEC, even if OAYP doesn’t think so. On the other hand, the advanced numbers love Jalen Know, who had 419 yards on just 27 catches. Kam Scott’s 4.14 OAYP broke the scale in limited action, and is a top contender for a breakout season. The Tigers also boast the best tight end in the conference in Albert Okwuegbunam. They had the second best catch rate and yards per target of a receiving corps that actually returns any of their top three receivers.
4. LSU. Justin Jefferson wasn’t supposed to be the guy who had the breakout season, but he did. LSU returns nearly all of its receivers from last season and has a deep pool of experienced options now. The fact they didn’t crack 60 percent on their catch rate last year is concerning, but they did well on yards per target and most guys were on their first season.
5. Tennessee. The Vols have their share of issues, but they have a good, productive, and deep stable of receivers. Like LSU, their yards per target makes up for a sub-60 percent catch rate. Marquez Callaway leads the group though OAYP thinks its Josh Palmer. Jauan Jennings feels like he’s been on the verge of a breakout season for a decade now. OK, that likely won’t happen, but returning three productive starters is a good place for the Vols to start building their offense.
6. Vanderbilt. When did Vandy get receivers? Kalija Lipscomb caught 87 balls for 916 yards, second best in the SEC among returnees, even if OAYP thinks he’s all smoke and mirrors. The Commodores also have one of the best tight ends in the conference in Jared Pinkney. The advanced stats don’t like them, but the traditional ones do. Let’s just say the unit lacks efficiency.
7. Florida. Van Jefferson didn’t quite put it altogether last year, but this unit looks a lot like LSU’s. There’s tremendous depth and lots of athletic bodies returning. They lack that No. 1 guy most likely, as well as a tight end, but they have a host of experienced athletes who can contribute. They have the talent to be a top unit.
8. Auburn. It feels like they are starting over again, but Seth Williams was incredibly productive for a freshman and could vault up the receiving ranks this season. Anthony Schwartz was another freshman who caught over 20 passes. Getting that many reps in what was an experienced unit is a good sign going forward. This ranking is more reflection of how many good receiving units there are in the SEC, but they get the nod over A&M due to a superior catch rate and yards per target.
9. Texas A&M. They lose their stud, but Quartney Davis and Camron Buckley are a good, solid tandem. Throw in Jhamon Ausbon and Kendrick Rogers, and you have four returning receivers with at least 25 catches. Any one of whom could have a breakout year. They will miss Sternberger, as he was their most sure-handed and productive receiver, and their catch rate tumbles precipitously without him..
10. Georgia. The Bulldogs are not bereft of talent, but my God, did their receiving corps get decimated this offseason. Four of their top five receivers left for the NFL and then the one returning guy, Jeremiah Holloman, got himself suspended. They are starting over. Yes, they have some big time recruits and plenty of talent, so they should be fine, but honestly… who above them do you put Georgia ahead of right now? Everyone has talent. This is the deepest position group in the SEC and it’s not the year to hit the restart button.
11. Kentucky. One of the few positions where Kentucky didn’t lose their stud. Lynn Bowden probably just missed out on preseason All-SEC honors. The problem here is there isn’t much production behind him, and OAYP thinks his production is a mirage anyway. They lose three seniors which contributed to their terrific 68% catch rate.
12. Mississippi State. The Bulldogs return two receivers with at least 400 yards from an offense not known for slinging it around. OAYP has Stephen Guidry as one of the best receivers in the conference if he had enough reps to qualify.
13. Ole Miss. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. AJ Brown took this unit to the next level and to everyone else’s credit, they took advantage of the lack of attention. DeMarkus Lodge and DK Metcalf also bolted to the NFL. Now, it comes down to Elijah Moore, whose numbers were likely inflated by virtue of being the fourth option. Now, he’s got to be The Man.
14. Arkansas. The Hogs return one of the better tight ends in the SEC in Cheyenne O’Grady, which feels very much on brand. After that, there’s just not much there. They had a catch rate near the league bottom at 54 percent and they were the only SEC team to not even average 7 yards per target. This was a bad unit that didn’t seem to improve itself.