The 2020 NFL draft is finally here. This Thursday will be the commencement of the NFL’s most unorthodox draft to date as they host the first virtual draft in history pegged as the “Draft-A-Thon.” Throughout the week, be on the lookout for all of our NFL Draft coverage, including player positional rankings and mock drafts.
Draft mania week is finally back. This year has one of the most concentrated pools of wide receiver talent in years. While the talent stretches well beyond my list, here are the top ten best receivers in this year’s draft.
1. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Height: 6’2″| Weight: 198lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.5|Vertical Jump: 34.5″|Broad Jump: 124″|3-Cone: N/A
One of the most impressive athletes I scouted this year, CeeDee Lamb, possesses the elusiveness of a yards-after-catch (YAC) monster and the strong hands and ball skills of a big play/down-field receiver. His awareness is superb. At times it seems as if he has already anticipated his next move, evading defenders prior to making the catch leading to a touchdown.
2019 marked his most productive collegiate season, as he garnered 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns. Even more impressively, he earned an average 124.75 yards-per-game against ranked opponents, which is the highest average by a wide-out on this loaded list. He’ll be an instant plug-and-play receiver for any system.
2. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
Height: 6’1″|Weight: 193lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.45|Vertical Jump: 35″|Broad Jump: 120″|3Cone: N/A
A pure technician on the field, Jerry Jeudy posses one of the most difficult skills to learn entering into the pros — route running. What many fail to do in the NFL, Juedy seemingly mastered previously while playing in what is arguably the toughest collegiate conference. His ability to make a catch in traffic using his strong hands and his explosive first step against press coverage adds to his already highly talent floor.
He uses his hands wisely and effectively against the press allowing him to create separation, a skill many collegiate receivers struggle developing in the pros. Over his last two years at Alabama, Jeudy had a minimum of 1,100 yards and ten touchdowns in each season while averaging 17.1 yards-per-catch. Juedy will need to continue improving his concentration upon entering the NFL. He struggled to make a couple catches due to this, but that is a skill he can hone in the NFL. While he was very productive he didn’t really show his ability to take over a game much like his teammate Najee Harris did.
3. Denzel Mims, Baylor
Height: 6’3″|Weight: 207lbs 40-Yard Dash: 4.38|Vertical Jump: 38.5″|Broad Jump: 131″|3-Cone: 6.66
Mims is hands down one of my favorite receivers in this year’s draft. He is listed at 6-foot-3 and weighs in at 207 lbs. A 4.38 40-yard dash and 38.5-inch vertical jump exemplify freakish athleticism. While he had a great performance, his combine is only half the story. Taking a look at the tape, one of the most impressive traits Mims possesses is his ability to fight off strong press coverage with his hands to make a big play.
Again, this is one of the hardest skills for a receiver to learn in general, especially when paired with the cornerback talent the NFL houses. Throughout the 2019 season he easily displayed his physicality, an ability to split the middle of the field, and knack for tracking the ball downfield, making him a strong big-play receiver. What else impressed me was his ability to control, shift, and maneuver his body. This is backed by his 6.6 3-cone drill time, which was the best of all the receivers at the combine.
He also had a huge presence in the end zone, catching many of his touchdowns off the corners amidst tight coverage and keeping his feet in-bounds. While he’s an adequate YAC receive, this is not his bread and butter. He’ll need to touch up his route-running skills going into the next level and his ankle injury in 2019 does present potential durability issues down the line.
4. Henry Ruggs III , Alabama
Height: 5’11″| Weight: 188lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.27|Vertical Jump: 42″|Broad Jump: 131″|3-Cone: N/A
Speed kills, literally. While Ruggs holds the title for the fastest 40-yard dash in this year’s NFL Combine, take a deeper look into his overall performance. His 42-inch vertical coupled with his 131-inch broad jump illustrates just how explosive of an athlete he is. For perspective, in 2019 the top four most productive rookie receivers averaged a 4.41 40-yard dash and 38.4-inch verticals. There’s no doubt after watching Ruggs’ tape that if you give him the ball in space, he’s gone. His ability to make quick cuts with possession of the ball caught my eye as he can turn what should be a ten-yard gain into a 40-yard touchdown. While his productivity never matched that of his teammate Jeudy, the talent he can bring to an NFL team shouldn’t be overshadowed.
More importantly, he’ll need to go to the right system that will utilize his talent correctly and effectively. While Ruggs possesses many strengths, he does struggle with press coverage at times, especially against a stronger defender. His hands can also be inconsistent and his smaller frame could cause durability issues down the line. Ruggs will need to work on his route-running skills in order to become a more complete player. While I love his speed, that skill alone does not mean he will be a productive receiver in the NFL. We’ve seen in the past that one-trick ponies don’t last very long in the NFL, however, players like Tyreek Hill and D.K. Metcalf are the exception because they are on teams that utilizes their talent effectively and efficiently.
5. Laviska Shenault, Colorado
Height:6’1″| Weight: 227lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.58|Vertical Jump: N/A|Broad Jump: N/A|3Cone: N/A
Shenault is one of the most physical and exciting players to scout. While he did not run a great 40-yard dash time (4.58), it was primarily due to the core injury he sustained earlier in 2019 that also didn’t allow him to complete the remaining combine tests. When watching his tape, his presence on the field is immediately felt. His ability to make a contested catch is beyond incredible. What is most impressive is his relentless motor.
He is physical enough to fight the defender for every last yard in addition to being nimble and strong enough to take on tight press coverage. Not only does he present a threat as a YAC receiver, due partly to his slipperiness and ability to make quick cuts, but his ball skills make him almost a De’Andre Hopkins-like downfield/big play receiver. Shenault was a candidate of many scouts to be the number one receiver taken off the board prior to the start of the 2019 season and for good reason.
In 2018, he eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards and was named first-team All PAC-12, illustrating the freakish talent scouts salivate over. However, 2019 saw a decline in production which stemmed from a core muscle injury sustained mid-year. His durability is the main reason why he is this far down the list and will continue to be a concern for many NFL teams, especially during a year in which teams are unable to host on-location physicals with their team doctors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Furthermore, the reason he’s higher on this list than a couple of more productive receivers is his high ceiling. While still raw, he possesses some of the most captivating athletic and physical traits of any receiver in this year’s draft. As long as he continues to develop in the NFL, I have no doubt that he’ll resurface with a production output similar to his 2018 season.
6. Justin Jefferson, LSU
Height: 6’1″|Weight: 202lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.43|Vertical Jump: 37.5″|Broad Jump: 126″|3Cone: N/A
A three-star high school recruit, Jefferson easily surpassed any low expectations. He was an absolute productivity monster in 2019, finishing third among all collegiate receivers with over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns amassed. His biggest strengths on the field came from his ability to make contested catches in traffic. He lined up in the slot for a large share in 2019, which allowed him to display his ability to dissect a team down the middle.
His speed and explosiveness jump off the tape regularly. My favorite aspect of his game, however, has to be his ability to adjust his body much like Denzel Mims to make a behind-the-shoulder catch. Furthermore, he plays smart, often adjusting his route to get open if his quarterback came under fire with pressure off the edge. His inconsistent hands are his biggest flaw, often dropping balls on routes he runs regularly and catching with his body. While he was extremely productive at LSU, a lot of his work came under the slot against interior defenders that were not as skilled or as physical.
7. Jalen Reagor, TCU
Height: 5’11″|Weight: 206lbs
40-Yard Dash: 4.47|Vertical Jump: 42″|Broad Jump: 138″|3-Cone: 7.31
Jalen Reagor finishes this list last, but don’t be surprised if he moves up. Reagor touts a combine performance that includes a 42-inch vertical and 138-inch broad jump, backing up his explosiveness. On tape, Reagor’s ability to use his hands when being pressed to release and separate is really impressive. He often used his hand skills to catch a touchdown in the end zone. While he is not Jerry Jeudy, Reagor’s route-running skills are surprisingly impressive. His mastery of the “slugo” route immediately catches the eye because 85% of the time it leads to a large play down-field.
Furthermore, he displays fine behind-the-back catch ability, often having to adjust his body to catch a badly placed ball. However, there are a couple concerns with Reagor. He did display an issue with concentration drops this past season, but again, this is a skill that can be developed in the next level. Also, he doesn’t have the strongest hands of the group, which can hurt him in the NFL against strong defenders that will play the ball. Reagor’s short arm length could also diminish his return in the pros.
In 2018, he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards but failed to repeat his performance in 2019. Truthfully, part of this stems from quarterback play. In fact, data collected by Pro Football Focus illustrates that Reagor had the lowest instance of accurate passes thrown to him at 35% compared to others on the opposite spectrum such as Justin Jefferson (69%) and Jerry Jeudy (60%). Regardless, there is tremendous upside for Reagor in the NFL.
Where will these gentlemen land in the NFL? With only a few days remaining until the draft, we’re about to find out.