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Duke Williams and the Biletnikoff: An Explanation

After some searching, I believe I know why Duke Williams was not on the list.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

It was shocking at first. Sort of stupefying, really. Duke Williams didn't make the Pre-Season Watch List for the nation's top pass catcher?

I'm pretty sure I've figured out the exact method for choosing the list and why Duke isn't on it. I don't necessarily agree with the method, but I applaud that they chose a specific plan for constructing the list and then stuck strictly to it.

Duke Williams' 2014 stats were not anything to garnish high praise at first glance. He ranks way down the list for yards per reception. He wasn't anything special in scoring with only five touchdowns. His total receiving yards weren't very great, either. He also missed two complete games and most of a third, which limited his stats.

I spent a good deal of time going through the stats on (my go-to stats site, which I highly recommend) to examine just where Duke fit in among the other receivers in college football. We all know he wasn't that great on the number lines, but he was amazing as a clutch possession receiver and for making spectacular catches.

So Duke didn't excel in his stats last season. Who cares? He catches almost anything thrown his direction. said that he and Pitt's Tyler Boyd are the top wide receivers NFL fans should watch in College Football for 2015. Interestingly enough, Tyler Boyd also did not make the Biletnikoff Watch List even though he was the 11th ranked wide receiver in terms of total receiving yards last season.

If Boyd, who finished 11th in total receiving yards wasn't on the Biletnikoff Watch List, then how are they chosen?

Well first a quick Google search gives a good reason for Boyd's lack of consideration. Boyd was arrested and formally charged with DUI last month and his status for Pitt's opening games of 2015 is in question. That could be a good reason for him not making the list, since being declared ineligible at certain times by the school is grounds for removal from consideration for the award.

I mentioned that Boyd was 11th in total receiving yards for 2014. What is very intriguing is that he is the only player among the returning top 48 pass catchers for 2015 in 2014 total receiving yards to not be on the Biletnikoff Watch List. There is one other player who did not graduate or leave early for the NFL who finished in the Top 48 of 2014's returning pass catchers by total yards. However, that is Illinois' Mike Dudek, who is isn't exactly "returning" for 2015. He will miss much, if not all, of the 2015 season with an ACL tear.

The Numbers

From what I've been able to determine, the Top 48 returning pass catchers (there's a running back in there, too) in terms of total receiving yards for 2014 make up the Biletnikoff Watch List minus the two players whose status for 2015 is uncertain. I'm not absolutely positive this is the method that was used, but it sure does line up very nicely.

Here's a handy little chart for you of the top 100 players in total receiving yards from 2014 so you can see for yourself. I have annotated their status to make it simple to see how I drew the above conclusion on the method for picking the watch list.

2014 Rank Name Yards Status
1 Rashard Higgins, WR 1750 Biletnikoff List 1
2 Amari Cooper, WR 1727 Graduated/Left for NFL
3 Tyler Lockett, WR 1515 Graduated/Left for NFL
4 Justin Hardy, WR 1494 Graduated/Left for NFL
5 Vince Mayle, WR 1483 Graduated/Left for NFL
6 Kevin White, WR 1447 Graduated/Left for NFL
7 Corey Davis, WR 1408 Biletnikoff List 2
8 Rashad Greene, WR 1365 Graduated/Left for NFL
9 Nelson Agholor, WR 1313 Graduated/Left for NFL
10 Tajae Sharpe, WR 1281 Biletnikoff List 3
11 Tyler Boyd, WR 1261 DUI, Status/punishment Unknown
12 Keevan Lucas, WR 1219 Biletnikoff List 4
13 Tony Lippett, WR 1198 Graduated/Left for NFL
Nelson Spruce, WR 1198 Biletnikoff List 5
15 Jaelen Strong, WR 1165 Graduated/Left for NFL
16 Joshua McCain, WR 1162 Graduated/Left for NFL
17 Tommy Shuler, WR 1138 Graduated/Left for NFL
18 Pharoh Cooper, WR 1136 Biletnikoff List 6
19 Corey Coleman, RB 1119 Biletnikoff List 7
20 Josh Harper, WR 1097 Graduated/Left for NFL
21 William Fuller, WR 1094 Biletnikoff List 8
22 Roger Lewis, WR 1093 Biletnikoff List 9
23 Leonte Carroo, WR 1086 Biletnikoff List 10
24 Da'Ron Brown, WR 1065 Graduated/Left for NFL
25 Curry Sexton, WR 1059 Graduated/Left for NFL
26 John Harris, WR 1051 Graduated/Left for NFL
27 Jamison Crowder, WR 1044 Graduated/Left for NFL
Breshad Perriman, WR 1044 Graduated/Left for NFL
29 Mike Dudek, WR 1038 ACL Injury, will miss significant time
30 Mike Williams, WR 1030 Biletnikoff List 11
KD Cannon, WR 1030 Biletnikoff List 12
32 Antonio Vaughan, WR 1019 Graduated/Left for NFL
Cayleb Jones, WR 1019 Biletnikoff List 13
34 Josh Doctson, WR 1018 Biletnikoff List 14
35 Cam Worthy, WR 1016 Graduated/Left for NFL
36 Bud Sasser, WR 1003 Graduated/Left for NFL
Byron Marshall, RB 1003 Biletnikoff List 15
38 Daniel Braverman, WR 997 Biletnikoff List 16
39 Titus Davis, WR 980 Graduated/Left for NFL
Devonte Boyd, WR 980 Biletnikoff List 17
41 Isiah Myers, WR 972 Graduated/Left for NFL
42 Sterling Shepard, WR 970 Biletnikoff List 18
43 Artavis Scott, WR 965 Biletnikoff List 19
44 Jordan Payton, WR 954 Biletnikoff List 20
45 David Frazier, WR 949 Graduated/Left for NFL
46 Mario Alford, WR 945 Graduated/Left for NFL
47 Hunter Sharp, WR 939 Biletnikoff List 21
48 Jakeem Grant, WR 938 Biletnikoff List 22
49 Devin Smith, WR 931 Graduated/Left for NFL
50 Mitch Mathews, WR 922 Biletnikoff List 23
51 Teldrick Morgan, WR 903 Biletnikoff List 24
52 DaeSean Hamilton, WR 899 Biletnikoff List 25
53 Donovan Harden, WR 885 Biletnikoff List 26
54 Thomas Sperbeck, WR 877 Biletnikoff List 27
55 Rashon Ceaser, WR 872 Biletnikoff List 28
56 Phillip Dorsett, WR 871 Graduated/Left for NFL
57 Carlos Harris, WR 869 Biletnikoff List 29
58 Kenzee Jackson, WR 866 Graduated/Left for NFL
59 Ajalen Holley, WR 863 Biletnikoff List 30
60 DeVante Parker, WR 855 Graduated/Left for NFL
61 Corey Jones, WR 851 Biletnikoff List 31
62 Jordan Taylor, WR 842 Graduated/Left for NFL
Josh Reynolds, WR 842 Biletnikoff List 32
64 Deontay Greenberry, WR 841 Graduated/Left for NFL
65 Trent Taylor, WR 834 Biletnikoff List 33
66 Antwan Goodley, WR 830 Graduated/Left for NFL
Isaiah Jones, WR 830 Biletnikoff List 34
68 Jared Dangerfield, WR 825 Biletnikoff List 35
69 Bradley Marquez, WR 821 Graduated/Left for NFL
70 Demarcus Robinson, WR 810 Biletnikoff List 36
71 Jalen Robinette, WR 806 Biletnikoff List 37
72 Michael Thomas, WR 799 Biletnikoff List 38
73 Victor Bolden, WR 798 Biletnikoff List 39
74 Marcus Kemp, WR 797 Biletnikoff List 40
75 Stefon Diggs, WR 792 Graduated/Left for NFL
76 Kenny Bell, WR 788 Graduated/Left for NFL
77 Jordan Leslie, WR 779 Graduated/Left for NFL
78 Alex Erickson, WR 772 Biletnikoff List 41
79 Ron Willoughby, WR 771 Biletnikoff List 42
River Cracraft, WR 771 Biletnikoff List 43
81 Alonzo Russell, WR 770 Biletnikoff List 44
82 Taywan Taylor, WR 767 Biletnikoff List 45
83 Shaq Washington, WR 761 Biletnikoff List 46
84 Ryan Burbrink, WR 758 Biletnikoff List 47
Travin Dural, WR 758 Biletnikoff List 48
86 Ryan Switzer, WR 757
87 Kolby Listenbee, WR 753
Jordan Williams, WR 753
89 Geno Lewis, WR 751
90 Shavarez Smith, WR 748 Graduated/Left for NFL
91 Jordan Westerkamp, WR 747
92 Zach Pascal, WR 743
93 Sammie Coates, WR 741 Graduated/Left for NFL
94 Brandon Sheperd, WR 737
95 Devin Funchess, WR 733 Graduated/Left for NFL
96 Robert Davis, WR 732
97 Jalen Fitzpatrick, WR 730 Graduated/Left for NFL
D'haquille Williams, WR 730
99 Mekale McKay, WR 725
100 JuJu Smith, WR 724

Whither Duke?

So exactly where does Duke fit in for those returning? He was 97th in total receiving yards for 2014. He is 57th on the list of returning players for 2015. The Biletnikoff Award Watch List selects 48 people, and using the metric of total receiving yards for 2014, Duke misses the cutoff by nine spots. He's close, but not quite there. pointed out that Mississippi State's DeRunnya Wilson and Ole Miss' Laquon Treadwell were also surprisingly not on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. Well, they were even lower than Duke Williams in total receiving yards for 2014. Wilson was 120th and Treadwell 140th. I'm sure Treadwell would have been higher, but he also missed four games during the 2014 campaign following his horrific ankle injury suffered against Auburn.

We could argue all day long whether this is a great metric to use. It seems strange to use only total receiving yards to build your Watch List from, but hey there's got to be a metric somewhere that you pick from. You have to have some sort of method to your madness.

I think I would have gone with an average of their position in stats such as yards/game (Duke was 50th last season) and total yards, or even used some of Bill Connelly's advanced stats from, but this is what they appear to have chosen, and if you're trying to pick a certain number of players for a pre-season watch list that doesn't mean much in the long run since it's not set in stone, it works as well as anything else. Even if an average ranking of various statistical categories was used, Duke still may not be low enough to end up in the Top 48 and on the list.

I know some awards say that they pull their lists from players who received post-season accolades or pre-season accolades such as All-Conference Teams. The All-SEC team announced at the end of Media Days contains all three of the receivers mentioned above (along with Pharaoh Cooper, who did make the list). It was released after the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, however. Phil Steele's 2015 All-SEC team saw Duke and Laquon make 1st team and DeRunnya Wilson make 3rd.

It's Just Pre-Season

In the end, the Pre-Season Watch List won't matter. If Duke has the type of year we expect he can have as the feature receiver and with Jeremy Johnson throwing him the football, then he's going to put up the numbers that will get him on the list at some point. He may not make it to the semifinalist list given Auburn's run-heavy offensive philosophy, but I have a feeling he'll get some recognition along the way.

For Duke Williams, his stats and awards won't really matter. All that will matter is that he stays healthy, hopefully competes for a championship, and then moves on to being an almost certain 1st Round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

So why did I take all of this time to write this? To provide some form of explanation for Duke not being on the Watch List that Auburn fans can appreciate and understand. As I said back at the very beginning, agree with it or not, it's a method, it was adhered to strictly, and I can appreciate that. I may not agree, but I now see (or at least suspect that I see) the reason behind it.

So what do y'all think?