[Editor's Note: This story was originally published on PFF.com on October 10, 2017. All words & graphics are mine.]
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Six weeks have already gone by in a flash, and with that has been much to do about the draft-eligible quarterbacks and their progression through the season. On the receiving end of those quarterbacks, some draft-eligible wide receivers had quietly been making names for themselves this season, whether they were a household name before the season, or a Draft Board Riser.
Often judged by the amount of receptions, yards and touchdowns, a true receiver's effectiveness often goes overlooked but either a shockingly high total of touchdowns, or a shockingly low number of yards, or vice versa. At PFF, we've quantified just how well a WR performs on every passing snap they play, by calculating their amount of receiving yards they accrue, per route they run. Our yards per route run average showcases those receivers who really make their snaps as a receiver count, more than the next guy.
Those top draft-eligible wide receivers in yards per route run may be known to some, and if not, you should get to know their names.
1. JAMES WASHINGTON, OKLAHOMA STATE
Snaps in route/yards per route run: 160/4.03
Washington's numbers on the receiving end of Mason Rudolph's passes this season are staggering. He has hauled in 6-of-10 deep targets so far this year for 303 yards and three touchdowns. He is fourth among draft-eligible receivers in yards (645), but has done so on just 28 catches. Rudolph has thrown five touchdowns to Washington, compared to just one interceptions when targeting him, for a passer rating of 146.8 on throws to Washington.
2. KEKE COUTEE, TEXAS TECH
Snaps in route/yards per route run: 159/3.69
Only one draft-eligible wide receiver across the entire nation has seen 40 or more targets this season, and still sports a passer rating when targeted of over 140.0. That receiver is Keke Coutee. His 152.3 passer rating on throws targeted his way is second in the nation among all draft-eligible receivers, much like his 3.69 yards per route run are as well. Coutee has gained 586 yards on 39 receptions, hauling in those 39 catches on 48 targets. For context, the average passer rating of all draft-eligible receivers with at least 48 targets this season is 105.9, compared to Coutee's 152.3.
3. THOMAS OWENS, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
Snaps in route/yards per route run: 127/3.66
At 6-foot-1, 240-pounds, Owens has the size, and speed, to beat opposing cornerbacks off the line of scrimmage, and has showcased that during his senior season at FIU. Owens has run 127 snaps in route, totaled 465 yards receiving for a mark of 3.66 yards per route run. He has hauled in 6-of-6 deep targets his way for 256 yards and one of his scores. Owens is opening eyes from lesser-known FIU and be on the watch for his name to start circulating if he keeps this up.
4. ANTHONY JOHNSON, BUFFALO
Snaps in route/yards per route run: 169/3.62
Another big framed receiver at 6-foot-2, 207-pounds, Johnson has NFL lineage (his cousin is Jadeveon Clowney) and is proving his potential pro worth during his first season at Buffalo. His 3.62 yards per route run are a testament to that, as much as his eight deep pass receptions for 305 yards and two scores. His 305 yards on deep passes rank him third among draft-eligible receivers and his 612 total receiving yards rank him fifth. During the Bulls' 7-OT defeat to Western Michigan, Johnson let his name be known, hauling in 11-of-18 targets for 196 yards and two touchdowns for a 135.4 passer rating. Any more of those kinds of performances, and his name will certainly start to become a household one by season's end.
5. CAM PHILLIPS, VIRGINIA TECH
Snaps in route/yards per route run: 3.61
Phillips has been a reliable target for freshman QB Josh Jackson, as the four-year Hokie is on pace to set all career-highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns. Most importantly, he's making his snaps count more so than ever, having averaged 1.45 yards per route run in 2014, 1.40 in 2015 and 2.30 in 2016. He has hauled in all seven catchable deep targets his way for three scores and 196 of his 571 receiving yards. He's forced three missed tackles this season after receptions and despite an interception thrown on one of his targeted passes in Week 6 against Boston College, still sports a 120.7 passer rating when targeted.