1) Jerry Jeudy, Alabama; Ht: 6-1 Wt: 192
Early in the college football season a report came out of Tuscaloosa that the four main Alabama wide receivers would sometimes play ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ in the huddle to see who got to run the touchdown route. Jerry Jeudy was the king of those stellar wide receivers. He actually didn’t end up with the best stats on the season, but let’s just chalk that up to getting beaten in the huddle. His routes are crisp and precise, his moves shook nearly every corner that played him, and his speed was great. Obviously his hands were some of the best in the country. He’s a lock in the first round.
2) CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma; Ht: 6-2 Wt: 189
Jeudy may be a lock in the first round but CeeDee Lamb will give him a run for his money as the first wide receiver taken. Lamb had better stats than Jeudy and owns a slight height advantage which could be a difference maker to some teams. Some experts have Kliff Kingsbury pairing Lamb with his former quarterback Kyler Murray. Some see him in Indianapolis. We don’t know where he’ll go, this is just to say that it’s completely up in the air. Lamb has blow-by speed and all the makings to be a go-to guy for a long time.
3) Henry Ruggs III, Alabama; Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190
Ruggs actually ended up with one of the worse seasons among the “Big 4” wide receivers at Alabama with only 7 touchdowns and 740 yards. Ruggs was one of the speedsters of the group and his relatively smaller size makes him a good utility receiver. He’ll likely be used not just for slot and outside receiving, but also for sweeps and maybe even screen plays. With a great Pro Day his stock could rise tremendously, akin to John Ross before the Bengals took him.
4) Tee Higgins, Clemson; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 215
Higgins, like the three before him, had the benefit of working with a professional caliber quarterback in college, a rare commodity. Higgins comes in at 6’4, automatically making him one of the tallest receivers in the bunch. In fact, any corner under six feet tall was largely useless. But that doesn’t mean he lacks in other ways. Higgins’ speed was one of his biggest weapons, allowing him to create space after the catch. He creates plays with his lateral movement; he also uses that agility to to run fantastic stutter, out, and pin routes. Finally, he has some of the best hands in this draft as they were particularly on display with balls up for grabs or in tip drill situations.
5) Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado; Ht: 6-2 Wt: 220
Laviska Shenault Jr. endured a tough and disappointing season, one that should have had more of a spotlight on him. Unfortunately, thanks to an unusually deep class of wide receivers and sup-par stats, Shenault was overlooked for much of the season. When watching him play this season I saw some concerns in his effort. He didn’t run crisp routes or play especially hard if he wasn’t involved like in running scenarios. However, when there was an opportunity for Shenault to catch a pass there was very little one could do to stop him. His moves suddenly became incisory and his speed ramped up to a more suitable average. After the catch Shenault was a tough tackle, dishing out as much pain as defenders gave him. His explosiveness earned him some big plays and extra yards, all factors that could be accentuated at the next level.
6) Justin Jefferson, LSU; Ht: 6-3 Wt: 192
Justin Jefferson had a bit of an unfair advantage over the rest of the receivers on this list: Joe Burrow. Like Jeudy and Ruggs, Jefferson was paired with other wildly elite wide receivers which hurt his stats a bit. What’s interesting about this is that Jefferson ended up playing a lot of slot and running inside routes despite being 6’3. This could be valuable since teams won’t have to team him how to run those routes if they would like to use him in that fashion. Jefferson’s deep understanding of what the game requires of him is what separates him in my eyes. He understands what his route is trying to accomplish and he knows what to do when his quarterback scrambles; Joe Burrow was notoriously good outside the pocket and Jefferson was a large part of that.
7) Tyler Johnson, Minnesota; Ht: 6-2 Wt: 205
Tyler Johnson earned his reputation as the best scorer for one of the bigger surprises of the season in Minnesota. What made Johnson great was his ability to outplay defenders for the ball while running devastating routes. Johnson possesses the rare ability to make defensive backs get lost. What I mean by that is when he starts his route, the defensive back thinks Johnson is locked down. Then Johnson makes a move and the back doesn’t know where Johnson went. And if they do know where Johnson went and can somehow stay with him, Johnson understands how to make sure that he’s the only one that can catch the ball. He has great hands and has no issue with taking a hit and uses his great field awareness to stay in bounds.
8) K.J. Hamler, Penn State; Ht: 5-9 Wt: 176
My biggest question about these small receivers, no matter how good they might be, is how high a team is willing to take them. K.J. Hamler was absolutely one of the most talented players in the NCAA last season. His speed and explosiveness made him one of the most dangerous post-catch players in the country. His ability to create separation with shiftiness and great routes made him one of the more dangerous pre-catch players. His size made him a match-up nightmare in the slot. But what do you do when a 6’1 corner that can run as fast as he can shadows him all game? What if he has to run block? What if he starts getting hit too often? Is it worth taking a player that small early on? I suppose we’ll find out.
9) Jalen Reagor, TCU; Ht: 5-11 Wt: 195
The selling point on Jalen Reagor comes not necessarily in his ability as a pass catcher, but in his ability as a versatile tool. Reagor understands that his acceleration can be used as a weapon and he employs it often. He’ll explode by complacent defenders like they’re standing still and cuts around tacklers with ease. His hands have room for improvement but he made up for that with impressive skills on 50/50 balls. However, if you can find a guy with number two wide receiver talent that can excel at returning punts and kicks, suddenly his value grows considerably. Look for a team that needs a receiver and help on special teams to pounce on Reagor.
10) Michael Pittman Jr., USC; Ht: 6-4 Wt: 220
Michael Pittman Jr. is one of the only receivers in this draft that has the size to rival Tee Higgins. The USC product used his size to his advantage as he seemed to enjoy run blocking smaller defensive backs into the depths of oblivion. However, don’t let the size fool you because Pittman is also one of the better downfield threats in the country. He displayed the ability to lose backs while running his route, or on other occasions, simply run straight by them. His in-flight adjustments seemed to be ready for the pro game and his ability after the catch was remarkable. Pittman finds extra space after the catch well and was slick, leaving defenders grasping at his laces after shedding them. Pittman could easily rise in the ranking with a good Pro Day.