As the 2021 football season draws near, SI All-American continues to evaluate the nation's top prospects at every position for the college football recruiting class of 2022. The first wave of the evaluations are the 'Watch List' selections, also known as SI All-American candidates, to be released throughout the month of July.
It precedes the SI99 rankings, our preseason mark of America's top college football prospects regardless of position, to be released the first week of August.
Naturally, the quarterback watch list was up first, rolled out in several releases last week. This week we moved to skill positions, beginning with a pair of cornerback releases ahead of the nickel defensive back watch list. To cap the week, the flip side is considered in a look at the nation's most impressive wide receiver projections. The top 10 wide receivers will debut today and slot receivers will debut on Monday.
1. Travis Hunter
Vitals: 6'1", 170 pounds
School: Suwanee (Ga.) Collins Hill
Recruiting: Committed to Florida State
Rare. It fits Hunter's description just about across the board in every type of football setting. There are many great two-way prospects in the class of 2022, even among wide receiver/defensive back types, but the only one with the chance to sit atop a ranking at either spot would be the Florida State commitment. Valuing the floor and college production, our staff feels better with the offensive projection for the dynamic athlete at this time. Hunter offers generational juice at every level of the defense as a wide receiver. He is a nightmare to track at the line due to superb quickness, often displays elite speed and flashes some of the best body control and ball skill combinations one could imagine. When he's not creating ideal separation with his stop-start twitch, which isn't easy to find on tape or in person, he offers a wide catch radius and margin for error for his quarterback thanks to length, mature awareness, strong hands and the ability to play vertical like a prospect four inches taller could. Hunter is a special athlete no matter where he lines up.
2. Luther Burden
Vitals: 6'2", 195 pounds
School: Saint Louis (Mo.) East St. Louis
Recruiting: Committed to Oklahoma
Built with a big, strong frame, Burden plays bigger than the above-average listing on tape. He is a complete and classic WR1 prospect with the size and overall athleticism to challenge the edge and depth of a secondary. The OU pledge is masterful at the high point and on contested catches, with great physicality at the point, but he offers a counter to his game as an after-the-catch player with great vision and moves in space. The bigger-bodied prospect has better top-end speed than his size would indicate, a feature that pairs nicely with his ability to take an efficient and controlled path towards where the ball will eventually be. It also factors into the return game and allows him to use the extremes of the route tree to keep cover corners honest.
3. Talyn Shettron
Vitals: 6'3", 185 pounds
School: Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe
Recruiting: Committed to Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State has produced a lot of outstanding college wideouts in the last decade, but none of them showed up with the talent and potential that Shettron brings to the table. His combination of size, length and speed is impressive, and his ball skills are stellar. Shettron is a quick footed athlete, something you can see clearly when he has the ball in his hands and when he’s playing defense. He’ll need to clean up his route running a bit, but the traits are there for it to become a strength of his game. As that part of his game improves you’ll see his vertical ability take off even more. Shettron is a difficult one-on-one matchup due to his combination of length, vertical speed and exceptional body control.
4. Tobias Merriweather
Vitals: 6'4", 185 pounds
School: Camas (Wash.) Union
Recruiting: Considering Stanford, Notre Dame
Merriweather has one of the highest ceilings of any receiver in the country. A polished route runner with elite length and top-notch ball skills, Merriweather is also just scratching the surface of what he will be athletically. The Union standout showed the ability to stretch the field as a junior, but during the spring he won his district championship in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 400-meter dash. There’s another speed gear he has, and when that gets combined with his size, ball skills and polish his game is going to explode. Even with what we saw on film as a junior he showed the foot quickness to be a sharp route runner and the speed to take the top off of the defense, and Merriweather can make plays after the catch.
5. Adam Randall
Vitals: 6'3", 198 pounds
School: Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High School
Recruiting: Committed to Clemson
If you could design the ideal Clemson receiver in a lab it would look a lot like Randall. His all-around game is outstanding, and he’s a perfect fit for the Clemson spread offense. Randall has the size that has been such a great asset for so many Tiger wideouts, and he has legit stretch-the-field speed. Randall gets as good of a jump off the line as any receiver in the country, and he also possesses a second gear that most wideouts sporting his frame simply don’t have. His ability to win contested throws on the outside is top-notch, and Randall is a long wideout that gives his quarterback an impressive catch radius. Randall’s power and size also combines with his long speed to make him dynamic after the catch.
6. Shazz Preston
Vitals: 6', 190 pounds
School: St. James (La.) High School
Recruiting: Considering LSU, Texas, USC, others
Preston is one of the more savvy wideouts in the class. He plays bigger than his size and he has the skills to impact defenses on every level. Preston has good game speed, which he combines with quality route running to make him a good vertical threat. It’s in the intermediate and short game where Preston is at his best. His route running skills, strength and strong hands make him an effective chain mover. The agility that makes Preston a strong route runner combines with his strong lower body and physicality to make him effective in space. Preston also has positional flexibility, with the size and downfield ability to play outside and the shiftiness and route running skills to play the slot.
7. Tetairoa McMillan
Vitals: 6'4", 185 pounds
School: Anaheim (Calif.) Servite
Recruiting: Considering USC, Oregon, Stanford, others
McMillan is an incredibly long, lanky wide receiver with one of the best catch radiuses in the country. He is every bit of 6-4 with long arms, but McMillan has exceptional body control and flexibility to go with that length, which makes him a one-on-one nightmare. McMillan has fast hands and is a smooth pass catcher, traits that should make him a weapon in the red zone and as a chain mover. If you really want to see how good of a leaper he is find some film of him playing volleyball and you’ll be impressed. McMillan has sneaky speed that allows him to get over the top of defenses and allows him to exploit creases over the middle of the field.
8. Barion Brown
Vitals: 6'1", 180 pounds
School: Nashville (Tenn.) Pearl-Cohn
Recruiting: Considering Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, others
The very first thing that jumps off the screen when breaking down film of Brown is the burst. He explodes off the line at the snap, quickly eating up cushion. At times his footwork off the line gets choppy, and his overall game is unrefined, but the explosiveness pops off the screen. Brown also shows the speed to catch a short throw or take a pitch and exploit a small crease for a home run. He shows strong agility and surprising strength for an athlete that weighs just 175 pounds, traits that also make him impactful after the catch. Brown catches the ball clean and he tracks the deep ball well. Once he cleans up his route technique his ability to get open will take off and his game will explode.
9. CJ Williams
Vitals: 6'3", 195 pounds
School: Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
Recruiting: Considering USC, Notre Dame, Texas, others
Williams lacks the vertical speed of other top wideouts in the class, but the rest of his game is outstanding. He’s a mature route runner and a physical pass catcher. Williams has excellent body control and he plays against some of the best competition in the country. Williams is an incredibly difficult matchup in the intermediate areas thanks to his strong hands and understanding on how to get open. At times Williams comes off the line with choppy steps, which keeps him from eating up ground. That makes him effective in the short to intermediate zones, but if he can open it up off the snap and become more of a vertical weapon you’ll see his game explode and he’ll climb up even higher on this list.
10. Kyion Grayes
Vitals: 6'1", 175 pounds
School: Chandler (Ariz.) High School
Recruiting: Committed to Ohio State
There are other Ohio State commits with higher profiles and maybe a bit more explosiveness, but Grayes is the most advanced pass catcher in the class. Grayes is a bit of a short strider off the line, and that can mask the speed he does in fact possess. His route-running ability is advanced for his age and he’s a strong pass catcher. Grayes has a knack for finding openings in the defense and he has the speed to run away from man coverage. Despite being just 175 pounds he will compete for the ball over the middle and he can win the occasional contested throw. Grayes has clean hands and top-notch focus on the football in traffic. He’s a shift athlete, which adds to his route running skill and makes him effective with the ball in his hands.
Related: WRs Ranked 11-25, Honorable Mention