Jerry Jeudy? Rondale Moore? These Are College Football’s Top Returning WRs

Just three of the 11 wide receivers who were named Fred Biletnikoff Award semifinalists last season returned to school — Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Purdue’s Rondale Moore and Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace.

Jeudy won the award as a sophomore, Moore set Purdue’s single-game, all-purpose yards record in the first three quarters of his first collegiate game and played an instrumental role in the Boilermakers’ upset of No. 2 Ohio State, and Wallace led the pass-happy Big 12 in receiving yards.

The trio is among the country’s most dangerous big-play threats at receiver, so prior to the start of the 2019 college football season, we took a closer look at their production last season beyond the basic receiving stats of receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

We also examined Colorado’s Laviska Shenault Jr. and Clemson’s Justyn Ross to highlight a talented returning wide receiver from each of the Power Five conferences.

The following analysis comes from an examination of ESPN’s play-by-play data from last season.

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Moving the Chains

The following chart shows the percent of the time that a pass intended for each receiver resulted in a first down.

Player Number of Targets 1st Downs 1st Down % When Targeted
Tylan Wallace 137 57 41.6%
Jerry Jeudy 96 38 39.6%
Laviska Shenault 106 40 37.7%
Justyn Ross 68 25 36.8%
Rondale Moore 145 45 31.0%

 

The following chart shows the percent of receptions by each player that resulted in a first down.

Player Number of Receptions 1st Downs 1st Down % After Reception
Tylan Wallace 86 57 66.3%
Jerry Jeudy 68 38 55.9%
Justyn Ross 46 25 54.3%
Laviska Shenault 86 39 45.3%
Rondale Moore 114 45 39.5%

 

The following chart shows the percent of fourth-down targets to each player that resulted in a first down.

Player Targets on 4th Down 1st Downs on 4th Down Targets 1st Down % on 4th Down Targets
Rondale Moore 4 2 50.0%
Tylan Wallace 3 1 33.3%
Jerry Jeudy N/A N/A N/A
Laviska Shenault N/A N/A N/A
Justyn Ross N/A N/A N/A

 

Scoring

Jeudy had a ridiculous touchdown-to-target rate last season as he scored roughly one touchdown every seven times he was targeted by an Alabama quarterback.

Player Number of Targets Receiving Touchdowns TD% When Targeted
Jerry Jeudy 96 14 14.6%
Justyn Ross 68 9 13.2%
Tylan Wallace 137 12 8.8%
Rondale Moore 145 12 8.3%
Laviska Shenault 106 6 5.7%

 

Jeudy’s touchdown rate climbs even higher when you compare the number of touchdowns he scored to his number of receptions. He reached the end zone once every five receptions, on average.

That was nearly double the rate that Moore, another elusive receiver, scored touchdowns last season.

Player Number of Receptions Touchdowns TD% After Reception
Jerry Jeudy 68 14 20.6%
Justyn Ross 46 9 19.6%
Tylan Wallace 86 12 14.0%
Rondale Moore 114 12 10.5%
Laviska Shenault 86 6 7.0%

 

Goal-To-Go Conversions

Moore, despite being listed at 5-9 and 180 pounds (which are not the attributes you’d typically think of for a red zone threat), was targeted 11 times in goal-to-go situations last season — the same number as Jeudy, Wallace and Shenault combined.

He scored six touchdowns on those 11 passes, which is impressive when you consider how little space offenses have to work with when they’re inside the opponent’s 10-yard line.

Player Number of Targets in Goal-To-Go Situations Number of TDs in Goal-To-Go Situations TD% on Goal-To-Go Targets
Jerry Jeudy 2 2 100.0%
Rondale Moore 11 6 54.5%
Laviska Shenault 2 1 50.0%
Tylan Wallace 7 2 28.6%
Justyn Ross 1 0 0.0%

 

Think about this: Every time that Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oklahoma State’s Taylor Cornelius dropped back to pass and threw in the direction of Jeudy or Wallace, respectively, they had better than a 50 percent chance of the play ending in a first down or touchdown.

Player 1st Down % + TD % When Targeted
Jerry Jeudy 54.2%
Tylan Wallace 50.4%
Justyn Ross 50.0%
Laviska Shenault 43.4%
Rondale Moore 39.3%

 

Wallace had a ridiculous 80.2 percent 1st down + touchdown rate last season after catching a pass, meaning roughly four out of every five passes he caught resulted in a first down or touchdown.

Player 1st Down % + TD % After Reception
Tylan Wallace 80.2%
Jerry Jeudy 76.5%
Justyn Ross 73.9%
Laviska Shenault 52.3%
Rondale Moore 50.4%

 

Explosive Plays

Wallace averaged 17.3 yards per reception last season, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that nearly three out of every four passes he caught resulted in a gain of at least 10 yards.

Player Receptions of 10+ Yards % of Receptions
Tylan Wallace 63 73.2%
Jerry Jeudy 49 72.0%
Justyn Ross 33 71.7%
Laviska Shenault 37 43.0%
Rondale Moore 49 42.9%

 

While Wallace had more receptions of at least 20 yards than the other wide receivers examined, Ross led the way on a percentage basis. More than one in every three passes he caught resulted in a gain of at least 20 yards.

Player Receptions of 20+ Yards % of Receptions
Justyn Ross 17 36.9%
Jerry Jeudy 23 33.8%
Tylan Wallace 25 29.0%
Laviska Shenault 11 12.7%
Rondale Moore 14 12.2%

 

Here’s a closer look at each of the five wide receivers, including which downs they’re most frequently targeted, which downs they’re most likely to catch the ball and which downs they’re most likely to yield the biggest gains.

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

The 2018 Biletnikoff Award winner was targeted at a similar rate on first and second down last season, but he caught nearly 20 percent more of his targets on second down compared to first.

Down Targets % of Targets
1 37 38.5%
2 40 41.7%
3 19 19.8%
4 0 0.0%

 

Down Receptions % of Receptions Catch Rate (Receptions/Targets)
1 24 35.3% 64.8%
2 33 48.5% 82.5%
3 11 16.2% 57.8%
4 0 0.0% N/A

 

Third down, however, proved to be Jeudy’s most productive down on a per-catch basis as he averaged a ridiculous 27.5 yards per reception on 11 catches.

He had gains of 79, 58, 48, 25, 22 and 22 yards on third down.

Down Yards Per Target Yards Per Reception
1 12.2 18.8
2 14.0 17.0
3 15.9 27.5
4 N/A N/A

 

Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State

Last season, Wallace saw a significant decline in targets with each down.

Down Targets % of Targets
1 57 41.0%
2 47 33.8%
3 30 21.6%
4 3 2.2%

 

However, he had the same number of receptions on first and second down, while his catch rate increased from first to second to third to fourth down.

Down Receptions % of Receptions Catch Rate (Receptions/Targets)
1 31 36.0% 54.3%
2 31 36.0% 65.9%
3 21 24.4% 70.0%
4 3 3.55 100.0%

 

Wallace was only targeted on fourth down three times last season and he caught all three passes, so we should acknowledge his fourth down numbers are the result of a small sample size, but he was consistently a big-play threat on first and second down.

Down Yards Per Target Yards Per Reception
1 9.3 17.1
2 12.4 18.8
3 9.9 14.1
4 26.7 26.7

Rondale Moore, Purdue

Purdue made a conscious effort to get Moore the ball on first down during his freshman campaign.

Almost 45 percent of his targets came on first down, not to mention that 15 of his 21 rushing attempts on the season were on first down. Fifty-four of his 114 receptions were on first down, when he caught a ridiculous 85.7 percent of his targets.

Nine of his 14 total touchdowns were on first down as well.

Down Targets % of Targets
1 63 43.4%
2 47 32.4%
3 31 21.4%
4 4 2.8%

 

Moore caught at least 70 percent of his targets on every down.

Down Receptions % of Receptions Catch Rate (Receptions/Targets)
1 54 47.8% 85.7%
2 33 29.2% 70.2%
3 23 20.4% 74.2%
4 3 2.7% 75.0%

 

Because of where Moore plays on the field — often in the slot or in motion to set up shovel passes or jet sweeps — his yards per reception average isn’t as high as other wide receivers, but he still had 49 receptions of at least 10 yards last season.

Third down was his most productive down in terms of yards per catch thanks to gains of 46, 43 and 27 yards — the two longest of which went for touchdowns.

Down Yards Per Target Yards Per Reception
1 10.0 11.7
2 6.3 9.0
3 10.0 13.4
4 4.0 5.3

 

Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado

Laviska Shenault was limited to nine games last season due to injury, but he was still able to crack the 1,000-yard receiving mark and nearly half of his 106 targets came on first down.

Down Targets % of Targets
1 46 43.4%
2 34 32.1%
3 26 24.5%
4 0 0.0%

 

The percent of Shenault’s receptions by down very closely matched his percent of targets by down, which wasn’t true for every wide receiver examined. He had an incredibly high catch rate regardless of the down.

Down Receptions % of Receptions Catch Rate (Receptions/Targets)
1 38 44.2% 82.6%
2 27 31.4% 79.4%
3 21 24.4% 80.7%
4 0 0.0% N/A

 

Third down was by far Shenault’s most productive down as he averaged 16.3 yards per reception. It was also his most frequent situation when he would carry the ball. The wide receiver had 17 rushing attempts and five rushing touchdowns last season, and nine of those attempts were on third down.

Down Yards Per Target Yards Per Reception
1 9.1 11.0
2 7.4 9.3
3 13.2 16.3
4 0.0 0.0

 

Justyn Ross, Clemson

Ross’ target distribution was spread pretty evenly across the first three downs, but he was never relied upon on fourth down.

Down Targets % of Targets
1 26 38.2%
2 20 29.4%
3 22 32.4%
4 0 0.0%

 

The highest percentage of Ross’ receptions came on first down, but he had the highest catch rate on second down.

Down Receptions % of Receptions Catch Rate (Receptions/Targets)
1 18 39.1% 69.2%
2 16 34.8% 80.0%
3 12 26.1% 54.5%
4 0 0.0% N/A

 

Ross showed his big-play potential during Clemson’s College Football Playoff games against Notre Dame and Alabama, when he caught a combined 12 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns.

On third down alone, Ross had receptions of 74, 57, 55, 42, 37, 34 and 29 yards last season.

Down Yards Per Target Yards Per Reception
1 12.6 18.2
2 13.9 17.3
3 18.0 32.9
4 N/A N/A

 

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