Our preseason position rankings march on as we wrap up the offensive skill positions. Today we take a look at the top individual receivers and tight ends heading into the 2012 season.
In years past, we did not include the tight ends with this list. But with so many question marks and inexperience at receiver in this league right now, it would have been tough to come up with 10 deserving names. So we decided to combine the two positions this time around, as the Big Ten is not lacking for strong tight ends. Remember these rankings are heavily weighed on past performance with consideration given to 2012 potential. (Northwestern's Kyle Prater, who has not been ruled eligible as of this writing, was not considered because of his uncertain situation).
Without further ado ...
1. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin: The no-doubt top pick, as Abbrederis is far and away the league's leading returning receiver (933 yards and eight touchdowns in '11). Yet some questions remain, such as the health of his injured foot and whether he can be a true No. 1 target without Nick Toon on the other side and Russell Wilson throwing the ball.
2. Keenan Davis, Iowa: Expectations are high that Davis will turn in a big senior year after catching 50 passes for 713 yards a year ago. He'll need to develop more consistency to make up for Marvin McNutt's production. Also keep an eye on teammate Kevonte Martin-Manley.
3. Roy Roundtree, Michigan: Roundtree will look to recapture his 2010 form, when he had 72 catches for 935 yards. As Michigan's go-to receiver this year, he'll need to put up big stats.
4. Antavian Edison, Purdue: With his legal troubles erased, Edison can focus on having a banner senior year. He had 584 receiving yards a year ago despite Purdue's rotating quarterback situation. The passing game should be better this year, and Edison will be the top target.
5. Kenny Bell, Nebraska: Bell led the Huskers with 461 receiving yards last year as a freshman, which is even more impressive since Nebraska was not exactly a high-powered passing team. He has the potential to be even better in 2012, especially if Taylor Martinez has improved as a thrower.
6. Justin Brown, Penn State: Brown has been the secondary option to Derek Moye the past couple of seasons and now gets the chance to show that he's a No. 1 receiver. At 6-foot-3 and 209 pounds, he has the right build for the job. Can the Nittany Lions' quarterbacks get him the ball?
7. Kofi Hughes, Indiana: The Hoosiers' passing game was anything but smooth last year, as Damarlo Belcher got kicked off the team and three different quarterbacks started games. Through it all, Hughes emerged as the team's top wideout by hauling in 35 catches for 536 yards. Indiana will look to pass more this year, and Hughes should stand to benefit from it.
8. Jacob Pedersen, Wisconsin: The first tight end to crack this list, and with good reason. Pedersen has 30 catches a year ago and led all Big Ten tight ends with eight touchdown grabs. He's a quarterback's best friend, and we bet Danny O'Brien can't wait to throw Pedersen's way.
9. Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State: While Stoneburner hasn't had the best summer, we fully expect him to be a big weapon for the Buckeyes at tight end this year. That's both because of Urban Meyer's history of using the tight end and the Buckeyes' lack of proven stars at the wideout position. Stoneburner somehow had seven touchdowns out of only 14 receptions last year, but the ball should be coming to him a lot more frequently this season.
10. C.J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa: I wrote last month about Fiedorowicz's potential for a breakthrough campaign. The 6-foot-7, 265-pound tight end came on strong at the end of last season and should be a key cog in Iowa's attack in 2012.