Earlier this week, on PFN’s Against the Spread podcast, the hosts brought up an interesting debate surrounding the top three rookie receivers. Entering the 2020 NFL Draft, all of the talk when it came to the wide receiver position revolved around CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs, and Jerry Jeudy. In the end, all three were taken in the top-20 of the draft, and all are expected to see significant playing time with their new teams. That expectation has seen all three of the rookie receivers given interesting numbers on their receiving yard prop bets in their first NFL season.
In fact, all three of them can be found with similar numbers, in the 700-800 yard range, depending on which sportsbook you use. However, as we well know by now, not all of the situations in the NFL are equal, and these three rookie receivers highlight that. Let’s dig into the situation for all three receivers, and see where we can find value in their prop bets.
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Which rookie receiver is most likely to meet their yardage prop?
Henry Ruggs, Las Vegas Raiders (O/U 750.5)
Firstly, it is worth noting that if you like the over on Ruggs’ then you can find the line at 740.5 in some places to provide a little extra protection. However, the reason I chose the higher line here should become clear. Ruggs comes into a fascinating situation in Las Vegas. The Raiders struggled last year to find any consistency on the outside, and that is where Ruggs should come in to play.
No receiver for the Raiders had more than 71 targets in 2019, and only two had more than 30. Part of the reason for that is how the targets were spread around. Darren Waller saw 117 of the 160 targets that went the way of the tight end position. Another 111 targets went the way of the running back, split between the main three contributors. There is every chance that both of those position groups see over 250 combined targets again in 2020.
That is where the first level of concern lies for Ruggs. Can he be a 70-target receiver and turn that into more than 750 yards? Absolutely, he has the talent to. However, the odds are against him on a loaded depth chart that likes to spread the ball around. As it stands, both Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams remain on the roster.
On top of that, they added another rookie in Bryan Edwards as well as a receiver/back in Lynn Bowden. That is a lot of mouths to potentially feed when the season starts. It also means that there is enough talent around to keep Ruggs off the field if he struggles in camp.
The second major issue for Ruggs is his quarterback, Derek Carr. The main thing that everyone raves about with Ruggs is his ability to be a deep-threat, but Carr is not the quarterback for that. Last year, Carr ranked 30th in intended air yards per pass attempt among qualified players. A part of that was the lack of talent, but also because Carr is generally seen as a check down type quarterback. Unless he seriously changes his style in 2020, Ruggs is going to need to do a lot of work after the catch to top 750 receiving yards.
Jerry Jeudy (O/U 750.5)
If we thought the situation for Ruggs was interesting, the situation for Jeudy is eerily similar. Courtland Sutton was the stand out receiver on the 2019 Broncos roster, and they still have DaeSean Hamilton, who has flashed moments in his career. On top of that, they drafted KJ Hamler in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft, which means there is another mouth to feed.
That is before we even consider tight end Noah Fant, who had 66 targets in 2019. Then, there is the running back situation. The Broncos rushed the ball 356 times last season, and then went out and added Melvin Gordon. This offense is set to be built around the run game, and that is not good news for Jeudy.
Drew Lock averaged 31 passing attempts per game in his five starts in 2019, which extrapolates out to 496 pass attempts over a 16-game season. With 120 targets likely heading to Sutton, another 60 to Fant, and approximately 100 to the running backs, that leaves a limited number passing attempts for Jeudy to be targeted on.
However, there are still 200 passing attempts unaccounted for. Emmanuel Sanders averaged over six targets per game with the Broncos, many of which should head in the direction of Jeudy. If he can see targets at a similar rate to Sanders, then he is set to see around 90-100 targets in total on the season. If that is the case, then this line is way too low for Jeudy.
The concern still lies in whether we see the Broncos leaning more on the run or the pass. That decision could cause Jeudy’s targets to dip to around 75, and then we are relying on him averaging 10 yards per catch from a sophomore quarterback who averaged just 6.8 intended air yards per attempt in 2019. That would have ranked a lowly 29th if he had thrown enough passes to qualify, and leave Jeudy needing to do a lot after the catch to turn those targets into 750 yards.
My lean here is to the over, but I have enough concerns over Lock and this offense to stay away for now.
CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys (O/U 700.5)
As with the two receivers above, it is all about looking at the way the Cowboys offense operated last year. On the one hand, they have a new head coach in Mike McCarthy. On the other hand, they retained Kellen Moore as the offensive coordinator for consistency. That consistency could be a good thing for Lamb.
In 2019, Prescott threw the ball 596 times, the sixth most in the league. While that may be a potential regression point, there is a reasonably good chance that Prescott throws the ball 550 times, given that Aaron Rodgers did that more years than not under McCarthy’s offense in Green Bay. Those 550 passes help negate the potential negative of Lamb being the third mouth in this offense.
Last year, the slot receiver on the team, Randall Cobb, had over 80 targets, tied for the third-most on the team, alongside Jason Witten. Cobb turned those 80 targets into 53 receptions for 828 yards, more than enough to potentially cover Lamb’s yardage prop. Of course, that is assuming he will see the same number of targets, but interestingly enough, he could even see more.
Last year, the tight end position saw 124 combined targets, 83 of which with Witten. Blake Jarwin, who had the other 41, is now the top tight end, and the depth chart below him is weak. It would not be a surprise to see those 124 targets drop down to around, or below, 100. That drop would cover a chunk of Prescott’s potential reduction in pass attempts, or present more opportunities for Lamb.
Even if Lamb sees just 65-70 targets, he should be more than capable of reaching over 700 receiving yards. 700 receiving yards is just 43.75 yards per game. Given that he will likely have at least one game where he doubles that, it should counteract any low scoring games. There is also no serious competition for snaps on the depth chart, meaning Lamb will see the majority of snaps in three-receiver sets. That should be common for a team that had three receivers on the field 50% of the time last season, and a head coach who used three or more receivers over 70% of the time in 2016.
1u – CeeDee Lamb Over 700.5 Receiving Yards (-110)
Ben Rolfe is an editor and writer at Pro Football Network. You can find him on twitter @benrolfe15.