The long-awaited 2020 NFL Draft has finally come. It couldn’t have come at a better time and in classic NFL dramatic fashion, we saw some interesting twists and turns throughout the evening. Some favorites such as CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy came off the board in Round 1 as predicted, but not exactly where or when some experts expected. Let’s take a look at which rookie WRs were drafted and where they landed in Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
While this article will look at rookie WRs taken off the board in Round 1, we have an entire article series dedicated to the QB, RB, and TE positions that I encourage you to check out. We also have an excellent well of Rookie Player Profiles that take a much deeper dive into the talent of the 2020 rookie draft class.
Henry Ruggs III – Las Vegas Raiders
Round 1, Pick 12
Ruggs may only be 5’11” but he showed up to the 2020 combine to make a point. His vertical jump at 42” ranked in the 98th percentile while his lightning 40-time (4.27 seconds) landed in the 99th percentile. With 10.125 inch hands, he only dropped five passes in his college career. What seems odd is that he never climbed past 744 yards in a single season with his speed and catch rate. This may be partially due to Alabama’s offense that only targeted him 58 times. He was able to haul in 40 receptions for 744 yards and 7 touchdowns on those targets.
I’m not sure many of us saw Ruggs going first among the 2020 WR class, but the Oakland Raiders clearly see something in Ruggs that fits their offensive plans better than players like CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy. His sweet spot in Alabama was out wide and he pulled in a majority of his receptions under 20 yards. With 10.5 yards after the catch, Ruggs will add another playmaking option for QB Derek Carr for shorter passes to move the chains.
Jerry Jeudy – Denver Broncos
Round 1, Pick 15
When it comes to a landing spot for a rookie, Jerry Jeudy is a prime example of how important it is in terms of immediate fantasy production. Unlike the criticism over Lamb’s route running, Jeudy enters the NFL as one of the elite route runners in this class. His ability to create separation combined with his effectiveness in the slot may translate well and quickly in the NFL. With 326 snaps from the slot and 271 snaps out wide last year, Jeudy has shown he’s not a one dimensional WR. It didn’t matter where he lined up, he still saw 108 targets for 77 receptions and 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Jeudy has the opportunity at Denver to immediately be productive with QB Drew Lock as a complimentary slot piece for Courtland Sutton. Instead of hurting Sutton’s fantasy value, Jeudy can provide another talented pair of hands that defenses have to pay attention to. This gives both Sutton and Jeudy a fantasy opportunity for 2020.
2020 Competition: Courtland Sutton, DeSean Hamilton
CeeDee Lamb – Dallas Cowboys
Round 1, Pick 17
Over his college career, Lamb posted 173 receptions for 3,292 yards and 32 touchdowns. He finished his junior year with an absurd 21.4 average yards per reception, ranked third best in college football. He had multiple appearances on the NCAA leader board including 5th best in receiving touchdowns and 6th best in receiving yards. In addition to dominating on offense, Lamb also played a pivotal role on special teams. Last year, he returned 24 punts for 179 yards and has tallied 54 punt returns for 475 during his three years in college.
Lamb is insanely talented after the catch and has excellent hands that will help transition into the NFL. While some have criticized his route running, Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception on CeeDee Lamb offers a more detailed opinion on his execution in his college tape.
It’s hard to believe that Lamb fell to the 17th pick, but the Dallas Cowboys gobbled him up. In terms of fantasy, this poses a problem for immediate production in 2020. Dallas already has a downfield speedster in Amari Cooper and the competition between the two could diminish target volume and production for both players. If anything, this may give Michael Gallup a bigger leg up in terms of fantasy. Either way, the Cowboys landed an elite WR for QB Dak Prescott to exploit in the 2020 season.
Jalen Reagor – Philadelphia Eagles
Round 1, Pick 20
An interesting and perhaps underrated choice for the Eagles, Jalen Reagor out of TCU fills in a hole at the much-needed WR position. His 2019 season was just plain bad. However, that was due to exceptionally bad quarterback play. At the 2020 combine, Reagor demonstrated his explosiveness and showed he has the ability to get open downfield in the NFL. He was targeted almost an identical amount among zero to nine yards, 10 to 19 yards, and 20 plus yards with 24, 25, and 25 targets respectively. He can reach full speed out of cuts at an elite level, get behind defenses, and has a vertical jump of 42 inches to give Wentz a target anywhere on the field.
Reagor adds an athletic, multi-dimensional talent to the Eagles WR corps. His volume is in question with pass catchers like TE Zach Ertz (135 targets) and Alshon Jeffery (73 targets) still very much alive in the offense. If DeSean Jackson can stay healthy long term, he too will see his share of targets. However, Nelson Agholor vacates 69 targets and Reagor can be electric almost anywhere on the field. His fantasy outlook could be worth a flyer considering the Eagles needed depth at the position and Jackson has been struggling with injuries.
Justin Jefferson – Minnesota Vikings
Round 1, Pick 22
Justin Jefferson has some intriguing stats that make him an interesting player to watch in fantasy in his rookie year. In 2018, he lined up out wide for 553 out of his total 697 offensive snaps totaling 54 receptions for 875 yards, and six touchdowns with an average of 16.2 yards per catch. Last year, Jefferson’s role was switched and volume increased as he lined up out wide only five times but a whopping 897 times in the slot position. This new role and his increased snap count ushered in 111 receptions for 1,540 yards while increasing his touchdowns by three times to 18 total.
While Jefferson feasted at the slot position at LSU in 2019, he more than demonstrated his ability to stretch the field with speed posting a 4.43 40-time, but his route running and ability to create separation is downright impressive. Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception on Justin Jefferson, goes into further detail on Jefferson route running, comparing him to the likes of Keenan Allen.
Because of his athleticism all over the field, I don’t worry as much for competition at the slot position with Adam Thielen who has solidified his place and his relationship with QB Kirk Cousins. Again, defenses will have another talented player to prepare for, giving both players an opportunity to fool defenses and score fantasy points. Also, this pick was courtesy of the Buffalo Bills to acquire WR Stefon Diggs. It’s was an excellent choice to go for productive rookie WR to accommodate the 94 vacated targets that Diggs leaves behind.
Brandon Aiyuk – San Francisco 49ers
Round 1, Pick 25
Aiyuk wasted no time in 2018 at Arizona State inserting himself into the offense and making an impact. He only continued to improve during his two-year tenure to finish the year with 98 receptions for 1,666 yards and 11 touchdowns. He lined up primarily out wide with 540 snaps in 2019 and 376 snaps in 2018. He has that deep threat ability with an impressive 10.9 yards after the catch. He can also be productive in screen yards ranked 8th with 241 yards per PFF. Aiyuk possesses explosiveness and sturdiness, forcing 14 missed tackles in 2019 with excellent route-running ability.
San Francisco needed to address some missing pieces in the WR corps and Aiyuk is a good fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. His addition will give QB Jimmy Garappolo another target who can separate from the defense and make plays after the catch. Shanahan isn’t shy about using rookie WRs and Aiyuk should see plenty of playing time with Deebo Samuel. This seems like another situation where the addition of another mouth to feed may actually benefit all parties instead of hurting them. It may take Aiyuk some time to adjust to the pace of the NFL and build chemistry with Garappolo, however, he had no problem making an immediate splash with Arizona State after transferring from California’s Sierra College. He has the drive, talent, and athleticism to hit the ground running with the 49ers.