Prospect Preview: 2020 Wide Receivers

Wide receiver is one of my favorite positions to watch because of how diverse and nuanced the position is right now. There are many diverse types of receivers with different strengths and weaknesses. Smaller receivers are typically better with quickness and route running, but can’t high point the ball. Bigger receivers have trouble with route running but have great straight line speed and can high point the ball. There are a million variations with plenty of exceptions to those rules and that’s what makes this so fun. The nuance of the position lies with route running which has become one of the biggest predictors of success in the NFL. A receiver who knows when to make a well-timed head fake or stutter step can be extremely valuable.

The 2020 receiver class is something out of a dream because of the abundance of talent. Last years class was okay but didn’t have the “top-10” potential as this one does. In fact, I think the top two players on this list have a chance to finish the preseason in my top 10 overall players. The class is so deep that I had trouble separating all the players from 3-9 and then had trouble with 9-15. Everyone is so talented this year that I can already tell rankings are going to stress me out when April rolls around.

I don’t do official grades this time of year because so much will change over the upcoming season and draft process. Using some inference powers, however, I can say that at least all of my top 10 receivers would get consideration in my top 50 overall players. Meaning that none of them would get anything lower than a third-round grade for me. I can also say that my entire top-5 would get at least close to a first-round grade. For reference, I had just one first-round grade on a receiver last year (DK Metcalf).  

 

Number One:

Jerry Juedy, Junior, Alabama

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I have so many good things to say about Jerry Juedy I don’t even know where to start. He just makes everything on the football field look so easy and smooth despite going against tough competition in the SEC. His route running at all three levels of the field is great which combined with elite speed and quickness makes him a mismatch nightmare. He makes acrobatic catches pointing to superior athletic ability and strong reliable hands. He’s a hassle to bring down after the catch due to pretty juke moves and good spatial awareness. He does a good job with his releases at the line of scrimmage giving him instant separation. The only question mark with Juedy is how effective he is at the catch point. He’s not that big and typically when he is downfield he is already 15 yards behind the defense, so he doesn’t get a lot of “high pointing” opportunities. However, Juedy does have great body control allowing him to make diving and jumping catches so some of the traits are present for him to be successful in that area. Juedy is making an early push for my top overall player in the class.

Number Two:

Ceedee Lamb, Junior, Oklahoma

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Ceedee Lamb stood out to me a lot last season when scouting Kyler Murray, and I was not disappointed when I got to his tape this summer. For a smaller receiver, Lamb’s ability to win at the catch point and downfield is truly incredible. He makes acrobatic catches going over bigger cornerbacks all the time. When it comes to route running Lamb displays good vertical burst and lateral quickness allowing him to create separation. He showed some nuance in his route running by using head fakes and stutter steps to throw defensive backs off of their timing. Like Juedy, Lamb’s athletism jumps off the page with all the leaping and diving catches he’s able to make. In the thread below you’ll see the one-handed catch he made against UCLA. If that catch doesn’t convince you of his athletic traits then I don’t know what will. Lamb is in the conversation for WR 1 and a top-10 player on my preseason board.

Number Three:

Laviska Shenault, Junior, Colorado

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This is where things started to get difficult for me because I considered about six other players for this spot. I ended up going with Shenault due to his versatility as a player and his sheer production on the field. Shenault basically made up all of the Buffalo’s total yardage through their first five games last season, and when he got hurt Colorado went a huge losing streak. Shenault lines up all over the formation including the X position, in the slot, as a running back, and even as an H-Back. Shenualt is one of the most effective receivers in the country with the ball in his hands. He’s got great moves in the open field and has the power to push piles and an extra couple of yards. He’s got great hands which allows him to make plenty of catches outside of his body giving him a huge catch radius. His ability to track the ball down the field makes him a legit deep threat to go along with his prowess on shorter routes. I would love to see Shenault stay healthy and do some more traditional receiver things in the 2019 season, but his versatility and athletic profile are super intriguing.

Number Four:

Tylan Wallace, Junior, Oklahoma State

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I don’t think you can be more of a Tylan Wallace fan than I am right now. Wallace blew me away after watching his film this week. Wallace is known as a premier deep threat at Oklahoma State, and he definitely lived up to his title. Wallace does a great job of tracking the ball down the field and has the body control/athleticism to make difficult catches on poorly thrown balls. He’s a smaller player but he was able to win a considerable number of jump balls at the catch point. Wallace has plenty of downhill speed to run straight by most defensive backs. Plus he’s a good deep route runner, so he checks every box you would have for a deep threat. The question I had with Wallace is how effective would he be in the shorter areas of the field? Well, I was happy to see that  Wallace deserves more credit for his short to intermediate route running. He’s got fluid hips and quick feet which makes for an easy projection heading into the NFL. My issues with Wallace are centered mostly around his limited route tree and occasional concentration drop. If he can iron some things out and expand his game a little more then Wallace could remain in the top five come April.

Number Five:

Colin Johnson, Senior, Texas

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Johnson is the first senior to make my top 5, however, he is the third receiver from the Big 12 conference to be on the list. Johnson stands out immediately when you but on his tape because of his massive 6’6 size. He does all the things well you would expect from someone his size like winning at the catch point, winning in jump ball situations, and winning in the red zone. While that is great and all the really intriguing part of Johnson’s game is how smooth he moves for someone of his size. He doesn’t appear to be stiff in the hips and looks like he has enough deep speed to be effective downfield in the NFL. Not only that, but he makes a lot of very difficult catches away from his body that point to an advanced athletic profile. My biggest concern with Johnson is that he is a bit of a one trick pony. His one trick is really great, but I would like to see him do a little more than just run go routes and fade routes. I say this because I think Johnson is capable of doing more not because I think he can’t.

 

Numbers 6-16

Number 6: Henry Ruggs, Junior, Alabama

Number 7: Tee Higgins, Junior, Clemson

Number 8: Tyler Johnson, Senior, Minnesota

Number 9: Donavan Peoples-Jones, Junior, Michigan

Number 10: KJ Hill, Senior, Ohio State

Number 11: Bryan Edwards, Senior, South Carolina

Number 12: Denzel Mims, Senior, Baylor

Number 13: Isaiah Wright, Senior, Temple

Number 14: TJ Vasher, Junior, Texas Tech

Number 15: Tarik Black, Junior, Michigan

Number 16: Kendrick Rodgers, Junior, Texas A@M

 

Players I need to Watch

Number 1: Devonta Smith, Junior, Alabama

Number 2: Tyrie Clevland, Junior, Florida

Number 3: Kalija Lipscomb, Senior, Vanderbilt

Number 4: Micheal Pittman Jr, Senior, USC

Number 5: Marquez Calloway, Senior, Tennessee

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