Brad Kelly’s full 2020 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings

Pro Football Network analyst Brad Kelly details his 2020 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings.

Second round grades

10. Tee Higgins, Clemson (6-4, 216, 4.54s Pro Day)

Strengths: Tee Higgins has sublime ball skills and body control that allows him to finish reps while he’s contested. He naturally rises towards the catch point or positions his frame where he can extend around the defensive back. Despite his size and lack of twitch, Higgins limits wasted motion throughout his routes. He can move laterally at the line of scrimmage to avoid contact and add moves to his stem in order to get on top of the press cornerbacks. 

Weaknesses: Higgins lacks the necessary quickness to accelerate in and out of his route breaks. His long speed is mediocre, and he won’t uncover vertically strictly with athleticism. Separation will consistently be an issue with his game, and he needs to be paired with a quarterback willing to fit the ball into tight windows. Despite his size, he fails to maximize his strength and it limits his separation when working to disengage.

Summary: Higgins projects as an “X” receiver in the NFL, playing almost strictly on the outside of the formation. With his length and traits at the catch point, he’s a strong redzone presence and will always have the benefit of a size advantage. Higgins’ below-average play speed and separation is cause for concern, and prevents him from projecting as the top option for a passing offense. He’ll be a lock for touchdown production, but it’s difficult to see him ever racking up a notable number of receptions.

Position: X

Pro Comparison: Braylon Edwards

9. Michael Pittman Jr., USC (6-4, 223, 4.52s)

Strengths: Michael Pittman Jr. is especially fluid and athletic for his size. He’ll break off his routes and find space in the curl window. He is flexible enough for every type of route break and uses extra moves in his vertical stems to halt defensive backs. He uncovers at all three levels against outside cornerbacks. He’s constantly extending showing pro ball skills, doing well to box-out defensive backs, and shield the catch point. Pittman has shown generally soft hands, rarely will he fight the ball. Extends the sideline with his body control and length. Strong blocking base, showing positive play strength and effort.

Weaknesses: Pittman can invite contact in his stem at times, failing to disengage when he’s working to fight pressure. While he has strong ball skills, there are reps when he won’t rip the ball out of the air with proper authority. He doesn’t offer much in terms of elusiveness after the catch, failing to avoid defenders or break tackles at a high rate. Pittman aligned almost exclusively on the outside of the formation to the left side, which could lead to some unforeseen development into other alignments.

Summary: Pittman has the size, strength and athleticism of a starter at the pro level with a natural projection as an “X” receiver. He does a great job of creating passing windows, using his fluidity and size to stack defensive backs. While Pittman won’t create much after the catch, he’s a possession style receiver with upside. Early in his pro career, Pittman could become an immediate impact secondary receiver who has the potential to become a leading target for a passing offense.

Position: X

Pro Comparison: Allen Robinson

8. KJ Hamler, Penn State (5-9, 178)

Strengths: The first thing that jumps out on KJ Hamler’s tape is his play speed, as he can break games open with his acceleration. Hamler will stress defenses vertically when he’s given a free release, adding a unique dimension to his slot alignment. He has a dynamic ability with the ball in his hands, exploding through the catch point and showing the post-catch quickness to beat angles. Hamler is a flexible and shifty athlete who can open up his hips and sprint through route breaks. 

Weaknesses: To put it simply, Hamler has issues catching the football. He’ll drop far too many passes and even when he pulls it in, oftentimes there are bobbles. Not only does he have a lack of length, but he’ll alligator arm his extension. He struggles to finish while tightly contested, contacted or when the ball placement requires an adjustment to the back shoulder.

Summary: Hamler isn’t a traditional slot receiver and is closer to volatile than reliable, but offers a skill-set and trump card that few other wide receivers in the world possess. He’ll kill offensive drives with his high number of drops, but he’s a homerun threat due to his vertical separation and ability to out-run pursuit with the ball in his hands. He’ll add a dynamic to an NFL offense, but his lack of catch radius and steadiness as a pass catcher prevents him from ascending into the first round status. Hamler has pro bowl potential with his knack for the explosive play, and offers upside as a kick and punt returner.

Position: Slot

7. Jalen Reagor, TCU (5-11, 206, 4.47s)

Strengths: Jalen Reagor’s explosiveness and straight-line speed immediately stick out on his film. He’s an advanced vertical receiver due to his quickness, uncovering without much need for developed press coverage releases. Reagor has dynamic ability after the catch, showing plus elusiveness and the speed to break angles. In the air, he’ll attack the ball at full extension and pull the ball in through contact. Skill set the stretch the defense both down the field and horizontally, offenses will want to manufacture touches for him. Showed off a few nifty vertical double moves.

Weaknesses: Reagor had some battles with both fighting the ball and seeing it bounce off his hands, showing inconsistent timing and extension when the pass didn’t require a high-point. Reagor can float through route breaks and lack defined angles at times, though he has the flexibility to become more reliable in that area. Could incorporate more variety to his release set. Didn’t record his expected speed time at the combine.

Summary: Reagor will add an explosive dynamic early in his NFL career, but currently needs time to develop into an every down receiver from a route running and catching standpoint. He’ll find separation vertically, and will make plays after the catch with his explosiveness and field vision. He’ll project as a versatile inside/outside threat, and should immediately be a complementary receiver who has the ability to break open games.

Position: Z/Slot

Pro Comparison: Santonio Holmes

6. Laviska Shenault, Colorado (6-1, 227, 4.58s)

Strengths: Laviska Shenault is special with the ball in his hands, regardless of the method in which it gets to him. He aligned as the wildcat quarterback, running back, H-back, slot and outside receiver during his time at Colorado, showing a rare combination of power, elusiveness and vision. While he barely participated in athletic testing, he showed a different gear with his play speed and athleticism while running routes. He’s versatile, and offenses will work to manufacture touches for him in a variety of ways using his alignment versatility. Pure receiver wise, he’s a solid enough technician who can sift through zone windows and make himself available to his quarterback.

Weaknesses: Due to his role at Colorado, Shenault isn’t as developed of a traditional receiver as others with similar traits. He’ll need development in facing press coverage and avoiding contact, as well as adding variety to his route stems. Throughout his college career, he’s battled injuries in all three seasons.

Summary: Shenault is a physically gifted prospect who plays the game with power and explosiveness. He has the traits to continue developing as a route runner, but he needs to gain valuable reps on the outside of the formation. Without those reps, Shenault will settle in as a gadget type player who offenses feed the ball to because of his work after the catch. His versatility acted as a block to his progression as a receiver in college, but could be the key to early production in the pro level.

Position: X/Z/Big slot

First-round grades

5. Denzel Mims, Baylor (6-3, 207, 4.38s)

Strengths: Denzel Mims is a natural fit at the “X” receiver position, as he has WR1 upside playing predominantly outside. Mims does a great job of threatening vertically, using both his size and speed to separate and open up the curl window. Down the field, Mims is advanced in how he uses his hands to create late separation, making preposterous adjustments in the air and expanding the boundary. He’s an athletic freak in a straight line, and has the physicality to create passing windows while he’s tightly covered. He’s developed over the past few seasons, being able to get out of his horizontal breaks despite running his routes while upright.

Weaknesses: Mims isn’t the most flexible athlete, but has been able to make up for that with his athleticism and frame. It’s a small cause for concern when he’ll need to speed up his process to find space against zone coverages in the NFL. His physical style won’t be for everyone, as he could be a target for officials with how he prefers to create space.

Summary: Mims has been productive for three seasons, and you could count on him getting a target whenever Baylor needed a game-winning play. He’s feasted on outside cornerbacks throughout college, but few have been able to match his size and speed combination. However, Mims continued to dominate reps at the Senior Bowl, winning in multiple ways and at all three levels. He’ll be an immediate starting receiver in the NFL, with the upside of a Pro Bowler and leading threat from the boundary.

Position: X

Pro Comparison: Javon Walker

4. Justin Jefferson, LSU (6-1, 202, 4.43s)

Strengths: Operating mostly from the slot, Justin Jefferson was the most consistent target on the best passing offense in the history of college football. Jefferson caught 111 of 134 targets last season, using nuanced footwork to separate and natural adjustments to finish. While he wasn’t tasked with making contested grabs often, he caught them at a high rate (12/13). He has an innate understanding of leverage and was used heavily on option routes, creating passing windows in the short and intermediate levels. When Jefferson was tasked with deep routes, he showed enough juice to uncover vertically and the body control to make grabs late in the catch process. While he wasn’t pressed very often, he showed the lateral movements on the reps when he was tightly covered to project to the outside without much concern.

Weaknesses: Jefferson has few weaknesses to his game, but he did drop some elementary passes late in the season. The rest of his concerns have been answered, as he proved his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine and took enough reps against press coverage in 2018 to show his chops there.

Summary: Jefferson is a high floor and high ceiling prospect, as his strong measurements and testing at the combine reinforced his standing as a first-round caliber prospect. His late adjustments are beautiful and will increase his usage on seam and slot fade routes. While he’s shown enough against tight coverage to play outside, his skill-set could be too valuable on the inside for an offense heavy on option routes that runs through the slot.

Position: Big slot

Pro Comparison: Tyler Boyd (Jimmy Smith ceiling)

3. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (6-1, 193, 4.45s)

Strengths: Jerry Jeudy is one of the most developed, nuanced route runners to declare for the NFL Draft in a number of years. He matches explosive cuts with incredible start-stop ability to create separation and uses his eyes as a weapon to expose defensive backs. He’s dynamic through double moves, especially when he’s given a free release from the slot. While he didn’t take a lot of reps against press coverage last season, he would create space early in the process and is difficult to slow down through the contact window. With the ball in his hands, he’s elusive with his deceleration and field vision to see pursuit coming.

Weaknesses: There have been cases throughout his college career when Jeudy uses improper hand placement and extension. When he’s covered tightly, he fails to make plays away from his frame. This habit has led to a relatively high drop rate, which happens when he tracks the ball at all three levels. His play strength needs improvement, but his play speed makes up for it in a lot of cases.

Summary: Jeudy’s inside/outside versatility and separation at all three levels makes him a natural projection to the NFL and into each offensive scheme. There are little concerns over his transition to the pro level, as he’ll get open early in his career. Jeudy projects as a top of the depth chart and immediate impact wide receiver because of his route running prowess, body control, and play speed.

Position: Z/Slot

Pro Comparison: Terry Glenn

2. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (6-2, 198, 4.50s)

Strengths: CeeDee Lamb’s body control and ball skills make him one of the best receivers at the catch point in the NFL Draft class. He makes easy adjustments in order to position his frame to make full extensions, which he finishes with strong hands. Lamb is powerful and elusive after the catch, breaking tackles and avoiding contact with field vision. He’s an explosive play machine because of his downfield ball tracking and ability to break tackles from defensive backs. Lamb is a strong, technical route runner who operates with proper pad level and has mobility in his hips. He’ll consistently create passing windows from the “X” position in the NFL. 

Weaknesses: Lamb is a solid athlete, but his play speed isn’t as fast as other top receiver prospects. He only has average size and route strength for a boundary receiver, and won’t dominate due to physical traits. While he shows proper traits with shiftiness and pad level against press coverage, he needs to gain experience in that aspect of the game.

Summary: Lamb projects as a leading target for an NFL passing offense, as he’s already developed both before and after the catch. Lamb is a strong prospect when it comes to separation, hands and as a ball carrier, limiting any concerns with his projection. He’s a rare combination of fluid and physical, and has the upside of an All-Pro at the position.

Position: X

Pro Comparison: Torry Holt

1. Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (5-11, 188, 4.27s)

Strengths: You can’t talk about Henry Ruggs’ skill-set and not first mention his world-class speed. Ruggs has the best play speed among all wide receiver prospects in the past three NFL Draft classes and reinforced that by running 4.27s in the 40-yard dash. Ruggs uses his speed in every aspect of the position; stretching the field from the boundary, destroying angles after the catch and separating from coverage. Don’t be fooled by his speed and label him a gadget player, Ruggs is a complete wide receiver prospect who just happens to be a blazer. Ruggs showed develop releases against press coverage, fluid route breaks and the nuance to stack defensive backs. On top of that, he dropped just three passes over the past two seasons and finished with consistency while contested throughout college.

Weaknesses: Ruggs wasn’t a consistent producer in Alabama’s stacked offense, and wasn’t slotted in the best position to be targeted more often. There are concerns with his play strength when he gets contacted in his stem, as he too often tries to run past defensive backs without having a counter.

Summary: Ruggs will change the way that defenses cover whichever offense that he’s a part of, as his speed demands extra coverage over the top. He has to be covered tightly at the line of scrimmage because he’s dangerous on manufactured touches and allowing him to build up speed is playing with fire. Unlike some pure speed threats, Ruggs is developed and experienced at playing along the boundary and doesn’t need to be schemed open. He has all-pro, yearly 1,000-yard potential who will produce both explosive plays and a steady presence with his reliable hands.

Position: X/Z

Pro Comparison: Santana Moss


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