Note: Since I no longer have access to the necessary college film to chart prospects and their Reception Perception samples, I’ll be taking RP data from the NFL level and using it to frame what we can expect from these incoming rookies and their best role as pro receivers. You can get access to Reception Perception data on the Top 50 NFL receivers in the 2020 Ultimate Draft Kit.
We arrive. It’s time to discuss the safest player at the wide receiver position in this year’s draft class. The player we can expect to hit the NFL field Day 1 and look like a pro receiver.
Jerry Jeudy is not just the best route runner in this year’s draft class; he might be the best technician to enter the pros over the last several classes. He’s an easy evaluation. We can be comfortable in our unbridled enthusiasm over this player. His next team will be one of the most comfortable after Round 1 ends knowing they have a hit on their hands.
After a freshman season with a pair of scores and just 14 catches, Jerry Jeudy erupted in his final two years at Alabama. He followed up his 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore with 1,163 yards and ten touchdowns as a Junior. His time with Alabama coincided with the Crimson Tide coming out of its shell offensively after playing a conservative style for many years under Nick Saban.
Standing at 6-foot-1 and 193 pounds, Jeudy ripped off a 4.45-second 40 yard dash time. He showed fine in the broad and vertical jump but we didn’t get a time for him in the three-done drill and his 20-yard shuttle wasn’t anything special.
Either way, his film, and production speak for themselves. His 17.2 college yards per reception is tantalizing. The film he put out over the last two years is even more impressive.
Jerry Jeudy is teaching a college-level master class every time he steps on the field. His technique is certifiably rare for a non-pro player. It’s stunning.
Jeudy integrates many layers of advanced concepts into his route running. But the best part, he does it without wasting everyone’s time with wasted moves that lose precious seconds from a play. You see plenty of clips all over social media of these type of routes that look great on their own but ultimately hinders the play because of the time it takes for them to truly be open.
Everything with Jeudy is one, two, three and it’s done. He’s open.
His ferocious acceleration out of his breaks is something to behold. It might be my personal favorite part of his game. Jeudy sticks his foot into the ground on in-breaking routes with authority but when he comes out of it, he never loses speed or pad-level advantage. Plenty of NFL receivers don’t have that down. He has the same aggressive snap down when he’s running a curl or comeback. Still, you’ll see this show up most when he’s tasked with a slant, dig or post at the next level.
Any wide receiver coach or a quarterback who watches his film will certainly drool over his unmatched understanding of route depth. Jeudy seems to always be in the right place. This allows him to dust both man and zone coverage. Make no mistake, his next quarterback will fall in love with this part of his game and learn to lean on him early.
Jeudy took 63 percent of his snaps from the slot over the last two years, per Sports Info Solutions. His skill-set translates to all three receiver positions but he’s a pure weapon when used inside. The vertical routes he runs from the slot are particularly strong because he can fool defensive backs so well with a false step or head fake.
When asked to line up outside, he has everything you want in getting off the line of scrimmage. His balance in his releases is particularly excellent. Jeudy can execute an inside or outside fake with just a few long steps, wasting no time at the line before he heads into his pattern. Don’t worry about him against press coverage at the NFL level but we should still hope his next coach moves him around to take advantage of his versatile skill set.
Jeudy even does everything right at the end of the route. He has several arm moves in his arsenal that allow him to just get that last step of separation. The late hands he deploys always gives him an edge of the defensive back down the field. Due to these traits, you don’t see him in contested catch situations often, which is good because that’s by far the biggest question in his arsenal. Tight coverage can give him issues but his separation is truly star level.
Alabama has sent several strong receiver prospects to the NFL over the last few draft classes. The most well known of the bunch is, of course, Amari Cooper. The fourth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft class, Cooper has enjoyed a strong, albeit roller coaster style career. He eventually found a comfortable home and role in Dallas.
You can find comparisons between Cooper and Jerry Jeudy. It makes some sense, as both enter the NFL at a young age after long productive college careers. However, I think he compares a bit better to another former Crimson Tide, current NFL receiver.
There does not appear to be a sizable difference between the way Jeudy plays the game and how Calvin Ridley goes about his business.
All three of these players have had some struggles at the catch point. Dating back to his final season in Alabama, Amari Cooper consistently checked in with a below-average contested catch conversion rate until starting to turn the tide once he arrived in Dallas. Ridley also struggled in this metric both as a rookie (50 percent) and in his college Reception Perception sample, converting just one of five chances.
The reason I think Jeudy is more like Ridley than Cooper comes at the line of scrimmage. While he shows some of the best peaks as a route runner that gets thrown around in clips on Twitter, it’s impossible to track his career and not see that Cooper is still painfully inconsistent in this portion of the game. It’s most problematic at the line of scrimmage, where he’s finished below the 22nd percentile vs. success rate press coverage in two of his last three seasons charted for Reception Perception.
I don’t have the same consistency or release against press worries with Jeudy. While Cooper is a better receiver, Ridley is a more consistent technician. He also posted a sterling 78.6 percent success rate vs. press coverage (89th percentile) as a mere rookie with the Falcons. Both of these players can be better through their career at releasing against press coverage than Cooper has shown to be in the NFL.
Just like Ridley was for Atlanta, Jeudy is going to make an immediate and impressive impact on his NFL team.
If Jeudy does improve at the catch point, at his peak he can be Keenan Allen. Despite being one of the game’s truly elite separators, Allen still dominates in contested situations.
The Chargers have routinely moved Allen around the formation during his career. Jeudy can do the same, obliterating defenses as a slot receiver while still thriving when deployed at X or flanker. Allen is one of the best route technicians in the game and Jeudy is one of the best to enter the draft in recent years. Each of them has a similar style of route running, especially on slants and post patterns. That hard stick without losing a hint of speed is just as noticeable in Allen’s game as it is for Jeudy.
I’ll take CeeDee Lamb as the top receiver in this draft class but it’s a close debate. No one can be blamed for valuing the safety, likely immediate impact and unreal technical mastery Jeudy brings to the table atop the wide receiver board.
As for a good fit? The possibilities are quite endless. Every team can use a Jerry Jeudy. There is not one quarterback who wouldn’t find their job made easier by the presence of a player like this who can win at all levels, play every wide receiver position and consistently separate.
In order to best maximize what he offers there are some landing spots better than others. A coach open to positional versatility within their wide receiver room would be perfect. A group of receivers who can also move around the formation, not just another rigid slot or flanker to play with, would allow him to roam. A system built around timing with a quarterback who can operate it with precision would quickly become his best friend.
No matter what, expect Jerry Jeudy to make a ton of noise in the NFL. Given the skills he brings to the table, expect it to happen early.