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NFL Draft

The best slot receivers available in the 2020 NFL Draft

best slot receivers 2020 nfl draft
Photo Credit: The Advocate

In a class with a loaded crop of wide receivers coming out this year, it is good to know that there is an abundance of different skillsets available. You have the ‘X’ receiver, the split-end, and so many more prototypes in this class. There are speedy guys, big, physical players, savvy route runners, and some talented slot prospects as well. The slot receiver class might actually be one of the most talented in years. Here are some of the best slot receivers available in the 2020 NFL Draft.

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Jerry Jeudy

Jeudy is one of the guys that jump out right away when you hear slot receivers in this class. While he can certainly play outside on the boundary, there is no question that Jeudy, when granted free releases from the slot, is an absolute menace due to his natural gifts of explosiveness and quickness.

Off-man coverage is a death sentence when you are facing a guy like Jeudy. With his elite route-running ability, releases, and yards after the catch, it is easy to say he is the best slot receiver from this class. Maybe he is not a pure slot like some others on this list, but he can do so much work with a healthy route tree from that alignment that it is advantageous to have Jeudy using his natural gifts and technical skills.

Justin Jefferson

Jefferson rose to the occasion whenever he was asked to for LSU this past season. Sure, he had some help thanks to guys like Ja’Marr Chase, but Jefferson is such a solid player and an easy projection in the NFL. This is a guy who is savvy in his stems and works so well over the middle of the field with strong hands, large catch radius, and polished route running.

His best place is most definitely in the slot, but I do think he can play on the boundary, depending on how good he is against press coverage. That was not shown all that much on film at LSU, but Jefferson did well in those limited reps. Still, Jefferson is just so solid and offers that big, reliable target from the slot that will be able to separate despite not having elite level athleticism for the position.

K.J. Hamler

I am considerably lower than most people on K.J. Hamler. He struggles mightily against press coverage and lets the ball eat up his frame far too often, instead of extending outside of his frame and reeling it in. Hamler drops too many easy passes, struggles to track the ball, and has massive size concerns that limit his catch radius.

However, there is a certain point where those cons have to be diminished to a degree. There is undoubtedly bust potential with Hamler, but he is a smooth, sudden route runner with absolutely elite speed and ability to make people miss after the catch. He is an electric player. There are certain things he has to work on, and he is a strict slot receiver, but there are ways that Hamler can work into offenses, even if he is not all that he is made out to be in my eyes.

Lynn Bowden

Bowden is one of the guys I look at to see what he brings immediately. There is no polished technical prowess or route running here, but where Bowden wins is with his quickness, physicality, ball skills, and, most importantly, elusiveness. All those traits make him one of the best slot receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft. By playing quarterback this past year, Bowden did lose a lot of valuable reps that he could have used to refine his game, but there is no doubt that he is a ton of fun to watch.

Bowden has trouble beating press coverage and, as such, will need to be played off the line and get those free releases to take advantage of his quickness. Manufactured touches are an obvious thing that Bowden will get just because he is so good in space. Even when he does separate, Bowden’s ball skills and physicality allow him to win jump balls. He will be a good slot receiver in this league for a long time with his skill set.

Devin Duvernay

There are a few words you could use to describe Duvernay. The most apparent one is fast. The second one is stiff. Those two words summarize what Duvernay’s skill set and limitations are to a pretty good degree. He has great vertical speed, and he showed it off at the combine by running a 4.39 40-yard dash. However, his route running and releases are labored due to stiffness laterally and thus in and out of his breaks.

Duvernay, after the catch and in space, is a dangerous threat for the defense to face. Built like a running back, Duvernay has effortless contact balance and runs with physicality. There is a clear role for Duvernay as a big-play threat who can be dangerous after the catch from the slot. Still, he is limited due to undercooked technical ability and stiff ankles and hips.

Tyler Johnson

Johnson’s entire stock has plummeted over the past few months after passing up an opportunity at the Shrine Game and then not testing at the combine. That is primarily his issue on tape as well. Johnson is not explosive or fast at all, and it will cap his ceiling to a degree.

However, Johnson’s route running ability is still some of the best you will see in the class. What will help Johnson is that he is naturally swift and sudden with his feet and hips. In addition, he has good hands and size to be that reliable target over the middle of the field. This is not a guy who is going to be dynamic, but Johnson will be a good player in the league for a while with the skillset he has, even without great athleticism. That makes him one of the best slot receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft.

K.J. Hill

Hill is a guy who has been a slot receiver since his first day at Ohio State. In the NFL, I expect that trend to continue. Hill has shown significant struggles against press coverage, and that means if you can, you want him aligned off the line of scrimmage. That way, he can avoid contact from lengthier corners and use his quickness and route-running ability to win out of the slot.

I think when you look at Hill, you see a guy who will primarily be a depth target, but he could be a viable starting slot receiver. Hill reminds me of Eli Rogers, who was a quick, shift route runner, but never a great player. He is a solid prospect who will see work out of the slot and can use that natural quickness to his advantage.

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