Over the years, the ACC has produced its fair share of top flight NFL WR talent: Sammy Watkins, Nuk Hopkins, Kelvin Benjamin, Demaryius Thomas. In last year’s draft however, just four ACC wide receivers were drafted, all in the 6th and 7th rounds (Deon Cain 6-11; Ray-Ray McCloud 6-13; Braxton Berrios 6-36; Auden Tate 7-35). With most of the talent at WR returning, the position is back to being stacked. So stacked in fact that it didn’t feel right to limit this list to just five players so we’ve included three excellent honorable mentions. You can watch the discussion in the video below or read on (or both!):
Ahmmon Richards (UM): The rising junior was limited to just seven games due to injury, but still managed 24 receptions, 439 yds, and 3 TDs. He is primarily a deep threat, as he averaged 18.3 yards per reception. With Braxton Berrios off to the NFL, Richards should be the best receiver on the best team in the Coastal. Expect him to beat his freshman year numbers of 49 receptions and 934 yards.
Anthony Ratliff-Williams (UNC) posted 35 receptions, 630 yards, and 6 TDs on an offense that finished just 10th (ACC) in passing yards with 2,704 yards. He is a big time kick returner too, bringing two to the house last season.
Hunter Renfrow (CLEM): Largely defined by an open catch to clinch Clemson’s 2016 National Championship, Hunter Renfrow is one of the best slot receivers in the country. He finished last season with 60 receptions, 602 yards, and 3 TD. He has the best hands in the ACC as he had 32 catches on 32 catchable passes in ACC play.
5. Nyqwan “Noonie” Murray (FSU) managed to haul in 40 receptions for 604 yards and 4 TDs on the 12th best passing offense in the ACC (2,551 passing yards). Murray has only one drop on 30 catchable balls thrown his way during ACC play. Nyqwan Murray and Auden Tate were the only FSU WRs with over 200 yards receiving (for reference, Clemson had four such players), and now Tate is off to the NFL. Murray will be the top target in an offense that should regain its steam with a more experienced James Blackman (or a health Deondre Francois) and a more cohesive team under first-year head coach Willie Taggart. He had a minor knee injury to which the new coach said: “He had a little knee injury. Little meniscus tear on the side, but he’ll be back quick.” If not for the injury he would be higher.
4. Tee Higgins (CLEM): This is undoubtedly a bold pick - putting him above proven producers - but Tee Higgins’ ceiling is too high to ignore. Higgins came to Clemson last year as a 6’4” 176 lbs 5-star recruit. He is now up to 200 lbs and ready to play the 9-WR role where Nuk Hopkins and Mike Williams starred. His progress was evident in the Clemson Spring Game where he racked up 118 receiving yards. With Deon Cain off to the NFL, snaps at the 9-WR spot are available for he and Diondre Overton. Tee Higgins may be the best bet to lead the Tigers in receiving yards and receiving TDs in 2018.
3. Jaylen Smith (UL) benefited from playing in the best passing offense in the ACC (3,898 passing yards), but he has the gaudy numbers to match. With 60 receptions, 908 receiving yards and 7 TDs, he has some of the best numbers of returning ACC WRs.
After deciding to come back for his senior season, the 6’4” 220 lbs wide out will lead the Cardinals receivers as they begin life without Lamar Jackson. Smith is a deep threat, but can also make plays in the intermediate passing game as seen in the highlights below. Although Lamar Jackson is gone, new QB Jawon Pass should be solid and Jaylen Smith will be one of the most featured weapons in Bobby Petrino’s offense.
Kelvin Harmon (NCSU) is the only 1,000 yard receiver returning in the ACC this year. As a true sophomore in 2017, Harmon caught 69 passes for 1,017 yards and 4 TDs. Now he’ll be an even bigger focal point in the offense as NC State loses the multi-purpose talent Jaylen Samuels and 1,000 yard rusher Nyheim Hines. With returning sixth-year senior QB Ryan Finley, Harmon will be part of the best QB-WR duo in the conference entering 2018.
1. Greg Dortch (WFU), a slot receiver, for Wake Forest is #1 on our list. Originally a bit lower on the list, he rose as we dug a little deeper into the statistics. The raw stats are good: 53 receptions, 722 yards, 9 TDs. That’s all the more impressive when you realize it was in just eight games.
The Demon Deacons leaned heavily on Dortch to move their offense (the best in school history) down the field and into the end zone. Wake Forest led the ACC in passing TDs with 33, and Greg Dortch had the biggest chunk of those with 9 - despite missing five games. He averaged 3.9 yards receiving every time he ran a route (ACC games only)! That’s a full yard better than any other receiver. He averaged 6.6 receptions per game and when Wake Forest QBs threw to him they posted a 134.0 passer rating.
In his last game of his year - prior to getting hurt - he burnt Louisville’s lousy pass defense for 167 yards and a school-record 4 receiving TDs. Although he’ll miss QB John Wolford, but he is only a rising RS sophomore and will destroy all the Wake Forest WR records if he sticks around for a couple more seasons.