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Jerry Jeudy
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Evaluations

Top-15 2020 NFL Draft WR Rankings

by Thor Nystrom
Updated On: July 24, 2019, 6:20 pm ET

This is the third of seven columns coming in my 2020 NFL Draft summer scouting series. You can find quarterbacks here and running backs here

 

2020 NFL Draft at a glance

Better in 2020: QB, RB, WR, OT, CB, S

Worse in 2020: TE, OG, C, DL, EDGE, LB

 

Top-15 WR

1. Jerry Jeudy  (Alabama) | 6'0/192

2. Laviska Shenault (Colorado) | 6'2/225

3. CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma) | 6'1/189

4. Tee Higgins (Clemson) | 6'3/205

5. Jalen Reagor (TCU) | 5'11/195

6. Tyler Johnson (Minnesota) | 6'1/200

7. Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) | 6'0/185

8. Henry Ruggs (Alabama) | 6'0/190

9. Collin Johnson (Texas) | 6'5/220

10. Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty) | 6'4/220

11. Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt) | 6'0/200

12. J.D. Spielman (Nebraska) | 5'9/185

13. Bryan Edwards (South Carolina) | 6'2/215

14. Denzel Mims (Baylor) | 6'2/208

15. Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan) | 6'1/208

 

Potential risers: Tarik Black (Michigan) | (6'2/215), T.J. Vasher (Texas Tech) | 6'5/190, K.J. Hill (Ohio State) | 6’0/198, Tamorrion Terry (Florida State) | 6'3/203, Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State) | 6'3/203, Devonta Smith (Alabama) | 6'0/175

Needs a leap: Demetris Robertson (Georgia) | 6'0/190

Deep sleeper: Warren Jackson (Colorado State) | 6'5/205

2020 prospect to monitor: Justyn Ross (Clemson) | 6'4/205, Rondale Moore (Purdue) | 5'9/181


1. Jerry Jeudy  (Alabama) | 6'0/192

A five-star recruit and top-20 overall prospect coming out of high school, Jeudy entered college ranked behind only Donovan Peoples-Jones and Tee Higgins at his position. He blew past both in 2018 with a ridiculous 68-1315-14 line.

During Alabama’s brutal four-game Auburn-Georgia-Oklahoma-Clemson gauntlet to end the season, Jeudy scored a TD in each game. He’s done all this at a very young age – Jeudy’s breakout age is 19.5, and he won’t turn 21 until right after the draft.

An absurdly athletic burner, Jeudy has averaged over 19 yards per reception in college. The reigning Biletnikoff winner is most often comped to Odell Beckham. When you see a sub-200 pound SEC receiver with high-octane athleticism, ludicrous body control and polished ball skills, your mind really only goes to one place. Jeudy probably has an inch on OBJ as well (he’s listed as 6’1 but will likely measure in around 6’0; Beckham is 5’11). Check out the OBJ-esque slant below.

Due to his explosiveness and playmaking ability with the ball in his hands, Jeudy has also been likened to Peter Warrick.

Of course, Jeudy also draws natural comparisons to Calvin Ridley due to his school and game. When he gets picked in April, Jeudy will be two-and-a-half years younger than Ridley when Ridley was drafted. Check out this open deep post that may remind you of Ridley and Amari Cooper from Crimson Tide squads of yore.

Jeudy is thin, and, at this time, unseasoned in contested catch situations. But a player this slippery doesn’t necessarily need to be N’Keal Harry in coin-flip scenarios, and Jeudy hasn’t had durability issues in the past. He’s also one of the best deep-ball guys in all of the NCAA.

Though I don’t see Jeudy as the WR1 lock some others do, I agree that he’s the odds-on favorite to be the first receiver off the board in April. Jeudy may not be Laviska Shenault’s equal as an overall player right this second, but his athleticism is going to play as sort of NFL trump card, particularly through the prism of his draft stock.


2. Laviska Shenault (Colorado) | 6'2/225

Laviska Shenault is the best receiver in college football right now. If he played for Alabama or Oklahoma, that would be a more popular opinion. For two months now, I’ve batted around Jeudy vs. Viska. In the end, I defaulted to chalk because of Jeudy’s athleticism,

That gives Jeudy more ceiling. But Viska’s got the higher floor.

Shenault is the guy you feed touches to as often as possible and in as many ways possible because he’s so difficult to tackle. He’s both a big-play maven and a high-volume playmaker. He’s drawn ubiquitous comps to Sammy Watkins. Anquan Boldin works better from a strength/toughness perspective.

I first saw the Boldin comp from, of all people, USC DC Clancy Pendergast, who served as defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals during Boldin’s time. In the lead-up to last October's USC-Colorado game, Pendergast noted that Shenault “can really handle the ball in the open field but (he) also create[s] mismatches down the field.”

Though Shenault’s skill with the ball in his hands leads to plenty of passes caught around the line of scrimmage, he’s also the Pac-12’s leading returning receiver with 3.44 yards per route run (the next highest is USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown with 2.65).

Shenault is so tricky to defend because he can pop the top off the defense whenever he's sent on a fly route, but you have to be cognizant of all the damage he can do around the line of scrimmage and in the intermediate sector. He's impossible for corners to tackle one-on-one on the perimeter.

Shenault is not only physically dominant -- legendary Colorado coach Gary Barnett said he’s the best player to play for the Buffaloes in the past 20 years -- but he's extremely versatile. Last year, Colorado lined up Shenault outside, in the slot, at tight end and as a Wildcat quarterback. When he has the ball in his hands, you hold your breath.

I’m not convinced that Jeudy is the best receiver in the 2020 class. I think it very well may be Shenault. Doesn't mean he'll get drafted first, though. Jeudy is going to blow the roof off at the NFL Combine, whereas Shenault is likely to test as “just” a “very-very-very good” athlete.


3. CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma) | 6'1/189

I think Lamb is a better prospect than Hollywood Brown. The athleticism is a given, and the hands are pure magic.

What gives Lamb such a high ceiling is his skill on top of those gifts. In terms of body control, downfield tracking and hands made of glue, this kid is a SportsCenter Top-10 catch waiting to happen. 

Lamb has a particular skill for out-breaking routes, which require a combination of athleticism, route running, timing, footwork and contested-catch ability. On 15 out-breaking targets last year, Lamb had 14 catches with 11 combined first downs or TDs. Per PFF, Lamb was the nation’s best on those routes.

Lamb is also a high-effort player who gets after it. Check out this murderous block for Kyler Murray downfield against Alabama in the Playoff.

One thing to keep an eye on: Lamb had the pleasure of working with Heisman winners and 1.1 NFL picks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray the past two years. This time around, it'll be Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts, whose arm rarely impressed in Tuscaloosa. If nothing else, Lamb should get plenty of opportunities for the circus catches he’s become known for.


4. Tee Higgins (Clemson) | 6'3/205

Higgins, a former five-star recruit, is such a gifted athlete that basketball programs were all over him before he elected to give his athletic future to football. Following a forgettable true freshman season back when Kelly Bryant was Clemson’s quarterback (he's now a fifth-year senior at Missouri), Higgins broke out last year as a sophomore.

Higgins didn’t post a PFF game grade of 70.0 or more in any of Clemson’s first five games last year after posting a 74.9 season grade as a true freshman. Middling production. But after true freshman prodigy Trevor Lawrence replaced Bryant, Higgins earned game grades over 70.0 in nine of Clemson's last 10 games, over 75.0 in seven of 10, and over 78.0 in five of 10.

This guy is going to be an NFL touchdown machine. Higgins is really difficult to deal with down the field and in the red zone. He’s one of the top jump-ball guys in the nation, he has a huge catch radius, and he’s surprising physical for a former basketball player.

I think we're gonna see The Leap from Higgins in 2019, with a full season to work with Lawrence, the carve-it-in-stone 2021 1.1, who'll no doubt be taking a developmental jump forward himself.

The biggest unknown variable regarding Higgins’ eventual draft slot is agility and fluidity drills during the pre-draft process. In the meantime, he should set out to prove that he can run a full route tree confidently now that he’s full-time working with a quarterback who has no limitations throwing the ball.


5. Jalen Reagor (TCU) | 5'11/195

The son of Montae Reagor, who played in NFL for nine seasons and won a Super Bowl ring with the Colts in 2006, Jalen is a blur of an athlete who already has a nice catalogue of breathtaking runs in the open field.

Reagor has sort of been lost in the shuffle among this high-wattage receiver class, in part because TCU’s bumbling quarterback corps didn’t help him out much last year. Reagor ran a 4.32 in high school and was the Texas state long jump champion during his prep days.

He has similar holy-cow athleticism to Jeudy. If he played at Alabama, Reagor would be getting quite a bit more pub right now. Per PFF, Reagor actually received more downfield targets than Jeudy last year. TCU’s quarterbacks left a ton of yards on the field when they couldn’t hit Reagor after he’d torched some hapless Big 12 corner.

Circumstance alone – the depth of the 2020 receiver class, plus the non-ideal circumstances he’s playing in -- may conspire to make Reagor available at a discount next April. It’s possible that some team will get 96.3% of Jeudy by waiting til the end of Round 1 to take Reagor.


6. Tyler Johnson (Minnesota) | 6'1/200

Right this minute, Johnson probably has the best ball skills in the 2020 receiver class. I would absolutely put him in N’Keal Harry’s neighborhood in this department. Like Harry, Johnson sometimes forces you to pause and rewind live TV so you can figure out how he came down with the ball.

Johnson’s situation is even worse than Reagor’s. PJ Fleck has upped Minnesota’s talent level the past few years, but he’s yet to figure out the quarterback position. The Gophers intend to roll back the replacement-level combo of Zack Annexstad and Tanner Morgan. If one could make the leap to average-B1G-starter, it would be a big coup for Johnson’s numbers, film catalogue and, perhaps even his ultimate draft slot. I’m not holding my breath.

Even so, Johnson is going to put on a show this fall. He gets off the line quickly, and he comes down with just about any ball he’s physically able to reach. The Gophers feed him the ball as much as he can handle. Johnson easily finished No. 1 among returning receivers with a 52.30% dominator rating, per the Devy Watch. Nobody else finished above 46.5%.

Johnson is also a red-zone killer. He ranks No. 1 among returning FBS receivers with 10 touchdowns on red-zone targets, per PFF. Interestingly enough, PFF also grades Johnson as the nation’s best receiver in crunch time, with 12-of-16 receptions going for either a first down or TD on 29 targets. Johnson did not drop one ball in the entire sample, which includes all play after the third quarter.

The biggest question mark about Johnson is his athletic testing numbers. I think he may have bypassed this past draft out of a fear that he could tumble into Day 3 with poor testing numbers.

This is the area Harry pulls away from Johnson a bit. And it’s the reason that I currently see Johnson as a Round 2 prospect, despite the fact that I absolutely adore his game (I live in Minneapolis and catch most Gophers games live). Round 1 is in play with a sensational season and above-average tests. But Day 3 is also in play if Johnson’s numbers stagnate and his tests disappoint.

Thor Nystrom

Thor Nystrom is Rotoworld’s lead CFB writer. The 2018 FSWA College Sports Writer of the Year, Nystrom’s writing has also been honored by Rolling Stone magazine and The Best American Essays series. Say hi to him on Twitter @thorku!