The strongest positional group in the 2020 NFL Draft is the wide receivers. However, there are some players that offer great value at the position outside of the first round. We know who the headliners are, an elite group consisting of Jerry Jeudy (Alabama), Henry Ruggs III (Alabama), CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma), and Justin Jefferson (LSU). However, when it comes to wide receivers, the draft class offers insane talent beyond these headliners.
ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has high praise for the 2020 WRs, predicting that up to 25 could go in the first three rounds of the draft, which would be unprecedented. The beauty of a deep positional group is the fact that you don’t have to spend a first-round pick in order to get a good one.
In his most recent rankings and scouting report, Pro Football Network’s own Tony Pauline has 10 wide receivers ranked in his top-50 prospects. For those keeping score at home, that translates to 20% of his top-50 players being wide receivers, an absolute jaw-dropping number.
Let’s take a look at three players who will be drafted outside of round one and offer tremendous value at wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft.
K.J. Hamler – Penn State
- Height: 5’9”
- Weight: 178 pounds
- Projection: Second round
- 2019 Stats: 56 receptions, 904 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns.
Outside of Ruggs, Penn State’s K.J. Hamler is the most electric wide receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft. Hamler is extremely explosive, elusive, and a big-play threat every time he touches the ball. He can create yards after catch (YAC) in bunches with his speed and ability to shake-and-bake defenders.
His ability to change direction is elite. He is also an effective route runner and a consistent vertical threat. We know Hamler is insanely fast, but we don’t know exactly how fast, as he didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
He isn’t the perfect prospect, as he comes with some issues. First, much like Baltimore Ravens’ 2019 first-round selection Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Hamler comes with some size concerns. Questions regarding his durability at the next level exist due to his smaller stature. Also, there are times where he tends to catch the ball with his body, rather than his hands. Due to his size and lack of physicality, Hamler won’t win many contested catches. However, he can be extremely dangerous when he is given the ball in space.
In the clip below, you will see that Hamler’s explosiveness doesn’t shy away from the big stage. Against the Ohio State Buckeyes, he takes a simple slant to the house for a 92-yard touchdown:
K.J. Hamler is so fast he makes fast people look not fast.
Hamler is an explosive and speedy slot receiver. He's going to make an impact in the passing and return game. His ceiling is sky high. pic.twitter.com/XFYAbJWCLl
— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) March 26, 2020
Overall, Hamler’s explosiveness and home run ability will surely catch the attention of NFL general managers. When the dust settles, I fully expect Hamler to hear his name called within the top-50 selections of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Michael Pittman, Jr. – University of Southern California
- Height: 6’4”
- Weight: 223 pounds
- Projection: Third round
- 2019 Stats: 101 receptions, 1,275 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns
Michael Pittman, Jr., the son of a former NFL running back, is an intriguing prospect that could be a great value in the draft. He is a big-bodied player, possessing a great combination of length and size. He has plus ball skills, runs a great route tree, and oozes red zone potential due to his ability to box out defenders. His outstanding catch radius is attractive, as is his ability and willingness as a blocker. At the NFL Scouting Combine, Pittman ran an official 4.52 40-yard dash time.
The clip below will show how Michael Pittman Jr. excels in the red zone.
USC WR Michael Pittman Jr. would be a household name in college football if people on the east coast were awake to see him play most weeks. pic.twitter.com/Rx3J0n8C6X
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) November 3, 2019
There are some weaknesses in Pittman’s game, however, which is why he will not be selected in the first or second round. His speed and ability to accelerate are quite pedestrian. His lack of upper-echelon speed limits his ability to create separation and create yards after the catch.
Overall, there is a lot to like about Pittman’s game. His NFL pedigree, ability to be coached, and approach to the game make him an intriguing prospect. Teams that are looking for a receiver with size and ability to contribute immediately will be fans of Pittman. It is likely that he will hear his name called early in the third round of the 2020 Draft.
James Proche – SMU
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 201 pounds
- Projection: Fifth round
- 2019 Stats: 111 receptions, 1,225 receiving yards, 15 touchdowns
Small-school receiving prospect James Proche could be the best value at the wide receiver position in the entire 2020 NFL Draft. Proche, a highly productive player, might just have the best hands in this draft class. His ability to adjust to the football and his elite ball skills make him a highly regarded mid-round prospect.
He is a very competitive prospect who plays the game with an alpha mentality, which allows him to thrive at the contested catch. He will fight for every single pass. Like Hamler, Proche didn’t run the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he is rumored to run in the 4.55 range.
For my money, Proche has the best ball skills in the draft. The clip below will show a glimpse of his brilliance:
James Proche has excellent ball skills and body control. Makes catches like this a normal occurrence. pic.twitter.com/ukBqIyl9c5
— Marc John (@TheMarcJohnNFL) January 2, 2020
Proche’s best trait is his reliability, which stems from his amazing hands. In 457 targets, Proche only dropped a staggering nine passes.
One red flag against Proche is the level of competition he faced at the collegiate level. The SMU Mustangs certainly didn’t play an SEC schedule. However, when watching tape on Proche, it was clear he was on a different level than his competitors. Other weaknesses in his game are his burst and athleticism, which are quite pedestrian.
The final verdict on Proche is that he is likely to be selected in the middle rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. But I predict that when his name is called, he will become one of the biggest steals of the draft. One team in particular who is rumored to be head over heels for Proche is the New England Patriots.