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2020 NFL Draft Big Board: Ranking An Elite Wide Receiver Class By Tier

The 2020 NFL Draft class is a strong one, but there’s no position that features more talent top to bottom than the wide receiver class. There are legitimately 10 receivers that you could talk yourself into as a first-round talent and there’s depth beyond that late into Day 2. As such, someone talented will inevitably become a Day 3 steal.

Our wide receiver Big Board is the largest of all position groups because, well, we couldn’t help ourselves but highlight a ton of guys. There is a clear top tier, and you’ll find all three receivers as WR1 on various boards depending on who you talk to. The top tier is effectively a football personality test, asking whether you prefer the technician, the all-around monster, or the speedster. It’s going to be fascinating to see who rises and who falls on draft day, but what’s undisputed is there is an incredible amount of talent at a position that’s never been better across the board (or more important) in the National Football League.

Tier 1

Jerry Jeudy: Scouts, coaches, and fans have drooled over Jeudy’s technical skills for the past two seasons, as he’s the been college football’s best route-runner basically since arriving on campus in Tuscaloosa. He has the productivity to match, with nearly 2,500 yards of receiving over the last two years and 24 touchdown catches to boot. He has big play ability, although he fit more into a role of reliable possession receiver next to two burners last year with the emergence of Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith. Make no mistake, Jeudy can still pop the top off a defense when needed and has plenty of athletic ability to go along with sure hands and off the charts footwork.

CeeDee Lamb: Lamb dominated the Big 12 for three years at Oklahoma, and has been a big reason why the Sooners passing attack has been so dynamic with three straight transfer quarterbacks (two of whom took home Heismans). He is a big, physical receiver with terrific speed and can out run, out jump, and out muscle most defensive backs. His production is almost identical to Jeudy’s over the last two seasons (2,500 yards, 25 TDs) and within this tier it really comes down to what you prefer. Lamb is an all-around beast, Jeudy is the elite technician, and Ruggs is the burner. All three will go pretty early in the first round and for good reason.

Henry Ruggs III: His speed is stupid. It is possible to be fast in the SEC, but it’s really, really, REALLY hard to make other people look slow in the SEC. That, however, is the kind of speed Ruggs possesses, and unlike traditional burners, he can do more than just blow by an opponent and sometimes catch the football. He’s not as polished as Jeudy — in fairness, no one is — but his route running is solid, he’s not afraid of battling with defensive backs (even if he won’t always be able to win said battles), and he has paws that can reel in passes. Still, his speed is next-level, and he’ll immediately be one of the fastest players in the NFL from day one. A threat to score any time he touches the ball, Ruggs caught 98 balls for 1,716 yards and 24 scores in three years for the Tide.

Tier 2

Laviska Shenault: While he seems like a pretty nice guy, some of the stuff that Shenault does on the field is flat-out mean. He’s 6’1 and 227, and while his 4.58 40 at the combine was a touch disappointing, he plays faster than that indicates. Where he’s unreal, though, is how his physicality and consistent hands let him win battles all over the field. The dude has a whole lot of dog in him, bringing a level of nastiness and toughness to the position that coaches will adore. Some injury concerns exist, and the production isn’t quite what you’d like out of a potentially elite WR1 — 149 catches, 1,943 yards, 10 touchdowns — although he wasn’t exactly in an elite offense with consistently excellent QB play or guys around him on the perimeter to help out like any of the aforementioned three players.

Justin Jefferson: Like most offensive players from LSU, Jefferson absolutely exploded last season. The production cannot be denied: 111 receptions, 1,540 yards, and 18 touchdowns in a single season is stunning over the course of one year. At 6’1 and 202 with a 4.43 40 and a 37.5-inch vertical, Jefferson has the physical profile you want to see, and when you watch him play, he’s a physical receiver with reliable hands and the ability to make contested catches look easy. It says a lot about this draft class that he is not a clear-cut WR1, and he has the potential to become a superstar. He was so dominant against Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff that they are now legally required to build a statue of him in Norman.

Tee Higgins: It’s pretty wild that Higgins isn’t a lock to be a first round pick this year, which is more due to the depth of this year’s class rather than an indictment of his production at Clemson. Higgins was a monster in his time with the Tigers, hauling in over 2,000 yards of passes and 25 touchdowns the last two years, and he’s got the ideal frame for the modern NFL receiver at 6’4, 215 pounds. He’ll be an impact starter from Day 1, and for a team needing a physical, red zone threat late in Day 1 or early in Day 2, he’ll make a quarterback and offensive coordinator very happy.

Jalen Reagor: Reagor’s production suffered due to instability and ineffective quarterback play at TCU, but he’s an absolute burner with decent size (5’11, 206) and will come in and give some offense some serious juice next season. He also is an electric punt returner, and in the NFL, if you can bring special teams versatility you’ll always increase your value. He can be a dynamic playmaker in the right system.

K.J. Hamler: There is a drops issue that Hamler needs to clean up, and at 5’9 and 178, it’s fair to question how his frame will handle the kinds of hits he will take in the NFL. The good news on both accounts is that when he gets the football, it is incredibly hard to hit him. He has game-changing speed (see: here) and jaw-dropping agility, earning himself the nickname The Human Joystick. As the WR1 for a less-than-stellar Nittany Lion receiving corps in each of the last two years, Hamler caught 98 balls for 1,658 yards and 13 touchdowns. While I would like to see him not try to score every time he touches the ball, he did this against Maryland as a result, and got a first down on this play, so what do I know? Also a dangerous kick and punt returner.

Brandon Aiyuk: The Arizona State product is a favorite of some draft folks because he can flat out go get the football. He’s got decent size (6’0, 205) but his ability to rise above defenders makes him special. He jumped 40 inches in the vertical and had a 10’8 broad jump. He isn’t the most physical guy and has some work to do in the strength area, but he’s quick (4.5 in the 40), has excellent hands, and produced a ton of big plays for Sparky last season.

Denzel Mims: A bit of a project, but if he works out, Mims is going to be very good. His physical profile is among the most impressive in this receiver class: He stands 6’3, 207, ran a 4.38, and was among the top-10 receiver performers in the vertical, broad jump, and shuttle. He also boasted the top three-cone drill time at the combine. A four-year college player, Mims caught 186 balls for 2,925 yards and 28 touchdowns at Baylor. He competes and plays hard, he’s just not a finished product as a receiver. Still, he can go and get the football (watch him pluck the pass below) and has shown impressive playmaking ability. Iron out some wrinkles and this young man will be a star.

Tier 3

Donovan Peoples-Jones: A very, very tough evaluation. The former No. 1 receiver and No. 12 overall prospect in his recruiting class, Peoples-Jones never quite looked like the potential matchup nightmare he can be during his time in Ann Arbor. Of course, he was never in a situation that took advantage of his considerable physical tools (6’2, 212, and the best vertical of anyone at the 2020 combine), as the Wolverines mixed less-than-stellar QB play with an offensive scheme that didn’t ask him to be a playmaker. His production, as a result, was meager — 103 catches, 1,327 yards, 14 scores in three years — but there is a whole lot to like here. Has some speed (4.48 40), relentlessly attacks the ball when it is in the air with fairly reliable hands, and plays with quite an edge. A dangerous option in the return game, too, as he housed a pair of punts on 89 returns over his tenure.

Van Jefferson: Van Jefferson might be one of those guys that goes late in Day 2 and after a few years of strong productivity at the NFL level, you wonder why he wasn’t more productive in college. The answer is, he played at Florida, which hasn’t exactly been an elite passing offense in, oh, I don’t know about a decade. However, Jefferson is a skilled route-runner with great footwork, solid hands, and projects to be a really helpful slot guy at the next level. Watch his LSU tape belo to see him show out against a really good secondary and see where his potential could be.

Bryan Edwards: Speaking of guys that might fare better in the pros after playing in lackluster SEC East offenses, meet Bryan Edwards, a physical specimen at receiver for South Carolina who has solid, if not eye-popping, numbers and could end up being a really nice find for someone late in Day 2 or on Day 3. He’s 6’3, 212 and had 71 catches for 816 yards a year ago in just 10 games. Those are strong numbers for a guy in a mediocre at best passing attack, and he might be a guy that pops at the next level.

Chase Claypool: As I said in our most recent mock, Claypool is this draft’s premier bully at receiver. His physical profile is the most impressive of anyone at this position — 6’4, 238, and runs a 4.42 with a 40.5 inch vertical — with some pretty solid production to back it up, catching 150 passes for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns despite the Fighting Irish never having elite quarterback play during his tenure in South Bend. Reliable hands, and while he’s not particularly quick, he will bowl over smaller defensive backs. As a red zone target and someone who can physically impose themselves on a defense, he’s as good as you’ll find in this class, even if he might not boast All-Pro upside.

Michael Pittman Jr.: Speaking of monsters on the outside, Pittman is 6’4, 223 and thrived in a much improved USC passing attack last year despite some mid-season QB shuffling. He pulled in 101 catches for 1,275 yards and 11 TDs, all of which led the Trojans, and had a number of games where he was just flat out dominant, including a monster game against Utah that is easily his most impressive tape of the year. You want to see more consistency game-in, game-out, but that might be a USC issue, not so much a Pittman issue. He’s got serious upside and it wouldn’t be hard to see how someone might fall in love with him as a Day 2 pickup.

Tyler Johnson: I love this dude. A prospect with a high floor, Johnson received some of the best coaching that a receiver can get by nature of playing for P.J. Fleck. He route-running might be second only to Jeudy in this class, while he has an unfair advantage over other receivers by nature of the suction cups he has on both of his hands. He stands 6’1, 206, and put forth some stupid numbers as a Gopher — 213 catches, 3,305 yards, and 33 touchdowns. He can suit up for any NFL team right away and serve as a potent option on the outside.

Tier 4

Collin Johnson: Johnson’s a tough evaluation because he only played in seven games for the Longhorns last season due to a hamstring issue, but at 6’6, 222 pounds, you can see why he’s an intriguing prospect. He’s not the quickest, but he’s big and physical and can be an excellent red zone target if nothing else for someone to scoop up in the back half of the draft.

Quartney Davis: Davis is a big slot receiver at 6’1, 201, and while he’s not the twitchy athlete some of these other slot guys are, his size plays to his advantage. He was never the most productive at Texas A&M, but then again, few have been in recent years there. He’ll be a Day 3 pickup and for the right team that wants a bigger slot guy that can battle through traffic, he’ll be a nice find.

Wild Cards

K.J. Hill: A career slot receiver, which sounds like a knock, but it’s meant here as the highest of compliments. Hill isn’t the kind of guy who will snatch the ball out of the air, but he’ll get himself open, fairly reliably catch the football, and help his team win games. He’s going to end up being his quarterback’s best friend, even if he doesn’t get drafted particularly high.

Lynn Bowden: We put him as a wide receiver despite the fact that we have zero idea what position he actually plays. His real position is “Football Player,” in part because Kentucky used him the same way that your pop warner coached used his team’s best player: Put him at quarterback and expect that he’ll just do some cool stuff. He’ll probably be listed as a receiver, but he can play WR, RB, and gadget QB in the NFL. He’s fast and smart and quick and we here at Uproxx love him dearly.

Cole Kmet: The only tight end really worth discussing in the top half of this draft is Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet. At 6’6, 262 he’s got excellent size and strength, with a solid outing at the Combine with a 4.7 in the 40 and 37 inch vertical he will be the likely target of any team really in need of a tight end on Day 2. He caught 43 passes for 515 yards and six touchdowns a year ago at Notre Dame and in an otherwise thin class, he’ll be the top prize.