Last week, I broke down defensive ends Chase Young (Ohio State) and A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) as the top of the pass rushers in the 2020 NFL Draft class. This week, I am taking a look at a very explosive wide receiver class, headlined by four juniors.
Depth of the 2020 draft is shaping up to be similar to the 2015 class, where eleven wide receivers were drafted in the first two rounds. In that draft, four wide receivers went in the first round. Five years later, there is a chance at least four to go in the first round.
Wide receivers Laviska Shenault Jr. (Colorado), Tee Higgins (Clemson), CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), and Jerry Jeudy (Alabama) are some of the biggest playmakers in the NCAA. All four showcased their skills early in their careers. But 2018 was a breakout year for all of them. Here is how all four stack up in the NFL.
Laviska Shenault Jr. (Colorado)
Colorado has put out some quality receivers over the past couple of season, including Paul Richardson who was drafted 45th overall by the Seattle Seahawks. Outside of big-play potential and playing for Colorado, there really are not many similarities to Shenault and Richardson.
Shenault is a big-time receiver with fantastic size at 6-2 and 220 pounds. His speed and size combination make him a mismatch nightmare for defenders. He gives cornerbacks fits with his body control and ability to adjust to the football. Typically receivers his size have trouble starting and stopping. But he has little to no issues stopping his route and making the catch. Though he is 6-2, he plays like he is 6-5 with how he can high point the football.
In just nine games, Shenault caught 89 passes for 1,011 yards, averaging 112.3 yards per game. With another productive year, Shenault should be a first-round pick.
Tee Higgins (Clemson)
Higgins is coming off of a strong 2018 season that led to a national championship. With two different quarterbacks, Higgins managed to record 59 receptions, for 936 yards and 12 touchdowns. While he was not the leading receiver on his team, (freshman Justyn Ross, 1,000 yards), he was the team leader in receptions. When freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence needed a big play, he looked for Tee Higgins. In fact, Lawrence’s first touchdown pass was to Higgins. Higgins proved to be a reliable receiver for Lawrence after the first touchdown, as it was his second effort that led to the score.
At 6-4, 210 pounds, Higgins has the size to be a matchup problem on the outside. Speed is not necessarily apart of his game, b he has enough speed to break away from defenders. He has a fantastic understanding of how to use his length to gain separation from defenders without pushing off. In just his first year as a starter, Higgins has continued the lineage of prolific Clemson receivers. He looks to be the next wide receiver drafted out of Clemson, joining Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, Ray-Ray McCloud, and Hunter Renfrow.
CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)
WOW! That seems to be a common reaction watching Lamb’s tape. It seems he is good for an eye-popping catch every week. One of his best plays did not even count, as he jumped three feet in the air and one-handed the football. His foot was a toe away from being inbounds. Regardless, it showed Lamb’s body control. There is little wasted movement when he is running routes or with the ball in his hands. Every movement is under control, which allows him to adjust to the tough catches.
As just a freshman (2017), Lamb became one of former Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield‘s favorite wide receivers. Lamb ranked third in receptions behind receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, both of which were drafted in the NFL (Andrews 2018, Brown 2019). However, as a sophomore, he became more of a focus as the second leading receiver behind Brown.
The most impressive thing about Lamb, he continued to impress with a different quarterback every season. This year will be no different with former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurd transferring to Oklahoma. Now that Brown has been drafted, Lamb is the go-to receiver and has a chance to concrete himself as a first-round pick in the 2020 draft.
Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)
Jeudy might be the fastest receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft. After Calvin Ridley entered the 2018 draft, it was Jeudy’s time to shine. Shine he did, with 68 receptions for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns. His 19.34 yards per reception are more than any year from Ridley. That is not a knock on Ridley, but it shows what level Jeudy is on.
Jeudy is explosive with the ball in his hands and can run away from just about any defender. Similar to Ridley, Jeudy has good height at 6-1 but is a bit smaller at 192 pounds. His sharpness in and out of his cuts without losing speed allows him to break away for a big play.
Yes, Jeudy plays with a quarterback that is considered a sure-fire first-round pick. But his film shows plenty of his own ability. Jeudy’s tape is littered with him making plays on the ball.
All four wide receivers offer big-play targets that can be dynamic in the NFL in their own way. Shenault has the size and speed combination to be a major problem in the NFL. His ability to run the ball out of the backfield also makes him a dangerous weapon. Shenault may be the one receiver with a first-round grade before playing this season.
Higgins and Lamb are coming into their own as outside receiving threats and finally have this season to show they can be the real deal. Higgins gets to continue his work with Lawrence at quarterback, while Lamb has to show out with another new quarterback. Both have a chance to show what they can do in a prolific offense.
Jeudy is the smallest of the four and likely the fastest of the four. His game is so much different, b he is just as dynamic of a playmaker. Like his predecessor before him, he has a chance to become an immediate playmaker in the NFL. His vertical speed, mixed with his sharpness in and out of cuts makes him a tough receiver to match up against.
These four wide receivers will lead a draft class that is shaping up to be one of the best in years.