Cramming 10 receivers – wide-outs and tight ends combined – into a 10 best list figured to be perhaps the most difficult feat to accomplish.
There are just way too many good ones.
The tight end has become the hybrid wide receiver with not only the skill-set but the size that sets him apart.
In Arizona, there is no shortage of outstanding receivers. Some could have and probably should have made this list, but I had to stop at 10.
Here is a look at my top 10 receivers for the 2015 football season:
No. 10 Bryce Gilbert, Gilbert Higley, 6-5, 205, Jr.
Expect a breakout season for this tight end/wide receiver who has a 39-inch vertical jump. He runs 40 yards in 4.6 seconds and has a 3.25 grade-point average. He was a beast at Northern Arizona’s 7 on 7 tournament. He has all the tools to make this his launching pad to being a major-college player. Coach Eddy Zubey’s fast-paced, wide-open offense will make sure Gilbert gets as many touches as possible.
No. 9 Christian Skeptaris, Scottsdale Chaparral, 6-3, 230, Sr.
Recently committed to UC Davis, Skeptaris is a fearless tight end who can play out wide. He catches everything. And he’s afraid of nothing. UC Davis got a steal with this guy, because he has Pac-12 skills. Under the radar, Skeptaris will be used as an H-back and tight end, along with getting moved out wide in Chaparral’s dynamic offense this season. He’ll become a favorite target for junior QB Grayson Barry simply because Barry knows his passes won’t have to be pinpoint perfect, that Skeptaris will catch anything in the vicinity. And he will make something happen afterward.
No. 8 Robert Brooks, Brophy Prep, 6-3, 170, Jr.
He is still growing into his frame, which makes him one of the more intriguing prospects in the 2017 class. With Isaiah Oliver off to Colorado, Brooks is ready to become the No. 1 receiver. He showed he can carry the role last season when he turned six of his 13 catches into touchdowns and averaged 24 yards a catch. With quarterback Cade Knox back, Brooks is ready for a huge season. His dad, of the same name, is the former Green Bay Packers wide receiver who made the Lambeau Leap a popular Sunday pastime in the 1990s. His dad wants him to be his own person, not have to feel that he has to follow in his footsteps. But Junior already is showing off his tremendous potential.
No. 7 Kolby Taylor, Chandler, 5-11, 180, Jr.
He could end up being the best of the talented receiving Taylor brothers. Kolby picked up a scholarship offer from Arizona State before his sophomore season. Last season, he was the third receiver in a talented corps, catching 29 passes for 278 yards and three TDs. This year, he’ll have a chance to be one of the go-to guys in a dynamic offense, complementing N’Keal Harry. Taylor is a classic slot receiver with big-play abilities. He also has the bloodlines. His uncle John Taylor was a top wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers. He has offers from Oregon State, Louisville, Nevada and New Mexico State to go with ASU.
No. 6 Julian Carter, Saguaro, 6-3, 190, Sr.
He showed signs last season at Horizon that he was a special playmaker with his ability to extend plays after catches. Some believe he might be a bigger version of Byron Murphy. He’ll have a chance to show what he can do with talented quarterback Kare’ Lyles back for the Sabercats and teams not being able to key on Murphy, because of Carter and others. He has reliable hands and a couple of gears that make you go, “Wow.” Boise State was impressed enough in the spring to offer a scholarship. He has since committed there.
No. 5 Jacob Brown, Paradise Valley, 6-0, 185, Sr.
He put on a clinic in the fourth game of his junior season when he caught eight passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns against Division I playoff team Phoenix Horizon. Horizon won the 49-45 thriller, but Brown was the star of the game. From there, he just took off showing an array of moves and speed gears as he finished with 54 catches for 1,163 yards and 19 touchdowns on a team that won 10 games and reached the Division II quarterfinals. Watch for an even faster receiver to appear this season with QB Daniel Bridge-Gadd still throwing to him.
No. 4 Tyler Johnson, Gilbert Highland, 6-4, 245, Jr.
This hybrid tight end makes all of the catches, no matter where he is placed on offense. He is a tremendous blocker at tight end who will catch passes with defenders hanging on him over the middle. Downfield, he is a big-play threat with another gear that makes him look like a man-child on the field. Hard to believe he has two more high school seasons left. He already has taken off in major college recruiters’ minds and will only get better because of his great work ethic. He never stops working.
No. 3 John Okwoli, Phoenix North Canyon, 6-2, 190, Sr.
Remarkable balance and moves, Okwoli took off as a junior when he caught 86 passes for 1,408 yards and 10 touchdowns. His team didn’t win, but every opposing team left the field remembering Okwoli, who left an indelible imprint. Expect more of the same as North Canyon drops from Division I to III this football season. Okwoli has double-digit college offers with several major colleges waiting to see how much better he has gotten. A track injury slowed him in the spring, but he is healed up and ready to deliver the biggest year yet.
No. 2 Byron Murphy, Scottsdale Saguaro, 6-0, 170, Sr.
Murphy has frequented a couple of lists already, as the No.1 dynamo and in the Top 10 Dynamic Duos list. He is among the nation’s more coveted cornerbacks, but every major college that has offered could flip him to offense and he’d have the same amazing impact. He simply makes plays, no matter where you put him. And with Christian Kirk off to Texas A&M, Murphy is poised to become the go-to guy on Saguaro’s offense. He was quite a bit last season when he made azcentral sports’ All-Arizona team at wide receiver after catching 61 passes for 1,187 yards and 17 touchdowns, helping the Sabercats go 14-0 and win the Division III championship.
No. 1 N’Keal Harry, Chandler, 6-4, 210, Sr.
Big, physical, athletic, Harry has taken off since his sophomore year, when he stood out on the field at Tempe Marcos de Niza. Last year, at Chandler, he turned nearly half of his 30 catches into touchdowns (13), helping the Wolves capture the Division I championship. He is a matchup problem for any team because of his ability to make plays after catches. He has great stretch on the field, making difficult, acrobatic catches. Harry is among the state’s more coveted 2016 prospects.