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Returning Dominators: No. 3 Courtland Sutton

In this series, I’m breaking down the top-10 returning college wide receivers from 2016 by dominator rating (DR), using our FBS WR database. If you’re unfamiliar with dominator rating, it’s a receiver’s combined market share for yardage and TDs. While it’s only one element in receiver evaluation – and requires age and experience adjustments to tell the full story – it provides an excellent snapshot of a player’s role within his offense. 

Consider this an early look at potential rookies next year. Some of the names may surprise you.1 Coming in at No. 3 is Courtland Sutton.


Sutton stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 215 pounds. He attended Brenham High School in Brenham, Texas where he played football, basketball, and baseball. Sutton was rated a three-star prospect by 247 Sports, though not at wide receiver. He garnered interest for his play at safety and tight end, earning first-team All-District honors as a safety his junior year. As a senior, he was first-team All-District at tight end and second-team All-District as a safety.

Sutton was ranked the No. 153 overall player in the state of Texas. He had offers from BYU, Colorado, Rice, and SMU. Sutton was a verbal commit to Colorado to play safety, but on his official visit was notified they did not have a scholarship for him and he would have to walk on. With 10 days remaining until national signing day, BYU was now his top school. An SMU assistant came to Brenham with a scholarship to fill and was shown Sutton’s senior film. An official visit was set up for that weekend, and Sutton committed the following Tuesday on national signing day.


Sutton got on the field right away for the Mustangs but the experience was short lived. He played in only two games and recorded two catches for 27 yards before suffering a season-ending injury. He was granted a medical redshirt that preserved all four years of eligibility. Along with Sutton’s injury, SMU head coach June Jones resigned for personal reasons after the second game. Tom Mason finished out the season, and the Mustangs hired Chad Morris, offensive coordinator at Clemson, to be the next head coach.

Morris was pleasantly surprised to see the athlete he had in Sutton and unleashed him in 2015. He led the team in every receiving category, finishing with 49 receptions for 862 yards (35 percent market share) and nine touchdowns (50 percent market share). His 862 receiving yards broke the previous freshman record and nine TDs tied Emmanuel Sanders’ freshman record. A 43 percent dominator rating in his first full season is incredible. At 20 years old, breakout age is also in his favor.

Sutton was equally as dominant as a sophomore last year and led the Mustangs in every receiving category once again. He grabbed 27 more catches to finish with 76 for 1,246 yards (39 percent market share) and 10 TDs (45 percent market share). After a 43 percent dominator rating as a freshman, Sutton’s encore season produced a 42 percent dominator rating. His 1,246 receiving yards set a new sophomore record, previously held by Aldrick Robinson, and he broke the school single-game record with 252 yards against South Florida.

Year Class G Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Team Passing Team TDs MS Yards MS TD Dom
2015 R-Fr. 12 49 862 9 2436 18 0.35 0.5 0.43
2016 R-So. 12 76 1246 10 3168 22 0.39 0.45 0.42


Sutton was a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate and on the Biletnikoff Preseason Watch List. A preseason All-American and All-AAC, Sutton’s two-year run of dominance seems to have caught up with him. As the focal point for opposing defenses to shut down, the extra attention Sutton commands has led to plenty of opportunity for LSU transfer Trey Quinn. Quinn is leading the Mustangs in receptions and yards and is tied with Sutton for the lead in TDs with 12.2

NFL Draft Scout ranks Sutton as the third WR in the 2018 class. He’s on track to graduate in December and will likely declare for the draft. You can watch Sutton play what is probably his final college game December 20th. SMU will face Louisiana Tech in the Frisco Bowl at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

  1. But not No. 3  (back)
  2. Sutton’s line of 63-1017-12 is still very solid.  (back)

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