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Returning Dominators: No. 9 – Part I

In this series, I’m breaking down the top-10 returning college wide receivers from 2017 by dominator rating (DR). If you’re unfamiliar with dominator rating, it’s a receiver’s combined market share of receiving yardage and touchdowns. 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 in the 2019 class to get a jump-start on the draft season. I’ll take a look back at their prospect profiles and rankings from high school, their production at the college level, and prospectus for the NFL. The 2017 countdown included Michael GallupCourtland SuttonAnthony Miller, and Richie James.

The 2018 version has some overlap in dominator rating, as is the case with four players tied for ninth. To avoid overlooking anyone in this situation, the player with the higher market share of receiving yards will be ranked higher.

David Sills V – West Virginia

Sills’ route to make this list is certainly different from those previously covered. If his name is vaguely familiar from years ago, then you’re on the right track. Back in 2010, as a 13-year-old, then USC head coach Lane Kiffin offered Sills a scholarship to play quarterback for the Trojans. However, the QB prodigy didn’t turn out as expected.

After strong eighth and ninth-grade seasons, Sills’ father opened a new private school for his son to continue his football career. The school did not gain accreditation early on, limiting Sills to just three games as a sophomore. A broken knuckle the following season seems to have hampered his QB dreams, but Sills signed with West Virginia as a three-star QB prospect in 2015.

Sills was taking a redshirt year as a freshman but was pressed into wide receiver duty on the scout team, due to his 6-4 frame. After impressing in practice, Sills was asked to make the leap to the WR group due to injuries and played the final seven games. Such a transition to a new position and playing in meaningful games is a huge accomplishment, even if it’s not fully reflected in his dominator rating as a freshman.

Sills couldn’t shake the need to give it one more shot at QB, leaving West Virginia for El Camino College in California but no further offers to play QB at the collegiate level materialized. He returned to West Virginia for his junior year, now playing WR full-time. Sills was one part of a prolific WR trio, with Gary Jennings and Ka’Raun White both eclipsing 1,000 yards. He finished third in receptions (60) and yards with 980 (24 percent market share). Sills made his biggest impact by finding the end zone 18 times (49 percent market share), which boosted is dominator rating up to 0.37.

He entered 2018 on the award watch list for the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Biletnikoff and as a First-Team All-American. Sills didn’t disappoint in the opening game, as his Mountaineers handled Tennessee easily in Knoxville, 40-14. With seven receptions for 140 yards and two touchdowns, Sills is off to a hot start and makes for an intriguing evaluation as this is only his second full season playing the position.

Year Class Games Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Team Passing Team TDs MS Yards Ms TDs Dominator
2015 Fr. 7 7 131 2 3,269 26 0.04 0.08 0.06
2017 Jr. 12 60 980 18 4,021 37 0.24 0.49 0.37

Felton Davis III – Michigan State

Like Sills, Davis is a tall senior WR at 6-4 and 200 pounds that commanded targets in the red zone last year. A three-star prospect out of Highland Springs, Virginia, Davis had numerous offers from ACC and Big Ten schools before signing with the Spartans. Davis played his senior year of high school at age 17 and the entirety of his freshman year at Michigan State at 18.

When evaluating prospects, age — breakout and final season — is an important factor. His youth could help explain Davis’ lack of production his first two years in East Lansing. Despite avoiding a redshirt year, Davis played in only seven games as a true freshman but didn’t catch a pass until the final two. As a sophomore, the story was more of the same as he played in every game but finished a distant fifth in both receptions and yards with only a 0.06 dominator rating.

Davis found his stride last year as a junior, leading Michigan State with 55 receptions for 776 yards (28 percent market share) and nine touchdowns (45 percent market share). Davis had three 100-yard games, including a monster 12-catch, 181-yard outing against Penn State. His teammates certainly took notice of his progression, as he was named MSU’s most improved offensive player and second-team All-Big Ten by the media and third-team All-Big Ten by coaches. He eclipsed the 0.30 dominator mark to break out at age 20.

Davis was named to the preseason All-Big Ten first-team and showed his scoring ability in the opening game of 2018. He only recorded three receptions against Utah State but converted them into 69 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a two-point conversion in a game that was much closer than Sparty fans anticipated. Davis and Michigan State won’t have time for a break this week as they travel for a 10:30 EDT contest against another dominator in N’Keal Harry and Arizona State.

Year Class Games Rec Rec Yds Rec TD Team Passing Team TDs MS Yards Ms TDs Dominator
2015 Fr. 7 2 50 0 3,279 26 0.02 0 0.01
2016 So. 12 12 150 1 2,668 19 0.06 0.05 0.06
2017 Jr. 11 55 776 9 2,798 20 0.28 0.45 0.37

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