The Big Ten churned out plenty of talent at wide receiver recently. Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jahan Dotson, David Bell, and Jalen Nailor are just a few names that were added to NFL rosters during the draft.
This year will be no different. Despite losing some of the biggest names in the conference, the Big Ten will continue to welcome a new generation of receivers to the bright lights. The 2022 season is still months away but fans are beginning to get the itch for some college football.
Spring practices are in the books and summer is right around the corner. Below, we ranked the receiving groups in the Big Ten.
2022 projected receivers: Chimere Dike, Keontez Lewis, Dean Engram, Markus Allen
The Badgers should be thankful for Braelon Allen because the passing game is not good — plain and simple. Wisconsin returns Chimere Dike, who totaled just 272 yards last season. Both Danny Davis III and Kendric Pryor are gone, which does not bode well for Wisconsin. Graham Mertz has to take the next step this season but he will have to do it with the worst set of receivers in the conference.
2022 projected receivers: Keagan Johnson, Nico Ragaini, Charlie Jones, Arland Bruce IV, Brody Brecht
It is kind of amazing to think about how Iowa made a run to the Big Ten Championship last season with the group they had on the outside. This season, it will be a tad worse. The Hawkeyes are banking on Keagan Johnson having a breakout campaign as a sophomore. In his first season, Johnson was the second-leading receiver on the team with 352 yards.
2022 projected receivers: D.J. Matthews, Emery Simmons, Cam Camper, Javon Swinton, David Baker
Ty Fryfogle is gone and this is significant enough for Indiana to take steps back. The program attempted to make up for this loss with the addition of Emery Simmons and Cam Camper in the transfer portal. They will join D.J. Matthews, who is the X-factor for the Hoosiers depending on his health. It was a lost season for Indiana last year so anything will help heading into 2022.
2022 projected receivers: Isaiah Williams, Casey Washington, Brian Hightower, Shawn Miller, Hank Beatty
Isaiah Williams is the spark within the Illini offense. In 2021, he returned to the outside as a wide receiver and totaled 525 yards. This came after taking over under center in 2020. Williams leads a group that is a bit of a question mark. We know what Williams can do and Miami transfer Brian Hightower has a big upside. Illinois will rely on the quarterback play improving and having one of its freshmen (Miller, Beatty) stepping up.
2022 projected receivers: Omar Manning, Alante Brown, Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda, Trey Palmer, Oliver Martin
Adrian Martinez is gone, which means Nebraska lost its leading passer and rusher from last season. Samari Toure is also gone. The Cornhuskers will feature an entirely new offensive attack and it might be centered around Omar Manning, who finished with 380 yards and two scores last season. Trey Palmer and Alante Brown created some noise in the spring and could make an impact right away.
2022 projected receivers: Broc Thompson, Elijah Canion, Tyrone Tracy, Zion Steptoe
Purdue might be the most difficult unit to rank heading into the season. David Bell is now in the NFL after being one of the top weapons in the conference over the previous two years. The Boilermakers would be a bit higher if Milton Wright was going to be on the field but he was ruled academically ineligible for the 2022 season. This means Broc Thompson will have to step up in his absence.
2022 projected receivers: Taj Harris, Sean Ryan, Shameen Jones, Aron Cruickshank, Joshua Youngblood
Rutgers is on a long list of Big Ten teams that lost their top target. Bo Melton is now in Seattle and this led to the Scarlet Knights being aggressive in the transfer portal. Taj Harris came over from Syracuse while Sean Ryan transferred to Piscataway from West Virginia. This duo will join Shameen Jones, who finished second on the team in receiving yards. Special teams’ standouts Aron Cruickshank and Joshua Youngblood will also look to fit into the offense. Cruickshank brings versatility and speed to the offense which he displayed last season before getting injured. If the quarterback play of Rutgers is consistent, this unit could surprise some people.
2022 projected receivers: Malik Washington, Bryce Kirtz, Jacob Gill, Wayne Dennis Jr.
Stephon Robinson might be gone but Malik Washington and Bryce Kirtz are ready to takeover. Northwestern had a down year last season and it began on the offensive side of the ball. The Wildcats struggled to score points in Big Ten play and that can be fixed if the receivers can have big years.
2022 projected receivers: Chris Autumn-Bell, Dylan Wright, Mike Brown-Stephens, Daniel Jackson
The Gophers will have their best receiver back this season in Chris Autumn-Bell. He totaled 506 yards and six touchdowns last season. With Tanner Morgan back under center, Dylan Wright has a chance to take the next step — along with Autumn-Bell. Minnesota is a question mark heading into the season and could be a bit higher on this list come the end of the season if all goes right.
5. Penn State
2022 projected receivers: Parker Washington, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, Mitchell Tinsley, Harrison Wallace III, Liam Clifford
Jahan Dotson might be in Washington now but the Nittany Lions have a capable replacement in Parker Washington. He totaled 820 receiving yards last season as the No. 2. Now, he is preparing to be one of the top pass catchers in the Big Ten. KeAndre Lambert-Smith emerging as the true second weapon within the offense will carry Penn State into the top five of this ranking.
2022 projected receivers: Andrel Anthony, Ronnie Bell, Cornelius Johnson, Roman Wilson, AJ Henning
The reigning Big Ten champion thrived on the ground game and defense last season. With Ronnie Bell returning from injury, the passing attack might look a bit different in 2022. It is looking like the Wolverines are going to feature a two-quarterback system with Cade McNamara and J.J. McCarthy. This already brings some versatility to the offensive side of the ball and the receivers could add even more.
2022 projected receivers: Dontay Demus Jr., Rakim Jarrett, Jeshaun Jones, Jacob Copeland
Dontay Demus had a strong start derailed by a torn ACL last season. This injury prevented Demus going to the NFL but now he will have a chance to show himself off once again in a Terrapin uniform. Demus and Rakim Jarrett give Maryland and Taulia Tagovailoa a solid duo to rely on. Veteran Jeshaun Jones and Jacob Copeland give the Terps plenty of depth on the offensive side of the ball.
2. Michigan State
2022 projected receivers: Jayden Reed, Tre Mosley, Germie Bernard, Keon Coleman, Montorie Foster
Jalen Nailor is gone but Jayden Reed is not. Reed completely broke out last season with 1,026 yards and 10 scores. Payton Thorne will have his No. 1 weapon back and this means the Spartans are in a good place moving forward. Behind Reed, Tre Mosley will provide depth. Michigan State can be extremely difficult to defend is one of the freshmen step up — either Germie Bernard or Montorie Foster.
1. Ohio State
2022 projected receivers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, Julian Fleming, Jayden Ballard
Ohio State topped this list last year by a large margin. Despite losing their top two weapons, the Buckeyes are at the top once again. Jaxon Smith-Njigba has a chance to be one of the best receivers in the nation after totaling 95 catches, 1,606 yards and nine scores last season. Marvin Harrison Jr. and Julian Fleming round out a core for a team that will be a National Championship contender once again. Let’s not forget that C.J. Stroud will be under center once again.