As we barrel towards the start of the 2022 college football season, let’s take a look at who the top players are in the Big Ten. These lists won’t be biased towards the Badgers in any way although we all know that every player on Wisconsin is better than every player on any other team.
First up were our top five signal callers, and now we’ll rank their top targets. Enjoy!
No. 5: Dontay Demus Jr., Maryland, Senior
The top two in this list were pretty easy to compile, but 3-8 felt incredibly tough. Dontay Demus Jr. of Maryland and Ronnie Bell of Michigan felt like splitting the smallest of hairs. Both players are coming off knee injuries that knocked them out early last season with Bell going down in the season opener and Demus Jr. going down in week five. Truly, I think you could make a case for either player in this spot.
That said, Demus was on track to really do something special before his injury. Before he was ruled out for the year Demus Jr. was top five nationally in receiving yards and 11th nationally. His 6-foot-4 frame gives him some big play ability, and he showed that early in the season last year racking up 507 yards on just 28 catches (18.1 yards per catch).
A full season of that production likely lands Demus as a 1,000-yard receiver and an unquestioned top-three ranking. However, you can’t play what ifs, so Demus ranks a little lower but the potential from him is certainly there.
No. 4: Rakim Jarrett, Maryland, Junior
Two Terps?! Yep. You read that right. The Maryland offense has been getting a lot of hype this off-season and one of the main reasons why is because of Rakim Jarrett. Jarrett returns to the Terps coming off a season where he led the team with 62 receptions, racking up 829 yards along the way. He hauled in five touchdowns over the course of the season.
Jarrett gives the Terps and quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa a speed threat at the wideout position, but he’s also incredibly reliable as a sort of safety blanket when Tagovailoa gets into trouble. His ability to haul in almost anything and breakaway gives him a ton of big play potential. There’s a reason Jarrett was a five-star player in the 2020 class and we started to see that reason last year.
Standing a 6-foot-0 with strong hands Jarrett is starting to get compared to another former Maryland wideout in all-pro NFL wideout Stefon Diggs. Is that a fair comparison? Time will tell, but so far he certainly looks the part.
No. 3: Parker Washington, Penn State, sophomore
If we’re talking comparisons, Parker Washington got some comparisons to his running mate Jahan Dotson last season. Dotson lead the way with 1,182 yards but he is now off to play for the Washington Commanders, leaving Washington as the top target for the experienced Sean Clifford who comes back for season number, what, 12?
In all seriousness, Washington showed flashes of being the next big play threat for the Nittany Lions in his freshman campaign. He hauled in 64 receptions for 820 yards and four touchdowns. Offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich is back for year two and he’ll find ways to get Washington the ball early and often. With Dotson out of the picture Washington could climb, or fall, as he’ll receive a ton more opportunities but also a ton more attention from opposing defenses.
No. 2: Jayden Reed, Michigan State, Senior
If you would have told us Jayden Reed would have more catches than Chris Olave and nearly as many yards as Garrett Wilson in 2021 you would think he’d be the top dog in the conference the following season, but not quite.
Still though, Reed is a playmaker in every sense of the word and will be looking to do big things as the top dog of the Michigan State offense this season. Last year Reed had a clear connection with quarterback Payton Thorne hauling in 59 catches for 1,026 yards and ten touchdowns. With both back, they’ll look to replicate that magic once again.
Reed is simply a player that is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Not only is he a top target, especially in the red zone, but he’s also a threat on special teams. Reed averaged 20 yards per punt return and took two back for a touchdown in 2021. With RB Kenneth Walker III gone Reed will now become the focal point of the offense and will look to put up even bigger numbers in 2022.
No. 1: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State, Junior
This time last year there was a ton of ungodly annoying amount of talk about the Ohio State receiving corps with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave both returning. However, the more annoying part was those two being bashful and saying this other guy Jaxon Smith-Njibga was better than both of them.
At the time it seemed like hype, but they were quickly both proven right as Smith-Njigba hauled in 95 receptions and 1,606 yards, both school records. Now Olave and Wilson are gone which will put more attention on Smith-Njigba, but I am not sure how much that will matter. If you recall, both players sat out the 2021 Rose Bowl and Smith-Njigba still broke records hauling in 15 catches for 347 yards in one of the greatest performances in college football history.
Additionally, Smith-Njigba will have more solid running mates in Marvin Harrison Jr. and two former 5-star wideouts in Julian Fleming and Emeka Egubuka. For now, Smith-Njigba is the top dog but all three of those players could make a push for this list next year as the rich just keep getting richer.