The Cambridge Dictionary defines a wide receiver as “an attacking player who is usually on the outer edge of the line of scrimmage”. Why did I start this article with a hackneyed and useless opening sentence? Be honest, it’s because you’ve already begun scrolling to the rankings.
Here are the facts... The Philadelphia Eagles need new life in their receiver group. They stayed on the sidelines throughout free agency despite this need. They can address this need in a super deep class. You know it, we know it, and we’re running out of ways to creatively introduce the bulk of these articles because this is a heavily beaten path at this point. Pitter patter let’s get at ‘er.
Based on my grading, here are my top 10 wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft...
1. CEEDEE LAMB - Oklahoma (6’2”, 198)
Feeling blue because the Eagles missed out on one of the greatest heists of the century? DeAndre Hopkins’ clone should remedy that. He’ll almost assuredly be gone within the Eagles range, but dream with me for a moment.
CeeDee Lamb’s had a fairly quiet process, but that doesn’t mean teams are sleeping on the best and most well-rounded prospect in the class. As Pro Football Focus points out in their 2020 Draft Guide, Lamb does it all...
“Over the last two seasons, Lamb has averaged 3.42 yards per route run; he has gained 9.2 yards after the catch on average, forcing 38 missed tackles in the process; and he has generated a passer rating of 146.5 on his targets, all while earning a receiving grade of 91.3...
In Lamb you’ve got a high-level route runner to all three levels with a sweet release game and an outstanding feel for creating big plays with the ball in his hands. He’s going to be the focal point of your offense and is the best wide receiver prospect to hit the draft since 2015.
Notable Measurement(s): 1.46 10-yard split (99th percentile)
Final Grade: 80.6 (High 1st Round)
2. HENRY RUGGS III - Alabama (5’11”, 188)
Bringing immeasurable value with his deep threat chops, Ruggs enhances any offense the moment he steps on the field.
Scoring 24 touchdowns on 98 career receptions tells the story of a true home run hitter. More evidence of that are his 13.6 yards per target, 18.6 yards per reception, and 10.5 average yards after the catch, all ranking inside the top 10 of a loaded class while operating in an offense bursting at the seams with talented play-makers.
There are common and downright lazy criticims you’ll hear from Ruggs’ detractors that paint a dismally narrow picture of his game. A major one is the negative comparison to another “The Third”, John Ross. Unlike Ruggs, Ross was never too particular in getting the details right, as Joe Marino recently pointed out...
“John Ross is the poster boy for why someone shouldn’t fall in love with a receiver just because he is fast. Ross doesn’t control his speed well and it leads to sloppy routes that aren’t challenging to mirror because there is very little deception.
Despite clocking a record 4.22 40-yard dash, Ross isn’t a meaningful NFL receiver because he doesn’t know how to make his speed matter. There are other dynamics to Ross’ game like his injury history, inconsistent hands and ball skills that have led to his demise; lumping Ruggs with Ross is short-sighted. The two have very little in common aside from their historic 40-yard dash times.” - Joe Marino, The Draft Network
Olympic speed is the iron backbone of Ruggs’ stock, but he also scores above average in my formula for “hands”, “separation”, “release”, and a bevy of other important factors. Go back to his 2018 film and you see him thrive in contested catch situations. Skip ahead a year and you see a more refined route running and releases.
Stop overthinking it; Ruggs is an ascending, complete receiver with the most dynamic trump card in the class.
Notable Measurement(s): 4.27 40-yard dash (99th percentile), 1.43 10-yard split (99th), 42” vertical jump (98th), 10’11” broad jump (96th), 10 1/8” hand size (90th)
Final Grade: 78.1 (Mid-1st Round)
3. JERRY JEUDY - Alabama (6’1”, 193)
I’ve been monitoring this Deerfield Beach High School product since I saw a reel of him ripping out souls at the NIKE Opening Final camp back in the 2016. Even then he stood head and shoulders above other camp competitors like Jalen Reagor and KJ Hamler. Since then not much has changed for Jeudy, who remains the cleanest separator among his peers.
Jeudy worked primarily out of the slot for the Crimson Tide which would usually raise questions about a prospects ability to play outside. I have no such concerns with the extremely polished Jeudy, as he regularly defeats press with ease.
There isn’t a more “quarterback friendly” wide receiver in the class, and Jeudy projects as a high level starter no matter where he aligns.
Notable Measurement(s); 4.45 40-yard dash (84th), 1.46 10-yard split (99th percentile)
Final Grade: 77.8 (Mid-1st)
4. DENZEL MIMS - Baylor (6’3”, 207)
Big fellas that sprint like a deer don’t come along every day, hence why Mims has seen his stock sky-rocket during his pre-draft process. I recently spoke about that process in a segment for 104.5 The Zone’s Midday 180 (full audio here)...
“I think Mims has really done everything he can since the season was over to answer questions about his game. For instance, Baylor had him run a very limited route tree and he comes out for the Senior Bowl and nobody can cover him on a variety of routes.
If you were wondering about his deep speed, he shuts that up by running a 4.38. He’s got some real stiffness in his hips on film, like, they don’t move, it’s kind of comical, but he checks in with a 90th percentile 3-cone so he’s even got you questioning what you thought you knew.
Now Mims is a legit track athlete at 6’3” 207 and I think he mastered the technique in those drills so those times may be a bit misleading, especially the 3-cone, but there isn’t a box that he hasn’t checked and wide receiver coaches are going to be raving about his ceiling...”
There’s still some projection involved with Mims, but if he can continue on this track you’ve got a game-changer that can be effective from both “Z” and “X” alignments. His elite athletic profile and prototypical size should equal a first round selection.
Notable Measurement(s): 4.38 40-yard dash (95th percentile), 1.51 10-yard split (96th), 6.66 3-cone (94th), 38.5” vertical jump (86th), 10’11” broad jump (96th), 33 7/8” arm length (93rd)
Final Grade: 72.8 (High 2nd Round)
5. JUSTIN JEFFERSON - LSU (6’1”, 202)
The trendy selection for the Eagles at 21st overall, there’s a lot to love about Jefferson’s game. Working within a historically great, revamped LSU offense with a Heisman winning quarterback, both Jefferson and teammate Ja’Marr Chase finished top three in the nation for receiving yards.
The difference between the two is that Chase did most of his damage from the outside, while Jefferson led the nation in slot receptions (109) and yards (1,518), which represented the overwhelming bulk of his production. Unlike Jeudy, that red flag regarding Jefferson’s viability on the outside remains a concern. His 2018 film has more examples working against press and he lost those reps more than he won when facing stiffer competition.
In 2019, his slot role allowed Jefferson utilize two-way go’s to exploit zone voids and feast on soft coverage, resulting in one of the lowest average depths of target in the class (8.7). Now you can’t just put any ol’ player in the slot and expect 1,500-plus yards, so it’s not all bad for Jefferson, far from it. He’s a smart, crafty route runner with excellent reactive quickness and sublime body control.
The optimal utilization of his skill set is that of JuJu Smith-Schuster pre-Antonio Brown’s departure. The floor might be JuJu after Antonio Brown went off the reservation. That’s still a good, productive outlook that’s going to sound like a knock to his staunch supporters.
The ultimate question is how much do you value that role on the Eagles when they’ll probably operate with a slot-by-committee anyway (at least this year). Enough to take him in the middle of the first round? There’s a case both for and against it, but if you remove the debate about his exact draft slot from the equation, I like Jefferson more than it might sound.
No matter where you take him, Jefferson represents a high floor player that should produce relatively early in his career.
Notable Measurement(s): 4.43 40-yard dash (87th percentile), 1.54 10-yard split (87th), 10’6” broad jump (84th)
Final Grade: 71.9 (High 2nd Round)
6. LAVISKA SHENAULT JR. - Colorado (6’1”, 227)
One of the most polarizing prospects in the class, Shenault has only added more concerns throughout his pre-draft process. Shenault dealt with an inflamed pubic bone and aggravated a core muscle injury, which shut down his Combine before it could really begin.
Even without a pandemic shutting down pro days and official visits, the timing of Shenault’s injury wouldn’t allow him to re-test after running a mediocre 4.58, which was well below expectation. It also adds to a concerning injury history which is hard to quantify from where I’m sitting.
Assuming he’s healthy, and that’s a big assumption, Shenault is a play-maker that is a problem with the ball in his hands. Projecting his role to the NFL looks something like what the Tennessee Titans did with AJ Brown, who was one of the best after the catch receivers in the league and a threat in the vertical third. Speaking of working deep, Shenault should see better downfield production in the NFL after suffering through the inaccuracy of Steven Montez in college.
As it stands now, Shenault has a ways to go, hence PFF comparing him to Saquon Barkley and not a receiver. There’s time to develop the details with what he brings to the table immediately... if he can stay healthy.
Still, with all of the questions concerning his lack of verified testing and necessary medical re-checks, the haziness surrounding his evaluation could lead to a serious and understandable slide for Shenault. That could ultimately be for very good reasons, or could lead to a very big steal.
Notable Measurement(s); N/A
Flag(s): Medical/Verified Testing
Final Grade: 71.6 (High 2nd Round)*
7. BRANDON AIYUK - Arizona State (6’0”, 205)
Former Eagles’ scout and draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah is big on Aiyuk’s game, slotting him 24th on his big board...
“Aiyuk is one of my favorite players in the draft class. He has a solid, muscular frame and plays an aggressive brand of football. He is explosive in his release and he attacks the leverage of cornerbacks before suddenly snapping off his route... He is at his best after the catch, breaking tackles and making people miss without gearing down...
Overall, Aiyuk will need a little time to develop as a complete route runner, but he’s a tough, explosive playmaker with added special teams value.” - Daniel Jeremiah
The aforementioned special teams value is icing on the cake for Aiyuk. He averaged 31.9 yards per kick return and 16 yards per punt return while adding a punt return touchdown against Oregon State.
Aiyuk needs to clean up his releases, which means his primary usage early in his career should be from the slot. It won’t take a colossal coaching job to get him up to his potential though; all the tools are there. Aiyuk is a silky smooth and explosive athlete whose game will sizzle as he becomes more of a salesman.
Eagles fans suffering from PAC-12 PTSD will write off the dangerous Aiyuk, but the decision-makers in the league are drooling over his big play ability.
Notable Measurement(s): 1.52 10-yard split (93rd percentile), 40” vertical jump (93rd)), 10’8” broad jump (90th), 33 1/2” arm length (89th)
Final Grade: 70.9 (Middle 2nd Round)
8. JALEN REAGOR - TCU (5’11”, 206)
If you have questions about Reagor’s production dropping off a cliff from ‘18 to ‘19, there’s plenty good reason for it, as I’ve documented before. Only 30.7% of Reagor’s targets were deemed accurate by PFF, good for fourth worst in the class.
His 2019 tape does raise some concerns even when taking into account the abysmal quarterback play. Reagor didn’t seem committed to selling decoy routes, blocking, or squeezing every yard out of his opportunities after the catch.
That last concern comes up in the analytics, as his YAC average dropped considerably over the last three years (7.8 > 5.9 > 3.8) and he only broke a total of 5 tackles in ‘19. You can explain some of that away by arguing poor placement, but too many times Reagor was in self-preservation mode and sought out the sidelines.
There’s still a lot to like when projecting Reagor. When he gets the chance to show it off, which happened more in 2018, he’s got some of the best get-off in the class. A sudden mover with serious hops, there’s nothing Reagor can’t do athletically... except turn? I’ll admit, his 7.31 3-cone (5th percentile) was a bit of a shocker, but I didn’t see those limitations on film.
Reagor may not have blazed in the 4.3s like some expected, but he’s still a threat to all three levels that should be more motivated if his quarterback isn’t sapping his spirit by performing like a miscalibrated JUGGS machine.
Notable Measurable(s): 1.52 10-yard split (93rd percentile), 42” vertical jump (98th), 11’06” broad jump (99th)
Final Grade: 68.8 (Late 2nd Round)
9. BRYAN EDWARDS - South Carolina (6’3”, 212)
Sleeper alert! I was late to Edwards’ film, but boy is he a treat to watch. I didn’t expect a man his size to have his movement skills.
We never got to verify that juice with athletic testing due to a broken foot suffered during training. He also had minor in-season arthroscopic knee surgery after aggravating an old injury that kept him out of the Gamecocks’ last two games, so there’s a medical question clouding his stock too.
On the plus side, I have it on good authority that South Carolina’s tracking data saw him hit 21 and 22mph multiple times, which is what they were seeing from Deebo Samuel during his time there. The play speed is there on the film, so that’s not as surprising as it may seem.
“If Bryan Edwards had been healthy for the Senior Bowl and the Combine, we’d be talking about him in a very similar fashion to how we have been talking about Denzel Mims’ stock the past few months.” - Jon Ledyard
Edwards is strong as a bull and a chore to bring down, which is why South Carolina chose to frequently feed him bubble screen and manufactured touches in space. Given the proper opportunity (which is often based on draft slot), Edwards has the potential to be a solid starting X-receiver.
Notable Measurement(s): N/A
Flag(s): Medical/Verified Testing
Final Grade: 67.5 (Late 2nd Round)
10. KJ HAMLER - Penn State (5’9”, 178)
I want to love Hamler. I really do. His play speed is top tier and he consistently pops on film. As Michigan found out, if you give him a free run at a safety, Hamler will eat you alive.
I don’t need Combine or pro day numbers to tell you Hamler is a legitimate deep threat, and that has value, but how far can that trump card take him? Examining the other parts of his game, I was left with more questions than answers.
Can he compete at the catchpoint? Can he beat press? Can he deal with physicality of any kind? Will he hold up through the rigors of a full NFL season? And finally, can he catch the dang ball?
Even if you believe that Hamler can be durable despite his size, that last question is deal breaker if you’re trying to convince me I have him too low. His drop rate of 16.9% is a fatal flaw that I just can’t get past.
PFF’s comparison of Hamler to Tavon Austin is spot on. He’s an incredibly exciting player with deeply concerning issues that projects to an extremely limited role.
Notable Measurable(s): N/A
Final Grade: 64.7 (High 3rd Round)
- Notable Incomplete Evaluations: Michael Pittman Jr. (USC), John Hightower (Boise State), Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty). From initial viewings and observing Senior Bowl practices, Pittman has the best chance of cracking the top 10.
- Notable Fallers: Tee Higgins (Clemson). Great size, good production, uninspiring film, bad jumps and an abysmal 10-yard split (1.66)... I’ll let somebody else take that swing and try to figure it out.
At this point, you might be asking how this class stacks up compared to those of recent history. Based on my grades, the ‘20 class owns three of the highest grades since I started serious evaluations in preparation for the ‘17 draft class. Here’s how the top 10 shakes out over the last four classes based on my pre-draft grades...
Some of the prospects that just missed out on this list include Deebo Samuel, Justin Jefferson, Mike Williams, and DJ Chark. It’s not all roses though (as the Corey Davis whiff demonstrates), mixed in with those names are unproven commodities like JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Kelvin Harmon, Anthony Miller and some that have entirely fallen out of favor like John Ross and Dante Pettis.
In short, wide receiver evaluation is hard. There’s a multitude of reasons a prospect will fail or succeed, like draft slot, coaching, health, character, and more. It’s a process the Eagles will have to nail during an unprecedented situation.