Sports in Kansas has compiled its list of 25 Wide Receivers to Watch for the upcoming 2017 season. List is alphabetical by last name (unless a combo pick), it is not ranked and is not a recruiting list. Our intention is also to try to cover every classification and every part of the state to make it a true overall list to watch in the state to represent every classification. Every year Chet Kuplen and Ben Mitchum compile lists to project who the states top players will be at the beginning of the season which is based on last years performance/stats, input from coaches/media, and recruiting/video highlights. Special thanks to Rack Performance for powering this list.
Keenan Baird, Silver Lake, 6-2 185 Sr. & Wyatt Heiman, Silver Lake, 6-1 160 Jr.
The two combined for over 1,100 yards a season ago for the 3A power Eagles. It has been since 2013 that Silver Lake has been to the title game as neighbor Rossville has won the last three. Mason Griffin figures to step into the quarterback position, is very athletic being an all-state basketball player, has a nice arm and 6-foot-2 frame. Baird and Heiman should help the transition as primary targets to step up for big years. Baird is also one of the top returning defensive backs in 3A this season.
Billy Bartlett, BV Southwest, 6-0 165 Jr.
Bartlett was one of the top sophomores in the EKL a season ago earning all-league honorable mention in the senior loaded league that is the best in Kansas. Returning QB Will Eldridge is also back for his junior campaign with Bartlett that should be one of the top combos in the EKL for the next two seasons.
Alex Barton, Central Plains, 6-3 180 Sr.
Barton is a big playmaker out at the receiver position for the Oilers who look to be the team to beat in 8M-I this season after all that they return. He had 815 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall as a junior. He also doubles as one of the top defenders in the 8-man ranks with eight interceptions last year.
Andrew Brautman, Ark City, 6-2 180 Sr.
Ark City has struggled recently but Brautman was a big playmaker on their offense one year ago. He had 33 catches for 658 yards but gone is the starting QB from last year in Brock Dowler. He should figure into being one of the top receivers in the Wichita area after a breakout junior campaign. Brautman can go up and get the jump ball with his 32-inch vertical.
Tate Busse, St. Francis, 6-2 175 Sr.
Busse is one of the top small school multiple sport athletes that is an all state caliber DB/WR, all-state basketball player and state champion track and field athlete. He had 588 yards receiving for last years 8M-I runner-up as a WR.
Billy Conaway, SM North, 6-0 200 Jr. & Noah Laird, SM North, 6-0 180 Jr.
Conaway was a second team All-Sunflower League pick in 2016 after a breakout sophomore campaign while Laird earned honorable mention honors as a sophomore. The two combined for over 1,700 yards a season ago but gone is four-year starting QB Will Schneider who is the all-time leading passer in Kansas history.
Tristan Davis, Aquinas, 6-0 180 Sr.
Davis isn’t nessesarily receiver or running back but is the slotback in the flexbone offense of Aquinas and expects to get rushing yards and receiving yards from his position. He had over 400 yards receiving last fall and earned second team All-EKL at wide receiver. He also rushed for 448 yards for the Saints. Having perhaps the best hands on the team we expect him to be a threat carrying and catching the football for STA in 2017.
Derby loses some horses from last year but Michael Littleton, who made our 25 TE list as he is a hybrid WR/TE type, is back for a big year in 2017. Also add in Jack Taylor and transfer Tyler Brown an all-state basketball player from Valley Center who had 377 yards receiving for the Hornets last season. Derby is new in a lot of places but you can’t have a 25 WR list and not have the Panthers represented because we know they will produce.
Mason Dunsmore, St. James Academy, 6-3 190 Sr.
We expect Dunsmore to be a big-time player in the EKL this season after missing all of last year with injury. He has the size and speed (4.55-4.65 40 range) to be a playmaker for the Thunder in 2017. As a sophomore in 2015 he had over 500 yards receiving. Older brother Drake, who played in high school at Aquinas, went on to be the starting tight end at Northwestern and was drafted in the 7th round by the Buccaneers in the 2012 NFL Draft. Their father, Pat, played at Drake University and for the Chicago Bears from 1983-1985.
Hayden Goodpaster, SM Northwest, 6-4 185 Sr.
Goodpaster enjoyed a breakout junior campaign earning all-league honorable mention. Spencer Stewart returns at quarterback and Goodpaster should be his main target. He has a big body and can run with 4.5 range 40 speed. He also got it done on the track finishing second in the 6A 400 meter dash at 49.0 seconds and finishing all-state in the 200 meters, including a 22.13 time in the prelims.
Anthony Gould, Leavenworth, 5-9 170 Jr.
Gould may be the fastest guy on this list and was a second team All-Sunflower pick a season ago. Gould has 10.6 FAT speed in the 100 meter dash and was second in the event as a sophomore last spring in 5A. He had 750 receiving yards last fall and could also be used out of the backfield or a return man.
Deshawn Hanika, Hayden, 6-5 205 Sr.
Hanika also on the TE to Watch list because we feel he could project at that in college however he will split out wide for Hayden and could be one of the top big targets in 4A-II this season. He is also a very good basketball player for Hayden who will be a serious contender in basketball as well in 2017-2018.
Brayden Francis, Sedgwick, 5-10 155 Jr.
Francis was one of the top small school receivers in Kansas last season with a breakout campaign as a junior earning first team 2-1A honors. He had 47 catches for 808 yards with 15 touchdowns. Many think Sedgwick could emerge as one of the teams to watch on the 2-1A west bracket with the return of the Hooper Schroeder/Francis connection on offense. Also figure in all-state defensive back Neal Bever to catch some balls as well as Kale Schroeder, a sophomore, who had over 300 yards receiving as a freshman last fall.
Ekow Boye-Dowe, Lawrence, 6-1 170 Sr., Jalen Dudley, Lawrence, 6-2 185 Sr, Dante Jackson, Lawrence, 5-7 155 Sr.
Lawrence is loaded at the position and some players like Dante Jackson, who will more than likely be a college receiver, will be the Chesty Lions QB once again in 2017. Boye-Dowe is an emerging FBS prospect landing some big offers over the summer that has 4.3-4.4 speed and is also a very good defensive back. Dudley is also a big-time playmaker at receiver with 4.5 speed in the 40. Jackson, who features a 43-inch vertical and has 4.4-4.5 speed, is also one of the better return men in the state & gets on this list because he is a WR playing QB. Clarence King, one of the rising 6A players in the state for basketball would have made this list after earning second team Sunflower honors in 2016, but broke a knee-cap in AAU basketball and is out for the year.
Garrett Hall, Galena, 6-3 185 Sr.
Hall was the primary target for P.J. Sarwinski the last couple of seasons and the passing game may change this year with a new quarterback in J.C. Shelton but still expect Hall to be a big key for the Bulldogs success in 3A. Hall is a big-time playmaker at the position with nice hands, very athletic and a nice big frame. He is also an All 3A caliber basketball player for the Bulldogs. Hall was a 3A honorable mention pick last season at receiver.
Tanner King, Eisenhower, 6-2 185 Sr.
Last season he had 497 yards and eight touchdowns for Ike. King was a first team All AVTCL-II pick at wide receiver. He also has great size and is an effective blocker for the Tigers.
Labette County Trio
The Grizzlies made the playoffs for the first time in 7 years last year and it was in part to three receivers having breakout years. It was hard to put one on and keep the other two off as all produced. We know the Grizzlies are going to produce stats through the air with head coach Sean Price and that’s why they get a group pick in the 25 to Watch. Tanner Russell was fourth in the entire state in receiving for juniors last fall with 53 catches for 773 yards. Owyn Back was fifth in the state right behind him with 42 catches for 744 yards. Kale Irwin was also big as a sophomore in catching 32 balls for 382 yards. Irwin also cleans nearly 300 pounds and is one of the strongest receivers in this group. In steps 6-foot-7 quarterback, Easton Dean, a junior, who is primed to find receivers all night as the Grizzlies signal caller. Labette is not known for football with only two playoff wins in its history and not one since 2000, they will look to change that this season.
Miege loses two 1,000-yard receivers, both of whom moved on to college programs in three-time all-state selection Jafar Armstrong to Notre Dame and Landry Weber, who walked on to KSU. There is still plenty of athletes at Miege to go around for Carter Putz to throw to, it’s just a matter of who will emerge. Daniel Jackson a sophomore could emerge as the all-state caliber of guy this year for the Stags. The sophomore is 6’0”, 180-pounds, and has 4.5-4.6 range in the 40 with a 36-inch vertical. Running back Brison Cobbins also has the ability to catch the football as does Dylan Downing, Jasir Cox, Cameron Key, Cameron Clark, and Tavon Tusa. Do keep in mind two years ago at this time nobody had any idea who Carter Putz was in football and now he could shatter every single passing record in the state with another big season.
Jaxson Reynolds, Wichita Northwest, 6-0 170 Sr.
Reynolds caught 42 passes for 715 yards last season from Austin Anderson who returns as a senior as well. He had five touchdown catches in 2016. Reynolds should be one of the top targets again in Wichita this fall. There's no question Northwest knows how to produce on offense and they will look to Reynolds through the air.
Evan Rice, Mill Valley, 5-10 175 Sr. & Logan Talley, Mill Valley, 5-11 170 Jr.
Rice and Talley combined for over 1,200 yards receiving last year as a junior and sophomore for the 5A state champion Jaguars. It was a breakout year for both who had a first year starting QB in Brody Flaming. Flaming is back with his two favorite targets and all-state RB candidate Cameron Young.
Jordan Schippers, Colby, 6-1 185 Jr.
Schippers does it all for the Eagles as he caught 41 passes for 784 yards last season. Whether he is playing running back, where he had 900 plus yards rushing and 16 td last fall, or catching the ball out of the backfield and split out, Schippers is a threat to score. He had 27 combined touchdowns for Colby this fall and also made the RB list. We feel like Schippers has the chance to be one of the best in Western Kansas this fall as a junior.
Dalton Smyres, Buhler, 6-5 205 Sr.
The more and more we do these lists we realize all the talent Buhler has coming back, that’s why they get ranked in our Top 10 teams of all-classes to begin the year. Smyres was a big reason for that as he had 850 receiving yards with 11 touchdowns for last year’s 4A-I runner-up. AVTCL-III league is loaded in 2017 so Buhler will be tested for another deep run.
Jace Sprague, Gardner Edgerton, 6-0 175 Sr.
Sprague had 852 yards on 52 catches a season ago for the Trailblazers in 6A against a very, very good EKL schedule. This is the last year for Gardner in the EKL until they transition into the Sunflower League, but several pieces are back to see an improvement from 2016.
Cole Strickler, Pike Valley, 5-11 190 Sr.
Strickler is one of the best athletes in the state and can play a variety of positions. He can play fullback, tailback, receiver, tight end and about every position on the defense. He shined when he caught the ball last year with 31 catches for 690 yards for 13 touchdowns. Strickler has 4.5 speed in the 40, 22.5 FAT 200M speed and will double with Lane Peters to be two of the best players in 8M-II this season. PV also returns quarterback Devante Hammer.
Dexton Swinehart, Lyndon, 5-10 170 Sr.
Swinheart has made three different 25 lists this year because he can do everything for his Lyndon Tiger squad. He lists himself as a receiver even though he rushed for over 1,000 yards last year, but still managed to pick up 658 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. He can do it all on both sides of the ball.
Others to Watch:
Vence Allen - BV North, Nigel Roberts - BV North, Carter Blackburn - Holcomb, Chance Rodriguez - Holcomb, Thomas Helten – Carroll, Parer Bruce – Andale, Ben Smith – Andover, Trent Scheer – Cheney, Bradyn Wiens – Maize South, David Cramer – Dighton, Devon Anderson – Douglass, Blake Brown – Blue Valley, Jeff Reed – McPherson, Dylan Brown – Buhler, Jacob Adams – Smoky Valley, Trae Rathgeber – South Barber, Jalen Smith – Wichita Northwest, Tyjuan Lewis – Olathe East, Luke Haverkamp – Nemaha Central, JC Watson – Basehor Linwood, Braedon Breckenridge – Washburn Rural, Preston Williams – Washburn Rural, Kale Smith – Columbus, Jeremiah Buche – Colgan, Javier Gomez – Elkhart, Jaden Hielscher – Lyndon, Hunter Reed – Oskaloosa, Austin Adams – Anderson Co., Brett Hermann – LaCrosse, Brock West – Maranatha, Peyton Duvall – Ellinwood, Kale Shroeder – Sedgwick, Tee Preisner – Northern Heights, Joseph Eck – Ellis, Brett Meyer – Smith Center, Riley Allen – Logan Palco, Corbett Kimberlin – Chanute, Keenan Garber – Free State, Peyton Harvey – Little River, Quinton Pfaff – Chaparral, Colton Noonan – Burlingame, Dalton Morehead – South Central, Ty Blair – Satanta, Peyton Baldwin – Lebo, Seth Johnson – Wallace County, Michael Swanson – Axtell, Chris Ellis – Topeka West, Tyce Brown – Shawnee Heights, Andrew Woods – Hiawatha, Larmon Witt – KC Washington, Zac Morgan – Tonganoxie, Trace Lenners – Sacred Heart, Brayden Summers – Jeff County North, Colton Kocour – Maur Hill, Harrison Blaske – Valley Heights, Luke Blevins – Doniphan West, Jack Morrisey – Aquinas, Drew Roelfs – Pittsburg, Peyton Johnson – Lakeside, Nathan Ewing – Spring Hill, Elliott Mehrens – Topeka West, Corey Erickson – Kiowa Co., Braden Slamp – Hugoton, Caden Williams – Trinity, Davion Scott – Turner, Ty Garrett - Salina South, Dylan Wood – Canton Galva, Kedric Liggins – Salina Central, Phillip Landrum - Wichita South, McKenzie Cromwell - Republic Co., J.J. Allen – Bennington, Reese Nebel – Hesston, Andrew Ative – Leavenworth, Jacob Burdine – Solomon, Brennan Zabokrtsky – Hanover, Dylan Jordan - Pittsburg, Gunnar Brown – Fort Scott, Kreed Parr – Macksville, Kyler Vance – Wetmore