11 of the top 12 FCS teams in team passing efficiency played in the 2021 postseason — yes, Dartmouth is included — showing the importance of an elite passing attack. Many of the said teams had standout wide receivers on the outside, increasing the passing offense's success.
But what FCS wide receivers in 2022 will be next to impact their team's success? It starts with the returning wide receivers.
The key word is returning. That means no incoming freshmen and no transfers, regardless of if they played at an FCS school the prior year.
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That said, let's break down the best of the best.
Top-5 returning FCS wide receivers
Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim | Alabama A&M
In 2021, Alabama A&M's Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim was one of the best HBCU and FCS wide receivers in the country. He led the nation's fourth-best passing offense with 1,008 in receiving yards, standing out among a quartet of 300-plus yard pass catchers.
In 2022, Ibrahim returns as the Bulldogs' only wide receiver with more than 20 catches last year, meaning he will be 'the guy' in their offense. With a dynamic offensive coordinator like Duane Taylor calling the plays, expect Ibrahim's success to continue.
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Xavier Gipson | Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin's Xavier Gipson was arguably the FCS's best wide receiver in 2021 after leading the sub-division with 1,377 receiving yards while hauling in 14 touchdowns on 75 catches.
Yet, last year was no anomaly for Gipson. He has 3,142 receiving yards in his career — the most of any returning wide receiver — and 30 career touchdown catches.
Gipson is a big-time player, despite what his 5-9' frame might lead you to believe, and he should be near the top of every receiving stat again in 2022.
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Jaxon Janke | South Dakota State
South Dakota State's Jaxon Janke had the best season of his career in 2021, turning in six 100-yard receiving games en route to 1,176 receiving yards during the season, the seventh-most in the FCS. Janke also set career highs with 72 catches and 16.2 yards per catch.
Janke returns in 2022 as a key part of a Jackrabbit offense loaded with weapons. That means it will be hard for teams to double the big-bodied 6-3' target out wide, giving Janke more opportunities for big plays.
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Avante Cox | Southern Illinois
After an injury-plagued fall 2021 season, Southern Illinois wide receiver Avante Cox might be flying under the radar — in comparison to 2021's offseason — entering 2022. However, Cox remains one of the FCS's best out wide.
Even though Cox missed three games in the fall, he still finished with an average of 73.9 receiving yards per game, highlighted by a 99-yard touchdown catch on the first offensive play of Southern Illinois' season. That came after a spring 2021 season where he was a consensus First-Team All-American.
With a full year of health, Cox should return to the top of the FCS wide receiver ranks.
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Taylor Grimes | Incarnate Word
In his first year at Incarnate Word, Taylor Grimes dominated the competition. He finished with the most receiving touchdowns (15), third-most catches (87) and eighth-most receiving yards (1,145) in the FCS in 2021.
Grimes had more than 100 yards in six games and scored at least three touchdowns in three games. Against Nicholls, Grimes had an eye-popping stat line of nine catches for 182 yards and four touchdowns. Grimes also made big-time plays in big-time moments, scoring four touchdowns in two playoff games.
Again, this was Grimes' first year at UIW. Entering year two, Grimes is an elite FCS wide receiver.
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The next 5
Here are the returning FCS wide receivers who just missed the cut.
- Jah'Marae Sheread | Florida A&M
- Jadakis Bonds | Hampton
- Jacari Carter | Merrimack
- Shaq Davis | South Carolina State
- CJ Turner | Southeastern Louisiana