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OAYP: 2019 ACC Receiver Rankings

By Jim Johnson
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The new OAYP advanced metric ranks the ACC's returning receivers.

In case you missed the quarterback or running back rankings, click the links below. The quarterback rankings also have a more thorough explanation of the formula.


As we did with the quarterbacks and running backs and will do with all of the other position groups, let’s tier them out into ‘superstars’ (marginal OAYP >1), ‘second tier’ (marginal OAYP between 0.5-1.0), and potential breakout stars (players that didn’t get enough reps to qualify, but posted high OAYP scores on a smaller sample size).

The league returns 25 qualifying receivers, so whereas some position groups are skewed by smaller sample sizes, at least for the time being (before the national scores are factored in), we should get a pretty clear picture from this group as to how it will look when it’s all said and done.

That said, while the formula did a good job overall, there are still some surprises.


-Tamorrion Terry, Florida State (2.58)
-Justyn Ross, Clemson (2.53)
-Tre Turner, Virginia Tech (1.49)
-Tee Higgins, Clemson (1.04)

With all due respect to my dear OAYP, Justyn Ross is the best wide receiver in the ACC and Tee Higgins is number two. However, for the ultimate purpose of OAYP, I understand the ranking. As mentioned in the explanation (which can be found as part of the QB rankings linked above), it is both a measure of efficiency AND value. So, though Ross and Higgins are probably better than Terry and Turner in a vacuum, the latter two are more valuable to their respective teams’ success than the former. Plus, a superstar is a superstar, which is why I place more emphasis on tiers than on the actual 1, 2, 3, etc. rankings. Anyway, these guys are all awesome no matter how you slice it.

Terry emerged as one of the nation’s premier deep threats as a redshirt freshman, in 2018. His average depth of target was nearly 20 yards downfield, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he finished third in the league in receptions of 30+ yards, despite catching 11 fewer balls than Ross, and 16 fewer than Syracuse’s Jamal Custis -- the two players ahead of him. Florida State’s quarterbacks also fielded a 117.5 passer rating when targeting Terry, as opposed to a 74.7 rating when targeting anyone else. In other words, it’s pretty clear who James Blackman should be looking for as often as possible in 2019.

Meanwhile, Tre Turner is ready to emerge in a similar way for Virginia Tech. He was a big play threat last year, but trailed Damon Hazelton, Eric Kumah, and slot receiver Hezekiah Grimsley in targets. Thanks to the ability he showed as a freshman, and the opportunity spawned by Kumah’s transfer to Old Dominion, Turner has a chance to be the next Isaiah Ford or Cam Phillips in Blacksburg. He boasts the fourth highest yardage per reception mark and passer rating when targeted among ACC returnees, and promises to carry that momentum from late last year into next season.

Then, of course, there’s the dynamic duo from Clemson. They finished fifth and sixth in the conference in receiving yards, in the top ten in yards per reception among players with at least 25 catches, and were first and second in touchdowns. The incomparable Justyn Ross just recorded 1,000 yards, at 21.7 yards per catch, good for fourth in the country, with nine touchdowns as a true freshman. His highlight reel is already a must-watch. And Tee Higgins, 936 yards and an ACC-best 12 scores, may have never lost a jump ball in his life. This might be the best pass catching tandem in the nation.

Second Tier

-Damon Hazelton, Virginia Tech (0.69)
-KJ Osborn (Buffalo), Miami (0.56)
-Jeff Thomas, Miami (0.5)

Damon Hazleton, fresh of 802 yards and eight touchdowns in his first season in the ACC after transferring from Ball State, is on the precipice of stardom. A 1,000-yard season could be within reach. He’ll also benefit from the emergence of Tre Turner and more stability at the quarterback position. That duo could be reminiscent of Virginia Tech’s 2016 WR pair -- Ford and Phillips -- which helped the Hokies to within a score of beating Clemson in the ACC Championship.

Miami could also have a nice pairing of its own now that Jeff Thomas has decided to stay in South Beach, and KJ Osborn opted for the beach over staying at Buffalo. Osborn finished fourth in the MAC last season in yards per reception and eighth in touchdowns, while Jeff Thomas emerged as one of the most exciting players in college football early in the 2018 campaign. Thomas’ production was sporadic as a result of inconsistent quarterback play, but he could thrive once more with even consistently adequate performance from behind center.

Potential Breakout Stars

-Joe Reed, Virginia (1.62)
-Taysir Mack, Pitt (1.55)

As always with these smaller sample size guys, these scores do not project them to be better than Tre Turner or Tee Higgins. They simply point to high end potential.

Joe Reed has been special teams dynamo for a couple of years now at Virginia, and after the departure of Olamide Zaccheaus, should have ample opportunity to show off that playmaking ability even more as a larger part of the offense.

Taysir Mack was actually Pitt’s leading receiver last year, and still had too small a sample size to qualify. He still returns as the reigning ACC leader in yards per reception, and with Pitt losing its top two ball carriers from 2018, a more balanced offensive approach should lead to more touches for the junior.

Full Marginal OAYP Rankings for Qualifying ACC Receivers

1. Tamorrion Terry, Florida State (2.58)
2. Justyn Ross, Clemson (2.53)
3. Tre Turner, Virginia Tech (1.49)
4. Tee Higgins, Clemson (1.04)
5. Damon Hazelton, Virginia Tech (0.69)
6. KJ Osborn (Buffalo), Miami (0.56)
7. Jeff Thomas, Miami (0.5)
8. Seth Dawkins, Louisville (0.33)
9. Scotty Washington, Wake Forest (0.32)
10. Sage Surratt, Wake Forest (0.05)
11. Taj Harris, Syracuse (-0.08)
12. Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville (-0.1)
13. Maurice Ffrench, Pitt (-0.1)
14. Kobay White, Boston College (-0.13)
15. Tabari Hines (Oregon 2017), NC State (-0.28)
16. Nykeim Johnson, Syracuse (-0.36)
17. Emeka Emezie, NC State (-0.63)
18. Hasise Dubois, Virginia (-0.75)
19. Dazz Newsome, North Carolina (-0.76)
20. Thayer Thomas, NC State (-0.79)
21. Sean Riley, Syracuse (-0.92)
22. Amari Rodgers, Clemson (-1.07)
23. Hezekiah Grimsley, Virginia Tech (-1.13)
24. CJ Riley, NC State (-1.25)
25. DJ Matthews, Florida State (-1.76)

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP