4) Create my personal rankings using steps two and three. This is where we are today:
CeeDee Lamb (6’2/198) is an elite producer with above average athleticism, instincts, and competitiveness, making him a potential top 10 receiver in the NFL. Last season, he averaged 15.1 yards per target — easily the best in the class — and finished inside the 99th percentile in my predictive adjusted production score, partially because he will barely be 21 years old on draft night. On tape, he wins at the line of scrimmage with quick feet, creates separation at the next level with his combination of speed and route running ability, and finishes off plays with in-air adjustments and yards after the catch. Per PFF, he averaged 11.0 yards after catch, the most among Combine invitees. In the NFL, he’ll be utilized in the screen game and on vertical routes as an all-around WR1 despite being an average sized player with non-elite speed.
Jerry Jeudy (6’1/193) is a multi-year producer at Alabama with exceptional route running that allows him to win at all depths of the field, making him a probable WR1 in the NFL. Despite being very young and facing top-notch competition (not just in the SEC but for targets on his own team), he averaged at least 86.0 yards per game in back-to-back seasons, leading the FBS in 15+ yard receptions over that span. He also finished inside the 96th percentile in my adjusted production metric last season. On tape, he creates separation with the best route running in the class and finishes plays with stop-start moves after the catch. An extremely polished receiver with just one very forgivable question mark (38th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism), Jeudy can be a high-end slot receiver or go-to target on the outside in the NFL.
Henry Ruggs (5’11/188) declared for the NFL Draft after a 40-746-7 junior season at Alabama. He operated as the No. 3 target in a stacked offense, which limited his career reception count to just 98 passes. While he doesn’t check some production boxes, he did average 13.5 yards per target last season, the second-best mark in the draft class. On tape, he’s more than just a deep threat. His route running is underrated, particularly on slant ins, slants, and shallow crossers, and he’s electric after the catch on underneath targets. He unsurprisingly showed 99th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism with 4.27 speed and a 42-inch vertical at the NFL Combine. Already coming off a highly-efficient season as a 20-year-old, Ruggs should only get better with more in-game reps, profiling as a matchup mismatch in Year 1. He should end up on the Will Fuller/Tyreek Hill spectrum by the end of his rookie contract.
As a 20-year-old junior, Justin Jefferson (6’1/202) compiled 111 receptions, 1,540 yards, and 18 touchdowns as a go-to target in the most prolific offense in college football history. Primarily a slot receiver, Jefferson wins with nuanced route running, steady hands, and yards after catch ability. His 11.5 yards per target average was among the best in the class, and he only trailed Jerry Jeudy in 15+ yard receptions over the last two seasons. Per PFF, 41% of his receiving yards came on ins, outs, and crosses, which are the routes he’ll run most often in the NFL. He occasionally won on vertical routes at LSU and may be the part of his game that can be developed the most in the NFL, especially after showing 4.41 speed at the NFL Combine. Jefferson can be a reliable underneath target as a rookie and has WR1 upside within a couple of seasons.
Denzel Mims (6’3/207) flew up draft boards after stringing together a productive 2019 season with strong showings at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. At Baylor, he broke out as a sophomore and set new career highs as a senior with a 66-1,040-12 receiving line. An 89th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athlete with 4.38 speed, Mims is at his best on vertical routes — 29% of his receiving yards came on the go route per PFF — where he makes acrobatic contested catches near the sideline. He flashed the ability to run a full route tree during the Senior Bowl but likely needs some rookie contract development in that area. The primary knock on his profile is that he was a 22-year-old non-declare. It’s just not enough to fade Mims as a borderline first round talent and potential WR1/2 in the NFL.
Tee Higgins (6’4/216) is an efficient deep threat with a massive catch radius who profiles as an NFL team’s WR2. As a 20-year-old last season, he produced a 59-1,167-13 receiving line, averaged the third-most yards per target (13.4) in the draft class, and came down with 15-of-23 deep targets for 565 yards per PFF. The combination of his size, physicality, and contested catch ability make him a mismatch for undersized corners, but he needs to improve as a route runner to reach his ceiling because he’s not bursty, as evidenced by his 31-inch vertical jump and bottom 2nd percentile 10-yard split. Higgins needs a runway to build up to his 4.54 speed, which is why he doesn’t profile as a go-to target in the NFL, but a Mike Williams-level role still makes him a worthwhile selection around the Round 1/2 turn.
Chase Claypool (6’4/238) is a super-athletic receiver prospect who was a late-bloomer at Notre Dame after growing up in Canada as a basketball player. He needed a few years of development to get going, but he set career highs in receptions (66), yards (1,037), touchdowns (13), and market share (32%) as a senior and flew up draft boards at the NFL Combine with 4.42 speed and 40.5-inch ups. On tape, he was a very difficult tackle on underneath targets and showed a lot of body control on downfield shots for a player his size. In the NFL, Claypool will first be used as a mismatch on offense and will likely add value on special teams with his kick coverage experience, but given his background, it’s possible that he grows into a WR1 or WR2 role on his rookie contract. Few prospects in the class can match his ceiling.
Laviska Shenault (6’1/227) is a powerful receiver with strong short-area explosion who battled injuries and questionable usage in college, making him a risky prospect with high-end upside. In 2018, he had the second most receptions per game (9.6) among FBS sophomores since at least 2000, but he was slowed down by injuries last season. Those setbacks were brought on by his physical playing style and usage. Per PFF, only 25% of his targets traveled beyond 10 yards of the line of scrimmage with Colorado deploying him as a gadget player who even lined up as a Wildcat runner in goal line situations. At the next level, he will likely do most of his damage underneath as a human truck stick, but he has flashed the ability to win deep, too. It will take some development to make Shenault an all-around receiver, but his athleticism alone should make him a rookie year contributor if his health cooperates.
Michael Pittman (6’4/223) helped his draft stock with a 101-1,275-11 senior season in USC’s air raid offense. A big body with 4.52 speed, Pittman primarily lined up outside on the left side for the Trojans and won on vertical routes — PFF credits an absurd 36% of his receiving yards to go routes. On tape, he was physical throughout the route and came down with many contested catches, plus only dropped five of his 254 career targets. He was also effective underneath with underrated YAC ability because he’s a tough tackle given his size and competitiveness. His primary holes in his prospect profile are age-related, but I don’t trust USC coach Clay Helton with getting the most out of his players, so I’m largely ignoring them. Pittman is a high-floor starter on the perimeter with a Kenny Golladay-level ceiling.
KJ Hamler (5’9/178) is an unpolished and undersized playmaker with the potential to be a downfield mismatch as a young rookie. He compiled a 56-904-8 receiving line during his 20-year-old season last year while operating as Penn State’s big-play weapon, but a hamstring injury prevented him from competing at the NFL Combine where he would’ve run in the 4.3s. On tape, he won from the slot and out wide as a lid lifter and manufactured-touch weapon similar to Curtis Samuel or Ted Ginn. His petiteness does limit him in traffic, but his biggest issue was his hands — he tied for the most drops (12) in the Power 5 per PFF. If that gets cleaned up, Hamler should earn a WR2 role on his rookie contract with some development.
Brandon Aiyuk (5’11/205) is a late-blooming playmaker as a receiver and returner with natural ability to win in space, making him a potential WR2/3 and return specialist in the NFL. After spending two years at junior college, he played behind N’Keal Harry as a junior before breaking out last season to the tune of 1,192 receiving yards. Per PFF, 70% of them came on three straight-line routes — screens (26%), posts (25%), and go routes (19%). On tape, his arm length and creativity with the ball in his hands stand out. He averaged an elite 11.1 yards after the catch but will need to run a wider variety of routes to be more than a complimentary piece of an NFL offense. A 76th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athlete with 4.50 speed, Aiyuk should compete for a starting job as a rookie and has the traits to be a difference maker with more development.
Jalen Reagor (5’11/206) was an inconsistent producer at TCU as an undersized but bursty deep threat with 4.47 speed. He broke out as an 18-year-old freshman (33-576-8) and ascended as a sophomore (72-1,061-9), but tanked last season (43-611-5), although subpar quarterback play can partially explain that and his low 6.9 yards per target average. On tape, Reagor is at his best on straight-line routes where he can get upfield and utilize his 42-inch vert. He has the body control to haul in contested catches, but it’s unclear if that skill set will translate to the NFL given his size. To reach his Brandin Cooks-level ceiling, Reagor needs to fine-tune his releases at the line of scrimmage to avoid getting overpowered. Until then, he’ll compete for WR2 or WR3 duties as a low-volume deep threat.
Devin Duvernay (5’10/200) was a late bloomer at Texas, but posted a 106-1,386-9 receiving line as a senior, primarily from the slot. A compactly built receiver, Duvernay wins with 4.39 speed and short-area burst near the line of scrimmage. He finished with the second among FBS receivers in first downs (68) and was PFF’s third-highest graded slot receiver, partially because of his very low drop percentage. On tape, he was at his best on screens and slants where he could pick up yards after the catch, although he occasionally flashed vertical ability. Duvernay will need to improve his releases against man coverage before becoming a full-time player in the NFL, but his 93rd percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism should at the very least make him a candidate for manufactured touches.
Bryan Edwards (6’3/212) was a four-year starter at South Carolina, and finished third in career receptions (324) and fourth in career receiving yards (3,045) in SEC history. The Gamecocks lined him up out wide and in the slot, and made sure to manufacture touches for him on sweeps and screens. In fact, 76% of his 71 receptions as a senior came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage per PFF. For this reason, he profiles as a discount version of ex-teammate Deebo Samuel. On tape, he showed low 4.5s speed, but a broken foot prevented him from competing at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. If he can overcome his recent injuries and improve his releases on traditional routes, Edwards could be a post-hype sleeper as a team’s WR3 who wins on designed looks within his first two years in the NFL.
Gabriel Davis (6’2/216) declared early after leading Central Florida in receiving in two-straight seasons as a sophomore (53-815-7) and junior (72-1,241-12). He almost exclusively lined up as an outside receiver on the left side and did most of his damage on vertical routes where he was able to use his big body on deep targets. He needs more route running development, particularly while setting up underneath routes, because he doesn’t create a ton separation with natural explosion. A 51st percentile Adjusted SPARQ athlete with 4.54 speed, Davis initially profiles as a depth option but could earn a WR3 job on the outside within a couple of seasons. He’s barely 21 years old.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (6’2/212) was a five-star high school recruit and showcased 97th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism at the NFL Combine, but his production at Michigan told another story. His career highs in receptions (47), receiving yards (612), and touchdowns (8) came as a sophomore, and he declared for the draft coming off a 34-438-6 season. He was inconsistent on tape, disappearing for most of the game only to make the occasional big-play. Perhaps splitting his reps between the slot and out wide prevented him from excelling in either but is still a concern. His athleticism, particularly his burst (44.5-inch vertical and 139-inch broad), will be an asset on special teams as a potential punt returner and gunner, but he didn’t show enough to project him as a starting receiver early in his NFL career. The upside, of course, is there.
Isaiah Hodgins (6’4/210) was a productive three-year starter who led the Beavers’ receivers in receptions in all three of his seasons. After an 86-1,171-13 junior season, he declared for the draft early as a 21-year-old. On tape, he was a patient route runner who tracked the ball very well. He catches it with his hands and has a big frame that allows him to high point passes. Unfortunately, he showed 4.61 speed and 45th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism at the NFL Combine. Hodgins has everything but the juice, so he profiles as a depth receiver and special teamer in the NFL.
Antonio Gandy-Golden (6’4/223) eclipsed 69 receptions (nice), 1,000 yards, and 10 touchdowns in each of last three seasons at Liberty while operating as a vertical threat on the perimeter. In 2019, the Flames faced the third easiest strength of schedule out of 130 FCS teams, so AGG overpowered weaker competition with his large frame to the tune of 1,396 yards and 17.7 yards per catch. He reportedly had an up-and-down week at the Senior Bowl against NFL prospects and showed 67th percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism with 4.60 speed at the NFL Combine. Gandy-Golden will likely compete for WR3/4 duties on his rookie contract as a field stretcher and potential red zone option.
Tyler Johnson (6’1/206) is a multi-year producer with nice hands and size, but his below-average athleticism has limited his draft stock. He has three 677+ yard seasons, scored in the 99th percentile in my predictive adjusted production metric, and was PFF’s highest graded receiver of 2019. On tape, he plays bigger than what he’s listed at and uses his hands very well, which led him to being the only draft-eligible receiver to catch at least 70% of his deep targets. With that said, he is at his best in the slot and may never be a functional outside receiver in the NFL given his athletic limitations and struggles against physical boundary corners. This is probably why he stayed in college for all four years and wasn’t invited to the Senior Bowl, two reasons to fade him as more than a late-round flier despite a high-end analytical profile.
Lynn Bowden (5’11/204) played both receiver and quarterback, plus returned kicks, throughout his three seasons at Kentucky. The Wildcats were desperate for a playmaker on offense in 2019, so they turned the ultra-competitive Bowden into a dual-threat quarterback. That experience opens up the trick-play playbook, but he will be a gadget receiver and special teamer in the NFL. As a sophomore, he led Kentucky in all receiving categories with a 67-745-5 line. 51% of those receptions came behind the line of scrimmage, however, so he’ll need further development as a route runner before competing for a starting spot in the NFL. In the meantime, Bowden will be a valuable special teamer and versatile offensive depth option.
This 2020 receiver class has a lot hype, and I believe it will live up to the hype. There are a few potential go-to targets in the first two rounds and an additional dozen or so complimentary pieces for an NFL offense. The class is particularly strong in the vertical threat department. I will not be surprised if records are broken for x amount of receivers drafted x overall pick.