The Daily Iowan

Big Ten football power rankings: receivers

Traditionally, the Big Ten is a conference full of grind it out on the ground, but times are changing.

Nebraska+wide+receiver+Stanley+Morgan+Jr.+makes+a+one+handed+catch+for+a+touchdown+during+Iowa%27s+game+against+Nebraska+at+Memorial+Stadium+on+Friday%2C+Nov.+24th%2C+2017.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Cornhuskers+56-14.+%28Nick+Rohlman%2FThe+Daily+Iowan%29
Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. makes a one handed catch for a touchdown during Iowa's game against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24th, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers 56-14. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. makes a one handed catch for a touchdown during Iowa's game against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24th, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers 56-14. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Nebraska wide receiver Stanley Morgan Jr. makes a one handed catch for a touchdown during Iowa's game against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium on Friday, Nov. 24th, 2017. The Hawkeyes defeated the Cornhuskers 56-14. (Nick Rohlman/The Daily Iowan)

Adam Hensley and Pete Ruden

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Daily Iowan Pregame Editor Adam Hensley teams up with Sports Editor Pete Ruden to break down the Big Ten’s best receivers heading into the 2018 season.

5. Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin

In two seasons with Wisconsin, Cephus has appeared in only 16 games. The Badgers have played 28, so we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his production.

But last season, Cephus played in 10 games, and when healthy, he proved to be one of Wisconsin’s best receiving targets (and the top returning player in the passing game). He caught 30 passes for 501 yards and scored 6 touchdowns, averaging 16.7 yards per catch ​— a higher average than the rest of the receivers on this list.

If he can stay healthy, Cephus could be the dynamic threat on the outside the Badgers are looking for.

4. Noah Fant, Iowa

Fant is the Big Ten’s best tight end coming back for another season in 2018.

Fant led all FBS tight ends last year with 11 touchdowns and 16.5 yards per reception, while catching a career-high 30 passes, good for second on the team. His 11 scores were first in the conference, and the performance led him to the Walter Camp Award Preseason Watch List and the Big Ten Preseason Honors List.

With a more experienced quarterback (who threw 26 touchdowns, ranking second in school history last season), Fant will be a go-to receiver.

3. Felton Davis III, Michigan State

Hawkeye fans might remember the name Felton Davis III. If not, his 9-reception, 114-yard, 2-touchdown performance against Iowa last season might jog their collective memory.

But even then, Davis wasn’t at his best. Fast forward from that game on Sept. 30 to Michigan State’s win over Penn State on Nov. 4. Davis hauled in 12 receptions for 181 yards and a touchdown.

In Michigan State’s final four games of the season, Davis put up quite the stat line: 30 receptions, 466 yards, and 4 touchdowns. Expect the 6-4 target to pick up right where he left off.

2. Juwan Johnson, Penn State

Johnson ripped the heart straight out of all Iowa fans’ on Sept. 23, 2017, when he caught the game-winning touchdown just past Amani Hooker’s outstretched fingers in Kinnick Stadium to keep Penn State’s perfect record intact.

This year, he’s going to be even more dangerous. With DaeSean Hamilton, Mike Gesicki, and Saquon Barkley out of the picture, Johnson will be a top target for Trace McSorley, the Big Ten’s leading passer.

As the Nittany Lions’ leading returning receiver, Johnson is sure to improve on the 54-catch, 701-yard performance he posted in 2017.

1. Stanley Morgan Jr., Nebraska

Morgan is arguably one of the best offensive threats in the Big Ten heading into the 2018 season, fresh off a 61-reception, 986-yard, 10-touchdown season (in which he led the Big Ten in receiving yards per game). Morgan’s numbers alone should be reason for his spot atop the Big Ten receiver power rankings, but there was one Nebraska offseason addition that puts him on top.

Enter Scott Frost, a quarterback guru, headed one of the nation’s most potent offenses last season coaching Central Florida. Quarterback McKenzie Milton is miles ahead of any signal caller on the Nebraska roster, but in a wide-open offensive system, anything can happen. Central Florida’s top receiver last season, Tre’Quan Smith, had 59 receptions for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns — Morgan could do that next season.

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