The earlier receivers are at a loss because their offenses didn't play in offenses as wide-open (or as fast-tempo) as their successors. What would Roy Williams have done in an offense where he had a chance to grab 90 passes in a season, as Quan Cosby did? That's a relevant question. And even without asking it, there are other questions to be asked, from caliber of quarterback play to producing at a high level over multiple seasons. Only three receivers to make this list failed to have multiple 1,000-yard seasons. One was Mark Clayton, who battled some injuries as a senior and who shared the ball with Adrian Peterson. One was Dez Bryant, who was cut short by the NCAA. And the other was Jordy Nelson, who not only produced a huge peak season, but who fought off injuries and/or terrible quarterback play up until his senior year.
Each team features two outside receivers and a slot receiver, meaning that, at the end of the day, 12 receivers were named here. And yet, I feel like I probably could have named another 12 and wound up with an awfully good group.
Here are the picks:
First, we'll touch on Clayton, who earned this spot over some awfully good slot receivers. But one of the main differences is that Clayton 1) didn't play in a hurry-up offense and 2) spent the final year of his career sharing touches with other elite receivers and Adrian Peterson at running back. That he still put up 1,425 yards as a junior is outstanding. Crabtree is the no-brainer. Not only does he own the best receiving season in Big 12 history (1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns, anybody?), but he also stacks up on the career charts despite only playing two seasons. For his part, Blackmon was right there his last two years. Over those two seasons, Blackmon had 233 catches for 3,304 yards and 38 scores. He might have had a shot at Crabtree's single-season mark (falling short at 1,782 yards as a sophomore), except that he was suspended for a game.
It might be a little bit of cheating here, but I've included Shipley as an outside receiver because he was generally moved around to exploit matchups and, well, because I can. Shipley finished his career in the top five in receptions and receiving touchdowns, while just outside of the top five in receiving yards. Woods was even better, holding the Big 12 record for receiving yards and touchdowns until both marks were broken by Broyles a year ago. Woods was as deadly on jump balls as any receiver in Big 12 history, and was a monster to face in one-on-one coverage. And Broyles also finished as the NCAA's all-time leader in receptions, despite missing time as a senior with injuries. Even with missing those four games, he still had 83 catches for 1,157 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Briscoe is potentially the most underrated receiver in Big 12 history, which is especially surprising in that he showed up best in big games. Over the nine biggest games of his sophomore and junior seasons (two games apiece against Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska and Missouri, and one bowl game), Briscoe grabbed 80 passes for 1,356 yards and 10 touchdowns. That's an average of nine catches for 151 yards and a touchdown per contest. Then there's this: of the five people ahead of Briscoe in career receiving yards on the Big 12 charts, only Blackmon didn't play four years. Bryant had a slightly better peak season with 1,480 yards as a sophomore in 2008, but he didn't quite have the big game chops. Still, he was considered, and rightfully so, a nightmare matchup because of his physical abilities. Welker is the poster-child for every slot receiver to follow. His numbers aren't quite as high as some slots who play now, but make no mistake: he was the prototype, a cat-quick player impossible to deal with in space. Welker's 259 career catches are still near the top of the Big 12 charts.
As usual, I'll discuss the first guys left off here. If I had one other outside receiver, it would probably be Danario Alexander, who had an outstanding peak year in 2009 (1,781 yards) but who struggled to stay healthy and only really had one strong season. Kendall Wright was the last slot, but only had one 1,000-yard year (again, an excellent peak at 1,663 yards), while Maclin topped the 1,000-yard mark in both of his two seasons, and was a factor in other ways, accounting for 668 rushing yards and six touchdowns in two years (averaging 7.3 yards per carry) largely on reverses. Missouri had been an effective passing team before Maclin started in 2007, but his explosiveness took the Tigers to new heights. He accounted for 2,983 yards from scrimmage and 28 touchdowns over two years, including a 102-catch, 1,260-yard season through the air as a sophomore. Nelson had great size and speed, catching 122 passes for 1,606 yards and 11 touchdowns in his peak season despite the Wildcats lacking other options. He would have been a multiple-season 1,000-yard receiver if not for shoddy quarterback play and injuries. And Williams didn't have the numbers of others on this list, but like Clayton, he lacked the luxury of a no-huddle offense. Despite at-times inconsistent quarterback play, he still ranks in the top-five in the Big 12 in career receiving yards and touchdowns, averaging 16 yards per catch over his career. Making three All-Big 12 teams doesn't hurt either.