The NFL Draft Combine is just a week away, and before that comes out I want to make sure I put out my top 20 WRs based purely on tape (and Senior Bowl performance for some).
Wide Receivers have been the talk of the town, and rightfully so, you can stack this class up with any year top to bottom and they will hold their own. You can find every prototype at the position with players who can fill just about every role effectively. It’s one of those classes you expect to look back on 3-4 years from now and wonder how this much talent came together in one incredible draft class.
My top 20, from 20-1:
20) Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State
The combine is important for wide receivers, and I don’t know if it’s more important for anyone than Isaiah Hodgins, as the biggest knock on him right now is the lack of athleticism displayed on tape. He gets open with great footwork, has shown ability going over the top for 50/50 balls, and has strong hands through contact. I really hope he can show at least average explosiveness and make himself some money in Indy.
19) Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin
He has an unorthodox release, but it works. His short area quickness is definitely a plus, he runs a variety of routes from every position along the line of scrimmage, and should be able to plug into just about every system effectively.
18) Quartney Davis, Texas A&M
This probably isn’t the first time I’ll make this statement, but in a normal year Davis is talked about as at least a 2nd round player. He plays bigger than his size, he shows sure hands, and YAC ability with good vision with the ball in his hands. If he can put down a 4.4 and explosiveness in his jumps, look for him to shoot up the board quite a bit. Athletes with his type of play-making mentality tend not to last too long on draft night.
17) Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan
Dealt with an offense and a quarterback that didn’t allow him to display his talent the way you’d like, but if you watch enough games you’ll see glimpses of a great WR at the next level. His athleticism is natural and fluid, the play-making ability is there, and he has shown the ability to be a threat on all 3 levels of the defense.
16) Devin Duvernay, Texas
Strong lower body that he uses to explode out of his stance. After the catch he’s super physical and tough to bring down. He’s not a complete wide receiver, he doesn’t have every trait you want, and he’s not going to be a #1 receiver in the NFL, but a smart coordinator will be able to use his strengths and find a really nice player who fits into a specific role, and that’s just fine.
15) Bryan Edwards, South Carolina
Really physical before and after the catch, something I value a lot when looking at a prospect transitioning to the next level. The quickness and suddenness is there, but athleticism is far from eye-popping, thus making the combine really important for him. His aggressiveness and physicality make him a really intriguing prospect.
14) Van Jefferson, Florida
The acceleration for his frame really stands out for Van, something he really displayed in Mobile at the Senior Bowl as one of the better players throughout the whole week. He has shown the ability to go outside his frame to pluck a ball out of the air, to compensate for the shoddy QB play he’s dealt with throughout his career in Gainesville.
13) KJ Hill, Ohio State
KJ Hill is about as complete a WR prospect as they come. The route running, tracking downfield, suddenness at the top of his route, ability off press coverage, and football IQ really stand out with him. I expect him to perform as an above average athlete at the position, but anything more than that could move him up boards.
12) Laviska Shenault Jr, Colorado
Here’s probably the most controversial placement on the board, but I’ll do my best to defend it. During the season I caught a couple Shenault highlights and loved his ability with the ball in his hands, but the more I watched, the more nervous I got about his transition to the NFL. There are a lot of red flags, notably the lack of effort when he isn’t the ball carrier or primary read. Can he dominate with the ball in his hands? Yes, but I am really concerned about his ability to be a true WR at the next level and break man coverage against NFL corners. If you tell me a team is going to draft him and use him like a better version of Cordarrelle Patterson, I’m all in, if you tell me he’s going to be a “normal WR” sorry but I’m out.
11) Michael Pittman Jr, USC
Again “in any other class this guy might be a fringe 1st round player”. The frame stands out on tape, but his route running ability is great even without considering it relative to his size. Pittman snaps his hips at the top of his route and uses fluid athleticism to get open, his tracking skills help him secure deep balls, he wins the jump balls you’d expect him to at his size, and he shows a bit of wiggle after the catch to boot.
10) Denzel Mims, Baylor
The physical stature clearly stands out on the field, on-top of that he’s really aggressive at the catch point and dominates 50/50 balls because of it. He uses his hands well to break press at the LOS, and uses technique and a proper mentality to be one of the best run blockers in the class. The biggest worry right now is separation, but at that size with his jump ball ability, it’s a fear that can be mitigated.
9) Tyler Johnson, Minnesota
I need him to be an above average tester, though admittedly it would be a bit surprising. That said he consistently extends his hands outside his frame to give himself and his QB a huge catch radius, and has positional versatility to play the slot and boundary.
8) Justin Jefferson, LSU
Looked more comfortable out of the slot in 2019, but has the body and some 2018 tape as a boundary WR. Jefferson consistently makes himself available finding the soft spot in the defense to make easy throws for his QB. The physical traits aren’t eye popping on tape, but he doesn’t hesitate to make the tough catch in traffic, has an impressive catch radius, plus body control, and can high point back shoulder throws with the best of them.
7) Jalen Reagor, TCU
Ultra-competitive player. One of the most impressive plays I saw on his tape was chasing down a West Virginia DB damn near 50 yards and catching him from behind in a nearly meaningless game. The catch radius is really impressive for his frame, he’s really dangerous with the ball in his hands, and he’s shown the traits to play inside or outside with his versatility and athleticism.
6) Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
Another guy who could shoot up boards with a great combine, Aiyuk has a ton of traits that I love translating to the NFL. He’s a crisp route runner, has strong hands to break press coverage, sells his routes with choppy feet, and is really dangerous with the ball in his hands, breaking arm tackles effortlessly.
5) Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
We don’t need to elaborate on the obvious, he’ll run a 4.2 and the speed is clear, but he’s a really well-rounded WR for his skill set. Ruggs averaged 9 yards after the catch for his career which is downright silly, and he would have been highlighted more in any other offense without 4 potential 1st round WRs.
4) KJ Hamler, Penn State
KJ Hamler over Henry Ruggs?! KJ Hamler over Henry Ruggs. Athletic testing could switch these two if there’s a glaring difference, but I absolutely love Hamler’s tape. He has a ridiculous 1st step, and his quickness at the stem of his route to break off man coverage and get separation is bananas. His QB didn’t lead him much, which limited YAC opportunities, but he’s incredible with the ball in his hands. He makes tough catches over the middle when you need him to, but you will never mistake him as a physical WR.
3) Tee Higgins, Clemson
The size will remind you of Mike Williams, but the play style is more Devante Adams, except take a step off the route running. His concentration and tracking skills are some of the best I’ve seen from a college prospect, he’s a super fluid athlete for his size profile, and he turns a 50/50 ball into a 70/30 ball, high-pointing and dominating smaller DBs with ease.
2) Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
The only thing holding me back from Jeudy as WR1 is a lack of reps on the outside or in contested catch situations, the good news? There aren’t any contested catch situations because the separation he gets is 2nd to none. He sells himself and takes your sould on double routes, runs every route in your imagination, and gets open enough to be targeted 20 times a game in a lesser offense.
1) CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
YAC machine with a silly 1st step for his size. He excels in an Oklahoma offense that allows him to use his awareness and find space against zone coverage, while using his excellent footwork to break man coverage. CeeDee has tremendous throttle awareness allowing him to crank it up or slow his roll when necessary. His contact balance is out of control, and he used it to break 26 tackles on a ridiculous average of 13 yards of depth per catch.