2020 Draft: Wide Receiver

What you will find here is a collection of some of my favourite receivers in this years draft. All of them, in some way or another have either shown me that one day they could belong on an NFL field. Or captured my imagination, or both. The players you see here are ones that I have covered in depth on my twitter account and you can find links to video content that helps illuminate some of my thinking around what makes these players special or fascinating to me.

Stats and combine numbers are, at times relevant for these players but for the most part I am dealing in what’s on the screen and what they are showing me in a game. Certainly I care about the measurables, but they dont really change what I see and how I feel about their play on the field.

Jerry Jeudy.

Alabama.

Jerry Jeudy has two arms, two legs and has all the characteristics of your average Homo Sapien Mortal. Until that is, he moves in pads.

At 6’1″ and 192lbs Jeudy is not a monstrous towering figure, he is a lithe sinewy athlete who has the kind of elite change of direction skills that you rarely see in humans, you more likely you will see them in house flies or a runaway chicken.

These skills lend themselves to him being a naturally explosive route runner and gives him an almost supernatural level of elusiveness in the open field. Put simply, he moves “differently”

He hasn’t seen an awful lot of press coverage, and most of his snaps have come from the slot at Alabama, but we have seen his ability to overcome press using his unique movement skills, if in a smaller sample size. He also has the deep speed to be a downfield threat at anytime in the slot, or out wide.

Oh…and dont worry, he is really good at tracking the ball and using “late hands” to fool corners who play his eyes and body language.

The only real Knocks on him are that he isn’t as good as some of the other prospects when it comes to jump balls and catches outside of his frame, but these are issues that can be tweaked over time.

It will work because:

He has special speed and movement skills, a knack for seperation at all levels of the field, and a fundamentally sound toolkit of high level receiving skills.

It might not work because:

I struggle to see any potential for Jeudy to not become a pro-bowl caliber player. But his lack of snaps outside and vs press may limit him initially in terms of where he lines up. Also he may need to bulk up slightly to improve durability. But I think this is me overthinking it. 

NFL Comparison:

I can see the OBJ comparison, but I genuinely think Jeudy is a smoother more flexible player as an open field runner. But not as exceptionally gifted with his hands.

For a more specific, more visual analysis of this player please click on the link below.

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1238946194392592384?s=19

 

CeeDee Lamb.

Oklahoma.

In almost any other year, with a few historic exceptions, Ceedee Lamb would be the kind of receiver who would be atop your WR draft class. The fact that he is in a class with Jerry Jeudy and is still almost inseparable from him as receiver 1A/1B, is a testament to his skills and abilities.

Lamb has produced with an unnerving level of consistency over the last 3 seasons at Oklahoma, with three different QBs (Mayfield, Murray and now Hurts) with very different skillsets throwing him the ball. Over the last 2 seasons he has averaged 9.2 yards after the catch, forced 38 missed tackles (26 in 2019) and in the last 3 seasons has  accumulated 173 receptions for 3288 Yards at 19.0 yards per reception with 32 Touchdowns to show for it.

His speed is good if not elite, and he is more of a strider than a short stepper, particularly in the route but he functions perfectly well as a downfield threat.

Lamb has excellent hands and contested catch skills playing far above his physical dimensions and is, like Jeudy, someone who can find the ball.

Also, Like Jeudy, he is a detailed route runner who understands how to set players up with footwork, and clearly works with a plan. Admittedly the strength of competition he would have faced in the Big-12 ( where defense is mostly optional)is questionable. but Lamb does have a track record of performing against a high standard of competition, particularly in playoff games.

 Other reasons for Lamb potentially being WR2 in the class is that the Oklahoma offense is heavily schemed to create open throws and create favourable matchups and that Receivers get their routes communicated by card rather than in a huddle. So they don’t always learn the full context of the play or have the most complete understanding of the offense. Jeudy at Alabama got play calls in a huddle and has learned to interpret playcalls and audible already.

It will work because:

His breadth of skills lend themselves to the modern game. Particularly his ability to separate and to make big plays in the open field. He is a high level prospect who does a lot of things very well.

It might not work because:

Lamb saw a lot of free releases in college, So,like Jeudy, he may struggle with press initially. Also his speed is functional rather than great, perhaps he looks a little ordinary to begin with. There may also be some transition to NFL style schemes and playcalling to contend with. Ultimately though there isnt anything significant preventing Lamb from developing into a Pro-Bowl calibre receiver relatively quickly

NFL Comparison:

Think DeAndre Hopkins, with more juice off of the line, and less violence.

 For a slightly more in depth visual analysis of this player please follow the link below 

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1241108916118970369?s=09

 

Henry Ruggs.

Alabama.

Speed,in and of itsself is not going to change all that much for  an offense. It may cause the odd situation where you get a favourable matchup or specific coverage look from a team, but ultimately without a decent core Skillset, even elite “Track speed” wont move the needle for an offense. You need more. Henry Ruggs has more.

I wont pretend that Ruggs is a complete receiver, and I wont pretend that his speed isnt the main driver behind his first round grade. But there is a broad enough range of skills that makes him worth a pick in the 15-32 range.

Ruggs demonstrates decent if unrefined route running skills and has been used in a variety of ways at Alabama. He hasn’t just been running Go’s and Post’s he has been part of the passing game at all levels of the field including short and intermediate in-breaking routes.

Ruggs is a also decent hands-catcher with surprising contested catch ability, he climbs well and has good concentration and focus to attack the ball. Particularly for someone of his size and build.

Again like Jeudy he has experience in a huddle with Pro-style play calls as well so that should help with transition.

My only real concerns with Ruggs is that he hasn’t faced a lot of press-man coverage and was rarely challenged off the line because of his speed. Also on the occasions where more athletic DBs did challenge him, he sometimes found himself stuck with his wheels spinning. Ruggs will need to be tougher and more physical at the line. However beyond that Ruggs is someone with the potential to fill the role that Ted Ginn or DeSean Jackson filled in their primes.

It will work Because.

Ruggs isnt a one-trick pony and for a “track guy” isnt injury prone either. It will work if teams work to get him involved in the Sweep and Screen game and make him a true feature of their offense, whilst challenging him to be the complete receiver.  

It might not work because:

The team that drafts him will lack the imagination to give him almost the opportunities he deserves. Or, he becomes pigeon-holed to the slot because he continues to be inconsistent versus press

For a slightly more in depth visual analysis of this player please click on the link below

NFL Comparison.

The sweet spot between Ted Ginn, and Brandin Cooks.

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1244057811035787271?s=19

 

Denzel Mims.

Baylor.

The Baylor offense has not challenged Denzel Mims in the way that perhaps other offenses would have. It asked him to do a few things, and he did those things to a high level, with consistent improvement and production.

Let’s begin with the first thing that jumps off of the screen with Mims. His athleticism and ball skills. At 6’3″ and 217lbs his 4.38 second 40 yard dash, 6.66 second 3 cone, 38.5 vertical Jump and 16 reps on the bench press are the stuff that can make scouts froth at the mouth with excitement. Mims however, is more than just a bag of athletic traits and measurables. There is a toolsy, ballsy explosive player on tape as well.

Mims does a lot of things well. A lot of things that “X” receivers need to be able to do in the league to succeed. He demonstrates high level ability at the catchpoint and his vertical contested catch game is truly exceptional. He plays tough and wins in the route with a combination of technique, explosion and strength. Mims thrives on the boundary and has a knack for the big play. Focus drops have affected his output somewhat, but this is not a failure in his fundamentals. His hands, are  sound and he has excellent body control and strength through contact to win in crowded and physical situations.

It will work because.

Mims has the makings of a prototypical “X” receiver. He has a vastly underrated athletic profile including some off the charts testing in change of direction drills at the combine. He will find a way to be that dominant tough, smart player on an NFL field, and he will continue to build on his accelerated development evidenced in Mobile this year Where he had a fantastic week of continuous development. 

It might not work because:  

He hasn’t really dominated corners. Not in an emphatic way. He has won against corners by slender margins on the whole and he will find those margins get tighter, as the DBs get stronger and faster at the next level.

Also if he cant fix the focus drops, it could go south quickly.

NFL Comparison.

Martavis Bryant meets Preston William’s.

Click here for more.

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1234564854020702208?s=19

 

Justin Jefferson.

LSU.

The value of a Slot specialist differs from offense to offense. The value of a Slot specialist with the potential to play outside is somewhat greater. If you think about players like AJ Brown from last year, then it’s not a huge leap to see that a player like Justin Jefferson could potentially have a similar path in the Pro’s.

Jefferson accumulated 111 catches for 1588yds and 18 touchdowns from the slot. In addition, while he wasnt dominant outside, Jefferson showed promise in 2018 as an outside receiver in the Joe Brady offense.

This is all well and good, but if you could guarantee that a player could produce like that exclusively from the slot at the next level, do we think that’s worth a 1st round pick? I do.

Jefferson is a quality receiver with enough skill and savvy to be a valuable addition to most offenses, he is a good route runner, a high effort player, and a consistent performer.

His story is not yet written and there is nothing to suggest he cant excel as an X receiver as yet. If that is all that matters to you.

But consider this, imagine the damage a player like Jefferson could do in San Francisco, Or New Orleans as “Just” a slot receiver ….imagine.

NFL comparison.

Randall Cobb, or Marvin Jones.

For more in-depth on Jefferson click here.

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1249317269504765953?s=19

 

Tee Higgins.

Clemson.

Every draft you will have a few big rangy players at receiver. Those players will generally be a little slower, less explosive and win in ways that dont translate to the modern NFL. This year there’s a few of the bigger ones who have a little more spark, and a little more juice in them. Higgins is one of them.

Sometimes you get the sense that he is far more athletic than he let’s on. He can pull away from defenders effortlessly at times. And occasionally in a route he will stop or change direction in a way that will surprise you. He has performed well against a higher level of competition than most and has been consistent since becoming a starter at Clemson.

He is great when the ball is in the air and is a natural with acrobatic or awkward catches. He has a 55% contested catch rate which is right up there among the best in the class and has excellent run after catch ability too. He had 10 or more broken tackles in each of the last 2 seasons, which, for a taller rangier player is impressive.

Higgins falls into that “Low floor” category of receiver with a hint at more potential than first appears. He does a decent job vs press and can seperate pretty well, and when he doesn’t, he is a decent enough combat-catch player that you can feel good about him going forward. He is a bit skinny for his height but, again this isnt the 70’s and his Height and Weight haven’t been an issue to date.  

It will work because:

Higgins is a polished, professional receiver with tantalising potential.

It might not work because:

He is a functional WR2 who never makes the jump. What are the chances that playing with Trevor Lawrence has inflated his production?

NFL comparison.

Pass. 

For more, click here….

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1241817889944076292?s=19

 

Michael Pittman JR

USC. 

USC WR Michael Pittman JR falls into that comfortable bracket of Experienced, Proficient, Productive, Higher floor prospects scouts can get behind on day 2. On every single snap, of every single game all you see is Pittman doing the right things with the maximum effort and enthusiasm. He oozes professionalism. The NFL Bloodline is clearly there. He is the Prospect equivalent of the cold side of the pillow.

In college Pittman has won deep and outside with a combination of physicality and excellent contested catch skills. His 2.7% drop rate in 133 targets is among the best in the class and given his penchant for combat/contested catches this is no mean feat, particularly considering the level of competition he has faced. Even if being 6’4″ and 220lbs does make it easier to win there.

The detail and technical ability he demonstrates in the short and intermediate game sets him up as a potential impact player in most passing offenses. The big question with Pittman is wether his lack of top end play-speed prevents him seperating deep in the NFL. Pittman will not be able to lean on being tough in the flag-happy defensive backfields of the NFL. But even if all you get is the Michael Pittman we saw at the short and intermediate levels, that he projects to becoming. Then it’s still potentially worth the 1st round pick some teams will want to spend on him. He has “How did he drop to the second?” Written all over him.

It works because:

He is a tough, high effort, professional receiver who has very good basic receiver skills that translate.

It might not work because:

Offenses try to make him something he is not. After all, the Saints rarely send Michael Thomas on a Go route do they??

NFL comparison.

Purely stylistically – he is very similar to Michael Thomas in his athletic profile and where he has the greatest potential for success. Basically anywhere that requires “Tough”

 For more click here…

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1238567619478904844?s=19

 

Tyler Johnson:

Minnesota.

Minnesota’s Tyler Johnson is Marmite. He is Peanut Butter and Marmite. He is Gherkins in general, Pineapple on Pizza, and Doughnuts as Burger buns. People love him or hate him. It really depends in what you value, and what shortcomings you can forgive.

For the record. I like him. He defies all logic and produced at a high level for 3 seasons. Both in the slot and out to the boundary. While he is not a burner or an Adonis for the position he is a route running demon. Crafty and shifty he continually gets open at all levels of the field and has answers for a variety of coverages. His 24 drops on 238 catchable career targets gives pause for concern as does a lack of straight line speed, but he has incredible lateral quickness that also translates into open field production after the catch. He is the definitive round 3 player who over performs down the line.

It works because.

He is a master route runner with underrated red-zone and YAC ability.

It might not work because:

He cant overcome his limitations from a speed standpoint by further tweaking his route running.

NFL Comparison.

Cooper Kupp

For more click here….

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1248947100701921285?s=19

 

Jalen Reagor.

TCU

The sheer potential of Jalen Reagor is on a level you rarely see. If you knew nothing about the measurables of any of these players, then you would probably assume that on a football field Reagor was as fast and explosive as the Rugg’s, Hardman’s and Ross’s of the world. You would probably also assume that he would be a locked in top 20 pick. No one would think you crazy for assuming that. At least, No one with eyes anyway.

Reagor however, has had to endure some uneven and at times shocking QB play that certainly stunted his production in 2019.He has also been patchy with his consistency of production. Some of which is down to his lack of development as a route runner, particularly with shorter routes where he is still quite deliberate. Also the drops last year were at a rate of 13.4 percent. So it’s not all on the QB.

He is still a little bit of a projection that is mostly based on his 2018 tape. But it’s enough that Reagor makes for a tantalising potential round 1 player. The potential for him to be special is very real. 

It works if.

He gets to an offense that feeds him the ball in space and challenges him to work on route running to maximise his talent.

It fails if.

He is always tied to the quality of his QB. And he coasts on physical ability.

NFL comparison.

Tyreek Hill.

For more click here…..

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1249455250249039873?s=19

 

Isaiah Hodgins

Oregon State.

Hodgins has a lot of transferable skills. Amd its just as well. Because his speed related measurables aren’t amazing – aside from his 20 yard shuttle.

What Hodgins does have is Size, great body control, excellent ball tracking and catch focus. And the most statistically reliable hands in the class. His 1.1% drop rate and 59% contested catch score are outstanding, and a testament to his unshakeable reliability as a possession receiver in Oregon State’s offense. He is the perfect candidate for a team who needs a developmental WR2 that can handle the possession duties in an offense.

It will work because.

Hodgins develops better releases, and continues to tweak his breaks in routes to mitigate his lack of explosive speed.

It wont work because.

The speed becomes an issue.

NFL Comparison.

Antoine Wesley or a skinny Alshon Jeffrey

For more, click here…..

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1250732370925432834?s=19

 

Van Jefferson.

Florida.

At his best, Van Jefferson is an absolute route running prodigy. His ability to shake and seperate from the very best corners in the game is at times ridiculous. When Jefferson is in fire any concerns about his athletic limitations just disappear.

But that’s not the player we get, all the the time. Jefferson is inconsistent. He isn’t the strongest player in the route, or at the catchpoint and his speed overall is pretty average.

Nonetheless, his high skill level at the technical aspects of the game can, and does mitigate a lot of this, and his senior bowl week was a masterclass in humiliating corners. if only he can become a more physical and consistent receiver, then he would stand a stronger chance of developing into a WR2.

It will work if.

Jefferson masters the art of playing stronger in the route and being more consistent down to down.

It wont work if.

Teams dont grasp that you cant rely on him being fast, you need to use him in short and intermediate roles.

NFL Comparison.

Kelvin Harmon.

For more, Click here

ttps://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1233834392906354689?s=19

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1243690729563656192?s=19

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1247839887820283905?s=19

 

James Proche:

SMU.

Proche has the best hands in the class. There is significant statistical and visual evidence to justify this statement. His drop rate in 2019 ( 3 at 2.5% for 2019. And 9 from 367 total career targets ), PLUS Ahis volume of contested catches (20 ) all indicate he has sticky, sticky hands. All the more incredible, given his 6’0″ 193lb frame.

He has a knack for the sublime and the ridiculous in the same way that Hunter Renfrow did at Clemson. One hand, up high, down low, behind, over a DB’s head. All look easy and natural for him.

Outside of that he is a good if not great route runner with functional, but not great, speed. He struggles a bit vs press and has benefitted from a low level of competion in the Power 5. However that hasn’t stopped Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton becoming perfectly adequate pro receivers to date. Whatever, Maybe he is a one trick pony. But the trick is mightily impressive, and its produced consistently.

It will work if.

He can become a craftier route runner and play with more strength in the route.

It wont work if.

It’s just his hands.

NFL Comparison

Hunter Renfrow.

For more, click here….

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1238561023860318214?s=09

 

Devin Duvernay:

Texas.

Duvernay, caught 42 screen passes for 251 yards last year. His remaining 61 receptions gained 1143 yards and bagged him 8 of his 9 receiving TD’s. The former track star ran well at the combine and showed some of the undeniable agility you see in his tape.

In 2019 he converted to an exclusive slot role in the offense at Texas, and he was a revelation. He was highly productive and became the channel for a lot of the Longhorns passing game.

Duvernay may never have the full set of attributes needed to excel as an “X” receiver but what he is is a sure handed, receiver with very good YAC and contested catch ability. As a day 3 prospect he is more than capable of contributing as a slot player in the Pro’s.

It will work if:

Duvernay is challenged to be more physical vs press, and if he isnt tied to the screen game.

It wont work if:

You force him outside or into press situations early.

NFL Comparison

Albert Wilson.

For more, please click here….

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1235602267799203841?s=19

 

Quintez Cephus:

Wisconsin.

There is something about Cephus. A vibe if you will. A real blue collar toughness and aggression that he exudes on tape. Rarely knocked off of a route, rarely locked up by press coverage, and he goes looking for contact in all the places on the field where pain happens.

And he is consistent. He’s a good route runner who, in pads is way, way faster than 4.73 suggests and separates well. Damon Arnette and Jeff Okudah CB’s at Ohio State were recently asked about the receiver that they found hardest to handle. The answer was Quintez Cephus. His tape vs Ohio state is very good and he is a very smart player who clearly had a plan for those OSU corners. A plan he executed very well.

Cephus wont wow anyone as an athlete, however he is a high power, high motor prospect who could easily develop into a player who has a long productive career in the right system.

It will work if.

Teams focus his usage in the short and intermediate game.

It wont work if.

They just stick him in the slot and ask him to get vertical. He can excel outside on shorter routes.

NFL Comparison.

Sterling Shepard.

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1247080492110958593?s=19

 

 

Easop Winston JR

Washington State.

Off the beaten track is Easop Winston JR. All he has done,is win at a high level vs upper level competition.

Winston is a short, intermediate and Redzone specialist with nifty short area quickness and change of direction. These traits are good enough to overcome a lack of straight line speed, he is also a tough competitor pinball aspects of his game.

As a Day 3 or UDFA Prospect he offers great developmental potential and is certainly someone worth getting in to battle for a WR4 or 5 spot.

It will work if.

He accentuates and tweaks his strength and technical traits and finds more week to week consistency vs all levels of opponent

It will fail if.

He coast on those traits.

For more, click here…

https://twitter.com/jamesru1/status/1250737113215238144?s=19 

Anyway….

This isnt an exhaustive list of players by any means, it’s simply a list of players that, like I said, captured my imagination with their play in some way.

If your guy isnt on here it’s not because I don’t think he is any good. It’s just that these are the players that intrigue me most. I know Quartney Davis is good. And I like Laviska Shenault a lot too. But these players interest me most. For their positives and negatives too. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the Draft.