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Next Up: Comparing WR recruits to college and NFL stars

Carnell Tate
Carnell Tate (Nick Lucero/

Comparisons are always part of recruiting coverage, so over the next two weeks in our Next Up series we take a look, position-by-position, on who could be one of the next superstars in college football by comparing them to a current college or NFL player. We move on to wide receivers.

THIS SERIES: Comparing QB recruits to college and NFL stars | RBs

WR RANKINGS: 2023 | 2024


CLASS OF 2023 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State

CLASS OF 2024 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State

CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals100

TRANSFER PORTAL: Stories/coverage | Message board


Carnell Tate is the next Justin Jefferson  


One of the big differences between Tate and Jefferson is their recruitments could not have taken different paths. Tate had all the offers in the world, with it basically coming down to Ohio State and Tennessee. While he picked the Buckeyes, the Vols are still after the five-star receiver. Jefferson had academic issues and was a very late add to LSU’s recruiting class.

As for their playing styles, they’re very similar. They’re very smooth, effortless receivers with great hands who can high-point the football, run by players or make things happen in the short game and then make tacklers miss. Jefferson has proven to be one of the best young receivers in the NFL, and Tate is well on his way if he continues down the same path.



Brandon Inniss is the next Emeka Egbuka  

Inniss is a little thicker at the same stage, but this comparison works because Egbuka, also a former five-star, is playing really well at Ohio State and Inniss is also headed there next season to continue an esteemed receiver tradition.

What stands out about both Inniss and Egbuka is that neither looked freakishly fast at the high school level but both got open against anybody, all the time, and then caught everything thrown their way. Miami and others are trying to flip Inniss from Ohio State, but he could be the next big thing in Columbus.



Zachariah Branch is the next Tyreek Hill/Marquise Brown mix  

Right now, Branch reminds you more of Hollywood Brown, but in three or four years after starring at USC he could physically look more like Hill or a mix of the two receivers.

Either way, the five-star receiver from Las Vegas Bishop Gorman is a highlight reel waiting to happen – and he looks like he could take every reception to the end zone. Branch is fast, impossible to cover in one-on-one situations and exciting to watch with the ball in his hands. His family also spends a lot of time in the weight room, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see him add 10 to 15 pounds over the next couple years while keeping that same dynamic ability.



Micah Hudson is the next Garrett Wilson  

This one is almost too good to be true as Hudson and Wilson are almost identical at the same stage, have nearly the exact same height and weight and play the receiver position so similarly. Both are also stat machines. That’s one reason Ohio State had so much success with Wilson and has now targeted Hudson in the 2024 class.

The Buckeyes are one team to watch in Hudson’s recruitment, but so is Texas A&M (and many other regional programs) as the Temple (Texas) Lake Belton standout has totaled 52 catches for 1,038 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Both Wilson and Hudson are smooth and dynamic, and they can get open against any cornerback and have great hands. The similarities are sort of endless.


Jeremiah Smith is the next CeeDee Lamb

Smith is the No. 1 receiver in the 2024 class, and looking back Lamb could have made an argument – along with DeVonta Smith – as the top-rated player in that 2017 group. The two are very similar in size and playing style, and I’d argue Smith has even better hands than Lamb.

On a 7on7 team this offseason with 2023 five-stars Carnell Tate, Brandon Inniss and Hykeem Williams and 2024 Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade Madonna five-star teammate Joshisa Trader, Smith was arguably the best of the bunch. He at the very least held his own in every tournament. He’s long and rangy and can run, separate down the field and make plays. Just like Lamb at the same stage.