2020 NFL Draft wide receiver rankings: The top 10 WRs ranked by trait; route running, YAC, speed, and more

The 2020 wide receiver draft class entered last college football season with a fair amount hype, and, unlike what typically happens, it actually exceeded expectations. This wideout class has been touted by, well, everybody, as the best wide receiver class since the famed 2014 group, a collection of receivers with top-level talent and an incredible amount of depth. Below I've ranked each of the consensus top 10 wideouts by the qualities/traits I deem most necessary to be successful at the position in the pros (listed in order of importance*). I've also added one player who should be available a bit later in the draft that excels at each particular trait.

Releases/route running

  1. Jerry Jeudy
  2. Jalen Reagor
  3. Henry Ruggs
  4. CeeDee Lamb
  5. Laviska Shenault
  6. K.J. Hamler
  7. Brandon Aiyuk
  8. Tee Higgins
  9. Denzel Mims
  10. Justin Jefferson

Jeudy is the most squeaky-clean route runner I've ever scouted, and Reagor, while not someone who ran as many routes as Jeudy, has the explosion and smoothness to turn defensive backs with ease. Ruggs is far from a solely linear athlete, but his natural speed and deceptive twitch will help him to get open regularly in the NFL. Lamb and Shenault are good route runners for their size and Hamler's loose hips allow him to rapidly get out of his breaks. All of Aiyuk, Higgins, Mims, and Jefferson are quality athletes on the field, they just weren't asked to run more than a few routes in college. 

Sleeper: K.J. Hill and Van Jefferson

I had to give both Hill and Jefferson the sleeper label here. They're both 10-year NFL veterans as route salesmen. Hill rarely (if ever?) saw press coverage at Ohio State, so while he knows how to lose a corner during his route with shoulder fakes, head fakes, and lightning-quick feet, it could take him time to learn the nuances of combating tight man coverage at the line of scrimmage. Jefferson, on the other hand, has the best releases in the class, plenty of athleticism and route nuance to free himself at the short and intermediate levels.

Contested-catch ability

  1. Tee Higgins
  2. Justin Jefferson
  3. CeeDee Lamb
  4. Denzel Mims
  5. Jalen Reagor
  6. Henry Ruggs
  7. Jerry Jeudy
  8. Laviska Shenault
  9. Brandon Aiyuk
  10. K.J. Hamler

Higgins has the best combination of high-pointing and contested-catch ability I've scouted since Mike Evans. Jefferson flashed the ability to make difficult grabs while contorting his body, but his nearly perfect contested-catch win rate from 2019 was skewed due to exquisitely accurate throws from Joe Burrow and was more about Jefferson's ability to track the ball as opposed to jumping over a cornerback and catching it with arms extended. Lamb and Mims are circus-grab wizards, and Reagor plays a lot bigger than his sub-5-foot-11 height would suggest because of his leaping ability and natural hands. Neither Ruggs nor Jeudy are being drafted for their contested-catch skills but can make those receptions on occasion. Shenault and Aiyuk have flashed in this area, and Hamler isn't a contested-grab receiver. 

Sleeper: Isaiah Hodgins

Hodgins is right around the same size at Higgins and has a massive catch radius. While his body control isn't as ridiculous, he has large, strong hands and is not timid when needing to go up and get it. He rarely drops the football.

Yards after the catch

  1. CeeDee Lamb
  2. Jalen Reagor
  3. Laviska Shenault
  4. Jerry Jeudy
  5. Henry Ruggs
  6. K.J. Hamler
  7. Brandon Aiyuk
  8. Tee Higgins
  9. Denzel Mims
  10. Justin Jefferson

Lamb brings tears of joy to my eyes when I watch him after the catch. From vision to cutting ability, to outrageous contact balance, and scary acceleration, he's the total package with the ball in his hands. Reagor possesses dynamic athleticism, smooth juking, and plays a lot faster than his 4.47 time on the field. Throughout this draft process, in my notes, in articles, and on the radio, I've repeatedly referred to Shenault as a horse in space. Strong, large with freaky speed and great contact balance. At 6-1 and 227 pounds, NFL cornerbacks are going to have trouble corralling him right away. Ruggs and Hamler are mostly speed-based YAC receivers yet both flashed some flexibility to cut away from defenders with the ball in their hands. Aiyuk is a burner with the ball in his hands, and Higgins, Mims, and Jefferson have surprising, efficient YAC ability despite being taller, perimeter wideouts. No one in this group is a liability in this vital area.

Sleeper: Joe Reed

My comparison for Reed is Deebo Samuel, which should tell you how highly I view the Virginia star. At 6-0 and 224 pounds, he has a feature-back body, effortlessly gliding through arm-tackle attempts, and his short-area quickness is like that of a ball-carrier too. While Reed ran under 4.50 at the combine, he doesn't play that fast, so the YAC he'll get will mostly be by way of making defenders miss or absorbing contact and continuing forward as opposed to hitting home runs. He's a super-fun, made-for-the-modern-day NFL sleeper prospect. 

Downfield speed

  1. Henry Ruggs
  2. K.J. Hamler
  3. Jalen Reagor
  4. Jerry Jeudy
  5. Denzel Mims
  6. CeeDee Lamb
  7. Justin Jefferson
  8. Brandon Aiyuk
  9. Laviska Shenault
  10. Tee Higgins

Ruggs is stupid fast. The end. Hamler didn't run at the combine but looks like a high 4.3 wideout on film with incredible burst off the line. Reagor flies. So does Jeudy. Mims ran 4.38 in Indianapolis, which doesn't exactly match the film, but he'll run away from people after catching the football. Lamb, Jefferson, and Aiyuk all play at around 4.50 on the field and Shenault and Higgins certainly aren't lumbers on deep balls.

Sleeper: Darnell Mooney

I could've gone John Hightower from Boise State here because he's a gazelle. Instead, I'll go a bit deeper. Mooney is a 5-10, 176-pound rocket who ran 4.38 at the combine and plays to that speed on the field. He was more of a possession wideout in 2019 with a 14.7 yards-per-catch average but finished with a 20.7 average in 2018. The Tulane receiver's burst off the snap and second gear are both phenomenal traits to have. 

Position fits 

Outside

  1. Tee Higgins
  2. Brandon Aiyuk
  3. CeeDee Lamb
  4. Laviska Shenault
  5. Denzel Mims
  6. Jerry Jeudy
  7. Jalen Reagor
  8. Henry Ruggs
  9. Justin Jefferson
  10. K.J. Hamler

Higgins is your quintessential outside receiver in the NFL thanks to his size, rare body control, and enormous catch radius. Aiyuk was mostly deployed on the outside in college. Lamb and Shenault can be moved around but won't be uncomfortable against bigger corners on the perimeter. Mims is probably best as a big slot yet has the physicality to deal with bigger corners he'll see near the sideline. Jeudy is clearly more deadly in the slot than at one of the outside receiver spots. Reagor played more than 80% of his snaps at one of the outside positions, but his talent would be most accentuated as an inside option. Ruggs and Hamler could destroy the seam down the field from the slot and Jefferson almost solely produced from the slot in 2019.

Sleeper: Bryan Edwards

Edwards is bound to fall in the draft after breaking his foot early in the pre-draft process. The South Carolina star produced for four-consecutive seasons and at 6-3 and 215 pounds with crafty footwork and impressive hands to beat press at the line and he saw a lot of that press coverage in the SEC. 

Slot

  1. Jerry Jeudy
  2. K.J. Hamler
  3. Jalen Reagor
  4. Justin Jefferson
  5. Henry Ruggs
  6. Denzel Mims
  7. CeeDee Lamb
  8. Tee Higgins
  9. Laviska Shenault
  10. Brandon Aiyuk

Given his twitch, explosion, and route nuance, Jeudy will essentially be impossible for NFL corners to touch when he's aligned in the slot. I've long said Hamler's burst off the line is as freaky as Jeudy's, and Reagor, with the space afforded to inside receivers, will provide a myriad of options for the offense he's in. Jefferson is basically a slot-only wideout and Ruggs, given his size, should probably at least start on the slot in the NFL. The rest of the receivers would pass as occasional big slots to take advantage of mismatches and have the ball skills to win in traffic over the middle. 

Sleeper: Tyler Johnson

The Minnesota star can be utilized anywhere yet his high-end wiggle, handwork at the line, and running-back like yards-after-the-catch skill will be most effective inside in the NFL, where those attributes will be more important than his (somewhat lacking) long speed. 

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