While what happens on the field and how things finish at the end of the season is what really matters, preseason rankings give fans an idea of what teams and players they should keep an eye on. In this summer series, we’ll take the Top 25 approach and rank the best returning players at every position.
Next up are the wide receivers.
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Best Returning WRs
Honorable Mention: Austin Peay’s Drae McCray, Cornell’s Thomas Glover, Delaware’s Jalyn Witcher (transfer from Presbyterian), Eastern Illinois’ Isaiah Hill, Eastern Washington’s Freddie Roberson, Florida A&M’s Jah’Marae Sheread, Idaho’s Hayden Hatten, Merrimack’s Jacari Carter, Norfolk State’s Justin Smith, Rhode Island’s Kahtero Summers (transfer from Saint Francis), Sam Houston’s Cody Chrest, Villanova’s Jaaron Hayek
25. Will Huzzie, East Tennessee State
24. Rayjoun Pringle, Villanova
23. Dequece Carter, Fordham
22. Thyrick Pitts, Delaware
21. Jackson Parham, Elon
20. Shaquan Davis, South Carolina State
19. Ife Adeyi, Sam Houston
18. Jadon Janke, South Dakota State
17. Efton Chism III, Eastern Washington
16. Raphael Williams, Western Carolina
15. Beau Kelly, Portland State
14. Malachi Wideman, Jackson State
13. CJ Turner, Southeastern Louisiana University
12. Fotis Kokosioulis, Fordham
11. Xavier Smith, Florida A&M
10. Pierre Williams, Sac State
9. Avante Cox, Southern Illinois
8. Jadakis Bonds, Hampton
7. Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
6. Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim, Alabama A&M
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The Top 5
5. Jakob Herres, Richmond (transfer from VMI)
Richmond is adding some offensive firepower to complement its strong defense. Herres is a matchup nightmare at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, and he earned several All-SoCon and All-American honors at VMI. He had 72 catches for 1,091 yards and eight TDs in 2019, 80 receptions for 978 yards and eight TDs in the spring (eight games), and 47 catches for 500 yards and five TDs last season (eight games). Herres is reuniting with former VMI quarterback Reece Udinski, who transferred to Maryland for the 2021 fall season and is now at Richmond. Udinski was a three-year starter at VMI from 2018 to the spring season, setting multiple school passing records.
4. Tyrone Scott, Missouri State
Missouri State has improved its roster talent with some help from transfers as it has quickly gone from an MVFC afterthought to a playoff contender. Scott was a huge get in 2021, transferring in from Central Michigan. He immediately made the offense more explosive over the top. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder caught 66 passes for 1,110 yards and eight TDs. Scott was named to the All-MVFC First Team and earned HERO Sports Sophomore All-American honors.
3. Taylor Grimes, Incarnate Word
UIW had one of the best FCS offenses last season. Grimes was a major factor in that and proved to be hard to cover, both in his route-running and his abilities after the catch. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder led the FCS with 15 receiving TDs, was third with 87 receptions, and finished eighth in receiving yards (1,145). Grimes earned multiple All-American accolades, including HERO Sports (Second Team), Stats Perform (Second Team), and the Associated Press (Second Team).
2. Jaxon Janke, South Dakota State
A HERO Sports Freshman All-American in 2019 and Sophomore All-American in the 2021 spring, Janke took it to another level last season. He recorded 72 catches for 1,165 yards (7th in the FCS) and five TDs, earning All-MVFC Second Team honors. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds with good hands and agility after the catch, Janke has emerged as a top NFL prospect in the FCS. Josh Buchanan ranks him the No. 9 overall small school prospect.
1. Xavier Gipson, Stephen F. Austin
Gipson has been an elite target since his freshman season in 2019. He caught 52 passes for 934 yards and seven TDs as a HERO Sports Freshman All-American. Then in 10 games in the fall of 2020, he recorded 52 more receptions for 841 yards and nine TDs, earning HERO Sports Sophomore All-American honors. Last season was when Gipson stepped into being a top-tier FCS wide receiver. The 5-foot-9, 170-pounder made explosive play after explosive play, totaling 74 catches for 14 TDs and an FCS-leading 1,367 yards. Gipson earned numerous All-American honors and will get plenty more this preseason. He has next-level talent, and Josh Buchanan ranks him the No. 4 overall small school pro prospect.