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Early Top 10 Wide Receivers (2020 NFL Draft)

by Raju Byfield | @FantasyContext | Featured Writer
Jan 25, 2020

Jerry Jeudy shows the physicality after the catch to become one of the NFL’s premier threats.

With the NFL Combine just over a month away, it is time to get familiar with the top 10 wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft class. There is a relative consensus on who the top six or seven receivers in this class are, but spots eight to ten are where the true debate often begins. Evaluating prospects should always be done via both tape and analytics, as they help provide context to one another, and can help fill knowledge gaps.

Raw stat totals often are not enough to gain true context on a player, so it is common to use market share, or the percentage of a team’s total receiving yards player ‘x’ accounted for to get a more accurate depiction of a players team adjusted production. When we discuss market share below we will be discussing receiving yard market share. When we discuss breakout age, we will be referring to at what age a player achieved a dominator rating of 20 percent or higher. Dominator rating is comprised of reception, receiving yard, and receiving touchdown market share. All 10 of these receivers should be drafted by the end, if not the middle of day two. Let’s dig in.

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Jerry Jeudy (WR – Alabama)
The Biletnikoff Award winner as the best wide receiver in the nation as a mere sophomore, the Alabama Crimson Tide’s most talented receiver has been on NFL radars since he joined them as a five-star recruit. While some may argue that Jeudy took a step back this season, he was still a Biletnikoff semi-finalist along with teammate Devonta Smith. An explosive wide receiver who can win at all three levels due to excellent route running, Jeudy shows the physicality after the catch to become one of the NFL’s premier threats at the wide receiver position. He will be one the first two wide receivers off the board in April and should hear his name called by the time Denver sends their pick to the podium.

Jeudy posted 68 receptions, 1,315 yards, and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore, and followed that up with 77 receptions, 1,163 yards, and 10 touchdowns as a junior. His 25.8 percent market share in 2018 gave him a 19-year-old breakout age, and while his 23.3 market share as a junior fell below expectations, he played with four potential first-round picks and had to deal with Tua Tagovailoa being lost for four full games. Jeudy is a big-play threat who can make noise downfield as evidenced by 33.82 percent of his 2018 receptions going for 20 or more yards, and 27.27 percent of his 2019 receptions going for the same. 

CeeDee Lamb (WR – Oklahoma)
CeeDee Lamb was a Biletnikoff finalist in 2019 along with USC’s Michael Pittman but lost out to an otherworldly season by LSU’s Jamarr Chase. Lamb was fantastic as a junior and posted a 62 reception, 1,317 receiving yard, 14 touchdown line in 2019. Having Jalen Hurts as his quarterback limited his upside, but he showed off his wares by placing second in the nation in receptions of 20 or more yards. 41.93 percent of his receptions were big plays (20 or more yards), while 70.96 percent went for 10 or more yards.

Lamb broke out as a 19-year-old thanks to a 25.62 percent market share, but really shined with Marquise Brown in the NFL as he posted a 31.9 percent market share. The most polished wide receiver in the NFL Draft, there are going to be some general managers who prefer Lamb’s Pro Bowl level floor to Jeudy’s All-Pro/best receiver in the NFL level ceiling. Lamb has it all from great hands to explosiveness, to great feet and tempo. Lamb profiles as a potential game-breaker and is currently in the mix to be a top 10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Tee Higgins (WR – Clemson)
Tee Higgins is a dominant receiver with great size. He has excellent hands, a great catch radius, and is a threat after the catch. Higgins has a tremendous chance to hear his name called in the first round and is likely a top-five receiver on the draft boards of most NFL teams. He was able to lead the Clemson Tigers with a 59 reception, 1,167 receiving yard, and 13 touchdown season, and a 27.23 percent market share despite playing with 2018 freshman sensation Justyn Ross. He tied for ninth in the nation with 21 receptions of 20 yards or more (35.59 percent) and is a proven threat both downfield and in the red zone. 

Jalen Reagor (WR – TCU)
While Henry Ruggs or K.J. Hamler may prove to be the fastest wide receivers in this draft class, Jalen Reagor may prove to be the most explosive. While his raw totals of 43 receptions, 611 receiving yards, and five touchdowns as a junior don’t stand out due to the inconsistent play of freshman quarterback Max Duggan, he still sported a 25 percent market share. He broke out as a 19-year-old sophomore when he recorded 72 receptions, 1,061 receiving yards, nine touchdowns, and a sensational 38.59 percent market share. He added 170 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries for good measure. Reagor has it all from separation skills, elite game speed, and playmaking ability. He would be in the conversation as the top receiver off the board in most draft classes. He should hear his name called in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Henry Ruggs (WR – Alabama)
Perhaps the most controversial prospect in this draft class is Henry Ruggs. Like his former teammate in running back Josh Jacobs, Ruggs does not have the raw stat totals or even the percentage-based one to impress the analytics community. His tape, however, suggests that Ruggs is a player with game-breaking speed, and the electric game to match. Timed at 4.25 in the 40 at Alabama’s junior pro day, Ruggs appears to have a good chance to run sub 4.3 at this year’s NFL Combine. On tape, he flashes downfield and contested catch ability, and looks like a savant when burning defensive backs or slant and drag routes. Much like with Jacobs, many question if he has the production to crack the first round. Ruggs is a supremely talented receiver who just happened to play with three other future first-round picks, all with more talent. He recorded 46 receptions, 741 yards, and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore, and followed that up with 40 receptions, 746 receiving yards, seven touchdowns with two carries for 75 yards and an additional score on the ground. If he played for a different team we very well may be discussing him at the top of this year’s wide receiver crop. With the speed to turn a short pass into a long gain, or to simply burn his man deep, 35 percent of Ruggs receptions this season went for 20 or more yards. Ruggs led the nation with a 154.4 passer rating when targeted. He will likely be targeted in the second half of the first round and is most commonly mocked to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Justin Jefferson (WR – LSU)
Justin Jefferson is a day one talent who had a monster season for LSU. He played fantastic with Joe Burrow but could have had even bigger numbers had he not played with Biletnikoff winner and top receiver in college football Ja’Marr Chase. Jefferson broke out as a 19-year-old sophomore when he recorded a 29.46 percent market share off of 54 receptions, 875 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. Due to Chase’s breakout, Jefferson’s 2019 market share plummeted to 25.56, but tied to Joe Burrow’s historic season, he still hauled in a tremendous line of 111 receptions for 1,540 receiving yards, and 18 touchdowns. Jefferson has strong hands, good size, and is a threat both downfield and in the red zone. He placed second in the nation with 58 receptions of 10 yards or more and could become a prolific possession receiver for a team in need of a reliable weapon who can win at all three levels. Jefferson has a good chance of hearing his name called in the final third of the first round. 

Laviska Shenault (WR – Colorado)
Laviska Shenault is one of the biggest enigmas in this wide receiver draft class. In terms of skills, tools, and upside, he is a top-three talent in the class. However, landing in the right offense with a creative mind at offensive coordinator will be critical in Shenault reaching his potential. A 6’2, 220 lbs receiver, Shenault often gets Julio Jones comparisons, but he is a completely different prospect. The best way to describe his game would be as a combination of Julio, Tyreek Hill, and Jalen Hurd. He also possesses some similarities to Cordarrelle Patterson due to his versatility, but is not as fast, and is already much more polished as a receiver.

Shenault is a threat whenever the ball is in his hands, and due to his tackle-breaking ability and contact balance, he can become a true force if he lands in the right situation. He broke out in 2018 as a 19-year-old sophomore with a 33.75 percent market share when he recorded 86 receptions, 1,011 receiving yards, and six touchdowns. Proving his versatility he took his 17 carries, 115 rushing yards, and five touchdowns. He did all of that damage in just nine games.

He took a step back as a junior, posting a 56-764-4 receiving line and a 23-161-2 line on the ground. The market share was still solid at 26.73 percent, but it was disappointing to see his numbers dip so much with two extra games of action. He has a legitimate chance to hear his name called in the first round. One can only hope for our sake as NFL fans, that he lands in a creative offense that can maximize the potential of his salivation worthy tools.

Bryan Edwards (WR – South Carolina)
Bryan Edwards is a smooth route runner with good size who can win on all three levels. He was able to consistently beat fellow day one talent prospect Trevon Diggs of Alabama consistently, which suggests he may have an easier time in his transition due to playing in the SEC, the conference where the highest percentage of prospects are drafted from on a regular basis, and that just set a common era draft record with 64 players drafted in 2019. He possesses incredible body control, and his tape and analytics suggest that he could have easily been one of the first receivers drafted in 2019. He should hear his name called on day two unless he runs a low 4.4 or better at the combine, a time that could vault him into late first-round consideration for some teams.

Edwards is the perfect example of why using tools like market share/team receiving yard percentage are helpful when evaluating prospects. Edwards does not have a 1,000 receiving yard season under his belt, and his 64-793-5, 55-846-7, and 71-816-6 lines in his sophomore, junior, and senior season do not exactly jump out at you without the added context percentages provide. He broke out as a 17-year-old with a 21.25 percent market share in 2016. He was able to follow that up with 28.38 percent market share in 2017 (Deebo Samuel played just three games), a 23.85 percent market share in 2018, and a career-high 30.60 percent market share in 2019 with Deebo in the NFL.

Antonio Gandy-Golden (WR – Liberty)
One of the Senior Bowl’s biggest risers, the big-bodied Antonio Gandy-Golden proved that he was more than just a talented player dominating the inferior competition. He has the size, downfield skill, and playmaking ability to become one of the very best receivers in this draft class, and should hear his name called on day two of the NFL Draft. AGG has some dominant tape and has the analytics to match. He has the footwork and release to beat man, and is a tremendous downfield weapon with a large catch radius which makes him great at contested catches, and a regular highlight maker.

AGG broke out as a 20-year-old junior (April birthday) with 71 receptions, 1,037 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns. His line gave him a 33.05 percent market share. He followed that up with a 37.16 percent 2019 market share on the strength of 79 receptions, 1,316 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns. AGG placed sixth in the nation in receptions of 20 yards or more two years in a row, with 22 in 2019 (27.84 percent), and 23 in 2018 (32.39 percent). After a strong performance during Senior Bowl practices, AGG looks like he is going to be a steal for whichever team drafts him in the second or third round. 

Tyler Johnson (WR – Minnesota)
Tyler Johnson would have been one of the first receivers off the board had he declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. He is a talented receiver with good size who utilizes good stem and leverage to maintain separation in his routes. He can play both inside and out and really flashes on slant routes from the slot. He broke out at 19 years old when he recorded an elite 44.75 percent market share. He followed that up with a 78-1,169-11 line in his junior season which amounted to a 43.07 market share. He took a mini step back with Rashod Bateman continuing to show out and achieved a 40.02 percent market share in 2019. He still led the team with 86 receptions, 1,318 receiving yards, and 13 touchdowns. Johnson has been among the nation’s leaders in receptions of 10 or more yards over the last two seasons. He had 53 such receptions in each of the past two seasons, placing him fourth in 2018, and sixth in 2019. Johnson has day one talent but will need a strong combine to enter the first round mix in such a deep receiver class. It is more likely that he hears his name called on day two. 

On the Bubble: Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michael Pittman, K.J. Hamler, Van Jefferson, Isaiah Hodgins, James Proche

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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his profile and follow him @FantasyContext.

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