Best of the Big Ten: Receivers and Tight Ends

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02: Kick returner Jared Abbrederis #4 of the Wisconsin Badgers returns a kick for 60-yards against Troy Hill#2 of the Oregon Ducks in the third quarter at the 98th Rose Bowl Game on January 2, 2012 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Positional Breakdown
* Defensive Line
* Linebackers
* Secondary
* Receivers
* Running Backs
* Quarterbacks

With the departing talent at wide receiver, it's not surprising that this year's corps looks rather unimpressive. Several teams lost their number one receivers: Minnesota's Da'Jon McKnight, Iowa's Marvin McNutt, Wisconsin's Nick Toon, Northwestern's Jeremy Ebert, Illinois's AJ Jenkins, Michigan State's BJ Cunningham (and Keshawn Martin, who was probably the best slot-receiver type guy in the Big Ten last year), Michigan's Junior Hemingway, Ohio State's DeVier Posey and Penn State's Derek Moye have all graduated and are gone to the NFL, leaving behind a cast of underwhelming receivers behind. It's not surprising that there aren't many proven stars after graduating such a banner crop of players last year, but there's plenty of potential for those who can step up and become the Big Ten's best receivers.

10.) DeAnthony Arnett -- WR, Michigan State

DeAnthony Arnett -- originally from Saginaw -- managed to make his way onto the field as a true freshman at Tennessee last year: Arnett managed to catch 12 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns despite playing with a group of other star receivers (including Da'Rick Rogers and Justin Hunter, who went down with injury). Arnett is transferring closer to home to be near his father, who is suffering from health issues, and is eligible to play right away. Michigan State loses its top three receivers, so Arnett, Bennie Fowler, Toney Lippett, and freshman Aaron Burbridge will get plenty of opportunity right away.

9.) CJ Fiedorowicz -- TE, Iowa

Fiedorowicz played in all 13 games as a freshman, caught three touchdowns last year as a sophomore, and now that he's locked down the starting spot, he could cement himself as one of the best tight ends in the Big Ten. He has an impressive frame at 6'7" and 265 lbs, and has tons of potential. Iowa has put out some very good tight ends under Kirk Ferentz, so it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see Fiedorowicz emerge as a big-play threat in Iowa's pro-style scheme with James Vandenberg at the helm.

8.) Kyle Prater -- WR, Northwestern

Another transfer, this one comes with a bit more hype; Prater, a former five star receiver out of Chicago, was buried on USC's depth chart, so he's transferring back home. He's the most highly-rated recruit ever to suit up for Northwestern, and should fill in as the number one receiver right away. Prater didn't see much action at USC -- he redshirted as a freshman and only caught one pass last year -- but that's probably more due to the Trojans' depth at the position than to Prater's ability. It's hard to project what he'll do right away because he's a relative unknown, but he has the potential to be the best receiver in the conference.

7.) Jacob Pedersen -- TE, Wisconsin

Last year, Wisconsin's offense was incredible -- Russell Wilson threw for 33 touchdowns, Montee Ball rushed for 33 more, and the Badgers put up 43 points per game in Big Ten play. Jacob Pedersen didn't steal any headlines, but his contributions were still significant; the Badger tight end caught 30 passes for eight touchdowns as one of Wilson's favorite red zone targets. The Badger offense simply can't keep up their torrid pace from 2011, and their quarterback situation looks much more unsettled than it was a year ago, but Pedersen should still put up good numbers as a reliable target over the middle.

6.) Roy Roundtree -- WR, Michigan

If Roundtree's production from two years ago was the primary criteria for his ranking, he'd easily be first -- Roundtree consistently found himself wide open, caught 72 passes for 935 yards and seven touchdowns, and became Denard Robinson's favorite target. As it is now,after a disappointing junior season, Roundtree is looking to become the same type of threat that he was as a sophomore in Rich Rodriguez's wide-open offense. He's now Michigan's number one receiver after the departures of Darryl Stonum and Junior Hemingway, so he'll have the opportunity to put up big numbers again.

5.) Kenny Bell -- WR, Nebraska

Last year, Kenny Bell led the Huskers with 461 yards and three touchdowns as a redshirt freshman. Despite receiving passes from Taylor Martinez, Bell put up very solid numbers for a freshman, and could do even better this year. A lot of that hinges on Martinez, of course, but Bell is still an interesting player: he doesn't have ideal size, but he's lightning quick so he can make something out of shorter pass plays. Bell's ceiling is somewhat limited because of Nebraska's passing woes and unless there's marked improvement from Martinez, his numbers likely won't get that much better.

4.) Kofi Hughes, WR -- Indiana

Damarlo Belcher entered 2011 as Indiana's top receiver, but was eventually kicked off of the team during the season. Indiana's passing game (and pretty much everything else) suffered last year, and the Hoosier's pass-heavy attack from the Bill Lynch era pretty much ceased to exist. Despite Indiana's lack of success last year, Kofi Hughes had a pretty decent season -- 536 yards and three touchdowns -- even with a very unsettled quarterback season. A jump is expected in year two under Kevin Wilson, and Hughes should benefit from a quarterback who's locked down a starting spot (Tre Roberson) and have a better season this year.

3.) Jake Stoneburner, TE -- Ohio State

Based on last year's production, there's no way that Stoneburner should be this highly ranked -- he only caught 14 passes (but did have seven receiving touchdowns) as the Buckeyes' passing game was, delicately put, horrible. With Urban Meyer at the helm and Braxton Miller entering his second year as a starter, this time in a scheme that suits his skill-set, a big improvement should be expected for Stoneburner -- he's a big, strong target who's agile enough to get open against linebackers and safeties. Meyer loved using his tight ends at Florida and Ohio State doesn't have much proven talent at receiver, so Stoneburner could become Miller's number one target this year and should be the best tight end in the Big Ten.

2.) Keenan Davis, WR -- Iowa

Iowa has had an impressive sequence of number one receivers in recent years; Derrell Johnson-Koulianos set the all-time receiving yardage record for the Hawkeyes in 2010 and the rceord was broken by Marvin McNutt -- the best receiver in the Big Ten last year -- in 2011. In steps Keenan Davis, who quietly had 713 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns last year. He'll be the top target for James Vandenberg this year, and if recent history holds true, he'll mature into one of the best receivers in the conference as an upperclassman. Davis can't put up the same career numbers as DJK or McNutt did, of course, but he could still have a very solid senior year.

1.) Jared Abbrederis, WR -- Wisconsin

Abbrederis checks in as the Big Ten's top returning receiver after arguably being the second-best receiver on his own team last year. With Nick Toon gone, Abbrederis should see a much increased role in the Wisconsin offense, although matching his impressive numbers from a year ago -- 933 yards and eight touchdowns -- might be pretty difficult. Wisconsin has so many weapons on offense, but it really comes down to the quarterback position: if Danny O'Brien or someone else can step up and fill Wilson's shoes adequately enough, Abbrederis will probably benefit the most as Wisconsin's top receiver. He also returns kicks and punts, and had one return touchdown (against Indiana).

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