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2020 NFL Draft Prospects Preview: Wide Receivers

This year’s crop of wide receivers is arguably the best in NFL Draft history. Several receivers should expect to hear their names called in the first round next Thursday, and plenty more who will be joining the league throughout the weekend. When I wrote up quarterback and running back prospects earlier in the week, I highlighted eight at each position and added eight more names to watch at the end. In my estimation, those quarterbacks and running backs in the 9-16 range are Saturday picks (Rounds 4-7) at best. That is most definitely not the case with this group of wideouts. There might be 16 wide receivers selected before we even get to Saturday. This class will warrant plenty of attention in Redraft leagues, and Dynasty league owners needing help at the position should be licking their chops.

Last season, rookie wide receivers combined for 11,653 receiving yards. That was the second-best in NFL history behind the famed 2014 class. There has been a long-standing theory among fantasy analysts and players that wide receivers experience a breakout in their third season. However, we have seen numerous rookie wide receivers make an immediate mark in fantasy. Look no further than A.J. Brown last year or Calvin Ridley in 2018 to see how quickly a rookie wideout can acclimate himself to the pro game. They are just the latest examples in what should be considered the new normal in the NFL. There has been at least one rookie wide receiver to finish as a WR2 or better in each of the past 10 seasons. Here are some wide receiver prospects who should be on the fantasy radar in 2020 and beyond.

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2020 NFL Draft Prospects – Wide Receivers

CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

CeeDee Lamb is a polished wide receiver who can do it all. He averaged nearly 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns in his three seasons in Norman. He does not have top-end speed but makes up for it by consistently getting lightning-quick releases off of the line of scrimmage to beat coverage. Lamb is a terrific route runner with incredible ball skills who can attack the football. And once he has possession of the football, look out. Since 2018, he has averaged a whopping 3.42 yards per route run and 9.2 yards after the catch. Lamb broke 38 tackles in that span, including 26 last year. He has a nose for the end zone regardless of where he is on the football field. His highlights after the catch are the stuff of legend.

It really is a tossup between him and Jeudy for the top spot. I give the slightest of edges to Lamb because he has better hands and is more physical than Jeudy at this stage of their respective development. He has more experience going up against man coverage which will suit him well at the next level. But make no mistake – both should be standouts at their position for years to come. For what it’s worth, has Jerry Rice listed as Lamb’s closest comparable wideout. No pressure, kid. Even if he falls short of becoming the greatest wide receiver in the history of the sport, I have a feeling CeeDee Lamb will acquit himself to life in the National Football League just fine. I would not be surprised to see him post a top-20 fantasy campaign as a rookie.

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Jerry Jeudy was one of the top high school recruits in the country when he committed to Alabama in 2017. He did not disappoint. Jeudy won the Biletnikoff Award in 2018 as the nation’s top receiver. He finished his collegiate career with back-to-back seasons of over 1,000 receiving yards and at least 10 touchdowns. Jeudy is a superb route runner and is a threat to take it to the house whenever he touches the football. He shows great awareness once he has the ball in his hands. Jeudy is adept at avoiding open field tackles from defenders due to his knack for manipulating pursuit angles. All in all, Jeudy is on the fast track to NFL stardom. Oh, by the way, he will not turn 21 years old until the day after he is selected in the draft.

Jeudy played mostly from the slot in college, which may not be the case in the pros. He needs to get a bit stronger and be more physical, as he will likely see a bit more man/press coverage in the NFL. The 6’1”, 193-pound receiver dropped a few more passes than you would like to see from an elite wideout. But those are things I believe will improve with experience. He works hard to correct any bad behaviors and has a desire to be the very best, and I think it is just a matter of time before he is among the best receivers in the league. Jerry Jeudy is sure to be a hot commodity in Dynasty leagues and has a chance to be a threat in redraft leagues as soon as 2020.

Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

Henry Ruggs III had an NFL Combine the likes of which are rarely seen. He ran a 4.27 40-yard dash with a 1.43 10-yard split. He also posted a 42” vertical and a 10’11” broad jump. All four measurements were in the 96th percentile or above. His numbers on the football field weren’t too bad, either. Ruggs III caught 24 career touchdowns in college on just 98 receptions. He broke 19 tackles along the way while dropping just three passes. The 5’11” dynamo has huge hands, measuring in at 10-1/8” inch at the combine. Ruggs III averaged at least 15 yards per catch in all three of his seasons as a member of the Crimson Tide. He can run past corners and be a deep threat and can also turn a simple screen or slant into a score.
Ruggs III has drawn comparisons to Tyreek Hill due to his blazing speed. That is a pretty good place to start from a fantasy standpoint. Ruggs III needs to work on his physicality as a receiver. He tends to struggle in bump-and-run coverage and has a hard time using his body to separate from defenders. He would rather blow by defenders with his speed. It is hard to blame him considering his natural speed, but a bit more in the way of a physical presence would bump him up a notch. In fantasy, Ruggs is one to target in all leagues, with an added emphasis on Best Ball leagues. He does not need to catch 100 passes to post high-end fantasy results and will have a sky-high ceiling in any given week.

Tee Higgins, Clemson

After Ruggs (and perhaps some would argue before), the order really becomes one of preference. All these players are immensely talented and bring a diverse set of skills to the table. I am going with Tee Higgins as the next wideout on my list. Higgins enjoyed a terrific college career at Clemson. The 6’4” wide receiver posted 59 catches in each of his last two seasons. During that time, he caught 25 total touchdown passes and exceeded 2,100 receiving yards. He can get off press and make contested catches. Higgins was the only receiver in this class to post a two-year grade of 90.0 or above against tight coverage, per Pro Football Focus. He is quick off the line of scrimmage and possesses a wide catch radius with good body control. Those are traits that should translate to success at the next level.

Higgins has a wonderful blend of size, speed, and ball skills. He can beat defenders deep, as his 94.5 grade will attest. Higgins has shown a knack for creating yards after the catch as well. He has 10-plus broken tackles in each of the last two seasons. I believe that his well-rounded skillset will make him a solid contributor in the NFL. Depending on where he lands, he could be a team’s number-one receiver, or he can also be a third option. That variance will likely dictate his fantasy relevance. But I am confident that Higgins will put up solid fantasy numbers regardless of where he winds up. I would have no hesitation targeting him in Dynasty formats.

Denzel Mims, Baylor

Denzel Mims popped up on the NFL radar after a 2017 sophomore season which saw him catch 61 passes for 1,087 yards. However, his production plateaued to a certain degree over the last two years. Perhaps the bar was set just a bit too high. It’s not as if he was bad. He still averaged over 900 yards over the last two seasons and hauled in 20 touchdowns. But he did not seem to reach the heights many had expected. Critics will be quick to point out his drops, which are a legitimate cause for concern. He also ran a limited route tree at Baylor. Mims seems to live on slants and go routes. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but he tended to struggle to trick defenders on his routes. He needs to become a more polished receiver and learn the nuances of the position.
From a physical standpoint, Mims sure looks the part. He stands at 6’3” and weighs 207 pounds. He blew the doors off the NFL Combine this winter. His speed and explosiveness numbers came in just behind those of Ruggs III, which is no small feat. Where Mims really stands out is his physicality. He has a huge catch radius and can elevate at a level that few others can get to. His 20 contested grabs in 2019 were tied for second in the nation. If he can land somewhere with a smart coaching staff who can improve his route running and his footwork in and out of breaks, the sky is the limit for Mims. He is a year older than some of the other receivers in this class, so Dynasty owners need to keep that in mind considering he is still a bit of a project.

Jalen Reagor, TCU

A simple look at 2019 statistics will not do Jalen Reagor any favors. He caught just 43 of 88 targets for 611 yards and five touchdowns. But much of his down year was the result of poor quarterback play. I prefer to evaluate Reagor off his 2018 campaign. That year, he caught 71 passes for 1,040 yards and nine scores. I believe that is more indicative of the type of playmaking ability Reagor possesses. His athletic profile is off the charts. His 40-time at the Combine was 4.47, which was a bit disappointing. He had run a 4.32 in college. My guess is his true time is somewhere in between. Either way, he has elite game speed. Reagor seems to cut without losing any speed at all. He is probably the best deep threat in this class and has tremendous explosiveness after the catch.
Reagor needs to work on securing the football. He had some painful drops in college and seemed to have trouble tracking the ball at times. His concentration will have to improve if he wants to become an elite NFL wideout. He also needs to vary his technique against press coverage and do a better job of selling his route combinations. If he can work on some of the subtle aspects of the game as well as his hands, Reagor will be a weekly threat to score on any given play. That type of upside makes him a favored choice in Best Ball formats as opposed to standard leagues, but he should be relevant regardless of league settings.

Justin Jefferson, LSU

I probably have Justin Jefferson lower than most. It is not a knock on the LSU standout per se. After all, it is hard to argue against 18 touchdowns and 1,540 receiving yards as a 20-year old. He has great ball skills, and his contested catch rate was the best in all of FBS. Jefferson can manipulate defenders and explode in and out of tight spaces. But I  worry a bit about the fact that last year’s production was exclusively out of the slot. He showed a knack for finding the soft spot in zone coverage but was bumped off his route rather easily on occasion. That is something that may be an issue in the NFL.
None of this is to say that a slot receiver cannot put up huge fantasy numbers. Chris Godwin’s 2019 season is proof of how dominant a receiver who works primarily in the slot can be. I just want to see it from Jefferson first. I want to see him consistently beat man coverage before declaring him among the very best in this class. Jefferson has the athletic capability to prove me wrong and show that he is at that level. He runs a 4.43 40-yard dash and has loose hips. The tools are certainly there. However, in the end, Justin Jefferson is a player I might not have as many shares of given the hype and how productive his 2019 season was.

Michael Pittman, USC

Michael Pittman came on a bit slower than some of his contemporaries. But he showed steady growth throughout his college career. He was arguably the best possession receiver in the country in 2019. Pittman secured 101 grabs and scored 11 touchdowns. He showed an innate ability throughout his career to haul in targets. Pittman had 171 catches at USC against just five drops. He is relatively fast given his size. Despite weighing in at the Combine at 223 pounds, Pittman surpassed the median thresholds in all the speed and agility drills. Ironically, it was the bench press that only elicited a 41st percentile mark. But Pittman’s 6’4” frame allows him to body defensive backs and make grabs in traffic. His hands and catch radius will certainly make him a preferred target of any NFL quarterback.
Before anybody goes mistaking him for Michael Thomas, Pittman has a ways to go in terms of his route running. He tended to lose balance along the sideline and he has to diversify his moves when attempting to beat man coverage. While those are traits that can be worked on, his hands are much smaller than those of the Saints’ star. Still, Pittman has a skillset that should serve him well at the next level. Possession receivers are a hot commodity in fantasy football, especially as PPR leagues have become more prevalent. I can see Pittman eventually averaging about five catches per game, and he should be a threat in the red zone. All of the signs point to Pittman posting a solid floor, though his ceiling is not as high as others in this draft class.

Best of the Rest

  • Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
  • Laviska Shenault, Colorado
  • K.J. Hamler, Penn State
  • Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
  • Chase Claypool, Notre Dame
  • Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
  • Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan
  • John Hightower, Boise State


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