1. Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell: The Ole Miss offense took a big hit when Treadwell broke his leg late in a game against Auburn last fall. Whenever quarterback Bo Wallace needed a big play, Treadwell was usually the target. Without him, there wasn’t anyone close to an elite playmaker at receiver for Ole Miss.
Treadwell continues to recover from the injury and is expected to be healthy by the time the season opens. His 6-3, 210-pound frame gives him an advantage over smaller defensive backs down the field, but he also has enough speed to catch balls close to the line of scrimmage and make plays after the catch. He’s a complete receiver, and if he regains his pre-injury form, it wouldn’t be surprising if Treadwell were the first receiver off the board in next year’s NFL Draft.
One of the best individual matchups of the year will come when Ole Miss travels to Gainesville on October 3. Florida All-American cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will likely draw the assignment of covering Treadwell on most plays.
2. South Carolina receiver Pharaoh Cooper: As the focal point of the South Carolina offense in 2014, Cooper made an impact in many ways. As a receiver, he led the Gamecocks with 1,136 yards and nine touchdowns, averaging 16.5 yards per catch. South Carolina also lined Cooper up in a wildcat formation, and he rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns. He even threw out of the wildcat, going 5-8 through the air for 78 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
With Dylan Thompson gone, South Carolina’s quarterback questions will likely lead to Cooper seeing more time in the wildcat, but he’s the most dangerous at receiver. Cooper can line up out wide or in the slot to take advantage of mismatches and make plays. He’ll be another receiver that will likely get Hargreaves’ full attention when the Gators travel to Columbia for the final SEC game of the season.
3. LSU receiver Travin Dural: The Tigers have a true deep threat in Dural. He averaged 20.5 yards per catch last season, totaling 758 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Dural is 6-2 but has speed to burn past the secondary. That’s a reminder the Florida secondary likely won’t need. Dural made a crucial catch to convert a 3rd and 25 in Gainesville last season and added a one-handed touchdown catch to give the Tigers a 27-24 lead late in the game.
Dural has questions similar to the first two receivers on this list -- he doesn’t know who will be getting the ball to him. Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings will battle it out for the starting job, but both could see playing time like they did last year. Even if the two quarterbacks split time, that didn’t hurt Dural’s production last season.
4. Florida State receiver Travis Rudolph: The leading returner at the receiver position for the Seminoles, Rudolph is a complete receiver. Last season as a true freshman, he was third on the team with 555 yards and four touchdowns. His 14.6 yards per catch were second on the team for players with more than six receptions.
But once again, there are led to the question of who will get a receiver on this list the football. The Seminoles will have to lean on Rudolph and other younger receivers like Ermon Lane, but it’s not ideal to expect those young players to emerge in their first season working with likely quarterback Everett Golson. Rudolph, however, has enough talent to make plays regardless of who is under center.
5. Tennessee receiver Pig Howard: One Tennessee receiver deserves to be on this list, but it’s hard to know exactly who it is. Howard had the best year of them all last season, finishing the season with 618 yards and just one touchdown. He has speed and elusiveness in the open field, but he’s not the ideal red zone target.
Behind Howard, the Volunteers have a number of potential breakout receivers. Sophomore Josh Malone is one of them, along with junior Marquez North. True freshman Preston Williams, a five-star recruit, could also make an impact in his first season with the Volunteers. After Joshua Dobbs broke out late last season, the Tennessee passing offense should see a big step forward this fall.