WR Theo Howard and CB Denzel Fisher

30 Most Important Bruins for 2016: No. 19 Theo Howard

July 8 -- Checking in at No. 19 in our countdown is a freshman receiver who reminds some scouts of a young Marqise Lee...

With two months to go until the start of fall camp, we're going to count down our 30 most important UCLA players for the 2016 season. These are the players we think are going to have the most significant impact for UCLA this year, so don't take this to mean that these are the players we think are the best long-term prospects, or even necessarily the most talented. Every BRO staffer has ranked his top 30 UCLA players, and from that we've drawn an aggregate list.

Today we'll continue with No. 19.

19. Theo Howard, Freshman Wide Receiver

2015 Statistics (high school): 60 catches, 959 yards, 9 touchdowns

Why He's Important: Between the departures of Jordan PaytonThomas Duarte, and Devin Fuller, UCLA has to somehow replace 63% of its receiver catches from a year ago. Obviously, as we've written about previously, we're expecting increased production from guys like Kenny Walker and Darren Andrews, who have already checked in on this list.

But unless you're new to BRO, you understand that when the choice is between a slight unknown with massive upside and a known quantity who is above-average to good, we're virtually always going to go with the high-upside unknown, and in this case, that means Howard is checking in higher on this list than either Walker or Andrews, both of whom are likely going to begin the season as starters. What we're betting, though, is that by the end of the year, Howard will have asserted himself, much like Payton did his freshman year, and will be vying for a starting spot by the time the calendar turns to November.

There's so much to like about him as a player -- he has tremendous speed and quickness, and has the innate ability to make plays out of nothing, with great field awareness. One of the issues we were expecting him to have this spring -- that he'd perhaps be a little too physically underdeveloped to make a huge impact this season -- didn't materialize, as he's probably gained 10 pounds since the end of his senior season and looks physically like he belongs. If there's a slight knock at this stage, it's that his hands aren't quite the reliable mitts that Payton or Duarte had. Now, it's not an absolute weakness (he doesn't have the same issues that, say, Walker has had most of his UCLA career), but it is a relative weakness compared to his full complement of assets as a receiver.

The Great and Powerful Greg Biggins has compared Howard to Marqise Lee, and we can definitely see why he made that comparison. It's not too much of a stretch to say that Howard is the best natural playmaker that UCLA has recruited at receiver in the Jim Mora era. With the Bruins searching for players who can replace the production of Payton, Duarte, and Fuller, Howard will definitely have his hat in the ring -- after all, with his athletic gifts, he could end up outshining them all.

What's Been Said About Him:

"He’s pleasantly surprising. He has more speed and quickness than I saw on film. He and Demetric Felton, they have to see the field." -- WR Coach Eric Yarber, April 12, 2016

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30 Most Important Bruins for 2016

RankNameHighest RankLowest Rank
1      
2      
3      
4      
5      
6      
7      
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10      
11      
12      
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14      
15      
16      
17      
18      
19 Theo Howard 14 (John Evergreen) 24 (2-way tie)
20 Matt Dickerson 15 (John Evergreen) 29 (Tracy Pierson)
21 Randall Goforth 12 (John Evergreen) 29 (Blair Angulo)
22 Austin Kent 17 (Blair Angulo) 30 (John Evergreen)
23 Bolu Olorunfunmi 13 (Dave Woods) Unranked (Blair Angulo)
24 Deon Hollins 15 (Tracy Pierson) Unranked (Dave Woods)
25 Darren Andrews 12 (Tracy Pierson) Unranked (2-way tie)
26 Kenny Walker 13 (Blair Angulo) Unranked (2-way tie)
27 Mike Fafaul 11 (Tracy Pierson) Unranked (3-way tie)
28 Josh Woods 23 (Blair Angulo) Unranked (2-way tie)
29 Keisean Lucier-South 14 (Tracy Pierson) Unranked (3-way tie)
30 Nate Meadors 20 (John Evergreen) Unranked (2-way tie)

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