So far we’ve gone over the quarterbacks and offensive linemen that bear watching for New York Giants fans when college football returns this weekend.
Now it’s time to turn our attention to the guys who do athletic things with the football in their hands. Any other year I probably would have lumped the receivers, tight ends, and running backs together. But with this year’s running back class, they definitely deserve to stand on their own.
So, I’m going to warm up by highlighting some of the top wide receiver and tight end prospects to watch this weekend.
1 - JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, (USC vs. Alabama, 9/3, 8:00pm, ABC)
A prototypical "X" receiver, Smith-Schuster has the size (6’2", 220 pounds) and athleticism that the NFL loves in their outside receivers. He isn’t yet a refined route runner, preferring to use his size and build to bully defenders. He needs to continue to develop as a route runner, but he is already a natural deep threat and a problem for defensive backs.
2 - Mike Williams, WR, (Clemson vs. Auburn, 9/3, 9:00pm, ESPN)
Another prototypical "X" receiver, Williams looks a lot like Smith-Schuster. He’s a bit bigger (6’3", 220 pounds) and a bit more athletic. The biggest thing separating the two is Williams’ missed year of development after running head-first into the goalpost following a leaping catch last year. The two should be in a dogfight for the top receiver in the 2017 draft class.
3 - Malachi Dupree, WR, (LSU vs. Wisconsin, 9/3. 3:30pm, ABC)
The Giants have an affinity towards LSU receivers, and after Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. became two of the most productive receivers in NFL history, there’s good reason. Also, with former LSU receivers coach Adam Henry on the coaching staff, they might have an inside track. Dupre is a long, rangy deep threat who gobbles up yardage downfield. With LSU’s emphasis (rightly) on Leonard Fournette, their receivers might be a bit difficult to evaluate.
4 - Jake Butt, TE, (Michigan vs. Hawaii, 9/3, 12:00, ESPN)
The Michigan tight end might just be the best all-around TE in college football. He is a competent blocker, a good route runner, has reliable hands, and enough athleticism to stress a defense. Alabama’s OJ Howard’s size gets the headlines, but Butt’s play speaks volumes. He has improved every year at Michigan and is blossoming in Jim Harbaugh’s pro-style offense.
5 - Evan Engram (Mississippi vs. Florida State, 9/5, 8:00pm, ESPN)
When I turned on Ole Miss to watch LaQuaon Treadwell, I just couldn’t help but watch Evan Engram. His play as a receiving "hybrid" tight end just leaps off the screen. He is an athletic mismatch over the middle, too fast and athletic for linebackers, and too big for defensive backs. Ole Miss moves him all around their offensive formation. Despite being built more like a big wideout than a small tackle, he is an effective blocker in space. Engram isn’t a traditional tight end, but is a definite offensive weapon in the mold of Jordan Reed or former Giant Travis Beckum.