Oklahoma State receiver James Washington is a talented, honest man. Teammate Jalen McCleskey, meanwhile, is living a big, fat lie.
James Washington, a 6-foot-, 205-pound senior receiver, is averaging 19.9 yards per reception over the last two years. He has ranked in the nation's top 15 in yards per catch each of the last two years and had at least one reception of 30 or more yards in 10 of their 13 games in 2016.
Washington's 19.2 career yards-per-catch ranks 53rd in FBS history (minimum 100 receptions) and ninth among receivers who have played in the last five years. And he is well ahead of former Oklahoma State deep-threat legends Dez Bryant (16.5) and Adarius Bowman (17.2).
Exactly half of his 1,380 receiving yards last year came on passes that traveled more than 20 yards downfield (690), according to Pro Football Focus. Those 690 yards were more than the total receiving yards for any Kansas State or Texas player.
He can gain last-second separation against overmatched defensive backs…
…or simply run past them.
He is college football's best all-around receiver and creates opportunities for himself with terrific route-running, hands and separation. Washington does, however, have a secret weapon that won't demolish box scores but helps stretch the field from the slot — no easy task.
At first glance, Jalen McCleskey is a smaller (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) possession man who moves the chains and rarely provides game-breaking plays. He averaged 8.7 yards per catch as a freshman in 2015 and 11.1 as a sophomore last year — the latter of which ranked 32nd in the Big 12. The stats are lying; Jalen McCleskey is a legit deep threat who feasts on secondaries who think overwise.
While Washington ranks first among returning Big 12 receivers in deep receiving yards, McCleskey ranks third with 335, just 29 yards behind Allen Lazard of Iowa State.
During a four-game mid-season stretch he averaged 19.5 yards per catch (20 catches for 389 yards) and had catches of 36, 47 and 52 yards. Sure, he is that reliable possession receiver — he has a career catch rate of 79 percent and ranked seventh in possession efficiency among all FBS receivers last year — but is so much more.
“He has great speed, like (Josh) Stewart in his ability to move and make guys miss, but faster straightaway,” head coach Mike Gundy said when McCleskey signed in 2015, comparing him to then-Cowboys receiver Josh Stewart. “He can really roll. He’s a guy that can take the top off a defense.”
Gundy was right. Bringing the three-star talent from Louisiana to Stillwater proved to be a huge recruiting win for the Cowboys, one that could give Heisman candidate Mason Rudolph not only the best deep-threat duo in the nation in 2016, but also the best overall receiving duo.
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