2020 WR Class

Is this class truly “generational”?

We are being told that the 2020 WR draft class is historically good.  That’s ratings driving click bait. It’s embarrassing that the talking heads can’t remember all the way back to 2014.  Watkins, Evans, Odell, Cooks, Adams, Robinson, Landry, John Brown and the unfortunate story of Martavis Bryant is far superior to this 2020 class.  This class is deep but last year there were 13 WRs off the board by the end of day 2 and the first pick in round 4 was Hakeem Butler. Meaning, this degree of depth is also nothing new.  The WR class deserves its fair amount of respect though. It a good class, but calling it historic is a reach. This class doesn’t quite have the AJ Green Julio Jones duo at the top. It shouldn’t have six 1st rounders like the disappointing (injury riddled) 2009 class had.  This is a very good WR class but it’s oversold and we need to look at this realistically.  

Now that I’ve thrown some cold water on the hype surrounding this class, let’s talk about what you should look for in a WR coming out of the college ranks.

Last year Bill Belichick talked about the difficulty surrounding projecting college talent to the NFL ranks.  He then proceeded to take N’Keal Harry in the 1st round.  Over DK Metcalf, over AJ Brown, Deebo and McLaurin.  Oops! It’s easy to get caught up in size speed numbers.  It’s easy to get excited about after the catch ability. It’s easy to get excited about raw traits or even character.  It’s also easy to identify the aspects that matter. Routes, routes, routes. You won’t succeed if you can’t get open. N’Keal struggled vs the press against Oregon and only ran one route well, a post/flag.  Compare that to DK who ran an elite vert, good slant, strong fade and an elite elite post/flag route. Compare that to McLaurin who is a route running machine. Routes matter more than anything else. Your ability to get into them without delay, your ability to stay on course, your ability to snap them off crisply, the nuance you can add to set up the defense and the separation you create due to all of it.  Speed kills, but separation remains undefeated. Contested catches are great, but open is better. I don’t care how dangerous a WR is in the open field, they need the ball first and they aren’t taking many hand-offs. You need to get open to get the ball.

We are scouting, not knowing.  The degree of error is high enough that you cannot ignore how a WR separates.  The degree of error will only increase if you play guessing games about their chances to gain that ability down the road.  Just look at my top 6 last year. Butler, Hollywood, McLaurin, DK, Deebo, AJ Brown and my sleeper was Diontae Johnson. One of these things is not like the other ones.  That one is Butler. My biggest concern with Butler was that he needed to improve his routes. I still have faith in him to be a very good WR (because he won’t need a vast improvement to capitalize off of the incredible gifts he possesses) but I’m looking at a year three breakout at best.  No one has the patience for that. Not in the Not For Long league.  

This season there are 5 WRs who deserve a 1st round grade.  I could go into all the miniscule details in their games but even I find that boring to write about.  I have a hard time listening to Matt Waldman even though he’s a peer for whom I have the upmost respect.  It’s bland. You can split hairs and get incredibly detailed about every prospect and all that accomplishes is blurring them all together with an overabundance of information.  So let’s not do that. Let’s cut to the chase.

5th Henry Ruggs III WR Alabama

Not a widely supported opinion but let’s discuss why.  The glowing stance on Ruggs starts with his hitch and go.  It is the most deadly route any WR in the 2020 class possesses.  When you line this up against Higgins and Jefferson the contrast is stark.  Higgins uses a twitch and go, Jefferson uses a stab and go and Ruggs runs the route in a fashion that can put a S flat on their butt.  It is walk in TD devastating. The glowing stance on Ruggs ends by pointing to his elite speed. That’s truly all he is. Elite speed and one devastating route.  The rest is quality, but there are a number of negatives that drag down the grade on Ruggs. First and foremost, Ruggs release off the line of scrimmage delays his route when he lines up outside.  He is adamant about shaking the press corner clean and this takes time. It’s not a poor choice, or one you can teach out of him, it’s necessary. This is because Ruggs doesn’t possess the play strength to play through press coverage.  He has to shake the CB clean and that wastes time. If you watch Bama and let the play go 5 yards you will see that Jeudy has grabbed more grass than Ruggs despite Ruggs being the faster player. This is because Jeudy doesn’t delay off the snap.  Ruggs play strength issue shows up in his routes where he can get moved off course. It also shows up in contested catch situations. This is very common for smaller speed WRs, so while it’s a negative, the negative isn’t dire. The bigger concern is that Ruggs notoriously rolls through his routes.  He rounds corners and lacks nuance as a route runner. He has two gears. The speed he runs routes at, which is considerably slower and full throttle for when he has a straight line or the ball in hand. There’s a lot of speed on speed with rounded angles in his route tree. Remember: Speed kills, but separation remains undefeated.  The sloppy edges in Ruggs routes will cost him separation and make it easier for CBs to mirror him. In Ruggs, I see an average WR who happens to have elite speed and a devastating go to route. Those traits help his otherwise average body of work play up. You still have to shade him with a S, he is very fast after all. Teams can fall in love with that (see John Ross), so it’s possible that he goes as high as many are projecting.  I don’t see enough to push him up the board quite that far. His speed will create problems and he isn’t purely a one trick pony but the higher he climbs up the draft boards, the more of a disappointment I see him being. He will hold onto a 1st round grade for me but it won’t be nearly as early as others project.

4th KJ Hamler WR Penn State

If you are a fan of contested catches and wide receivers who high point a ball then this just isn’t your guy.  At the same time you shouldn’t expect a WR who is 5’9 180 to be that type. He has areas of downside (we’ll discuss him deeper because he’s very interesting) but when you see a yard of black smoke you should sit up and take notice.  A yard of black smoke is what happens when he makes a cut on field turf. He rips up a spray of rubber pellets. This is a torque based WR in the same vein as Tyreek Hill. I’ve reviewed Hamler at great length. He jumped out to me immediately but being 5’9 180 requires a large number of positive traits for the player to translate at a high level.  He isn’t a Ferrari like Hollywood so it isn’t obvious. He’s been my deepest dive in the WR class by far. This is a full write up on him. Hamler runs his routes with two speeds. Rope-a-dope and dynamite. Ruggs is a player who explodes when he has a straight line in his route but it’s not done as a tempo change. He’s doing this because he can’t run his routes at top gear.  Hamler can. He can take off at the snap but he’ll also start routes off with a slower gamesmanship at times. Especially on the vert/fade. This is done as bait, and if you take the bait and close separation he’ll slam into high gear and blow right past you. His acceleration is consistently better than the competition. Once he separates, he has the carrying speed to hold that distance.  Whenever Hamler decides to go, you immediately see the secondary alter their angles. Often multiple times. His burst puts immediate pressure on a defense and surprises them. He stated that he runs a sub 4.3. That seems wrong when you watch his long speed (4.4 flat) but I would have loved to see a 3 cone drill. I believe he would have murdered the 3 cone drill. Being a smaller WR, Hamler doesn’t possess the play strength you typically desire, but his play strength is decidedly better than Hollywood Brown.  It may surpass Tyreek Hill by a bit. He’s a mean little dog and he doesn’t back down. When releasing from the slot, Hamler reminds me of a Funny Car. There is the slightest bit of hesitation and then its pure throttle. He can force safeties deep and clear out the post. When releasing on the outside, he can be jammed. He will attack the jam, and he will get roughed up but he also takes the fight to the CB and doesn’t get delayed a great deal. He’s hard to square up. He fights through it quite well and despite it being a downside in his game, it’s not a concern.  He can be a vert 2, press or no press. He will absolutely love the rules of the NFL. Teams made a point of hitting him and grabbing him well up the field to slow down his routes. It was effective especially in the Pitt game. That’s illegal now, well at least the blatant way this was deployed in college. He will continue to be susceptible to S and LB chips (at 5 yards off the LOS) if he doesn’t start to diagnose them better. His angles are pure torque. He has instant speed, and he turns so hard that it would rip studs out of cleats. 135 90 45 degree angles are sharp and very hard.  He separates easily with them. Although, on film you will see 1 out of every (roughly) 8 of these angles cause him to stumble out of the break. Like Chris Godwin, (a problem that faded quickly in the NFL) footing on stems is off and on. (That’s 2 Penn State Wrs with this hang up and that makes me wonder what isn’t being taught there) I watched and re-watched this aspect of his game. Stumbling out of breaks can be caused by a few things. He could be tight hipped which leads to an agility concern and that’s not the case. He could be getting pushed off balance which would show a bigger play strength issue, again not the case.  His footing is off and on entering the break and he’s making a cut more difficult because of it. When he’s stumbling it’s due to his footing being wrong entering the cut and it makes it impossible on human hips to keep up. Even when he stumbles, he gets acceptable separation. I don’t know if this is fixable. It was a very easy fix for Godwin and I hope that’s the case for Hamler because that would make every route consistently dangerous. I see this as a smaller issue than the sloppy routes Ruggs runs. Hamler’s angles are nasty. There aren’t many instances of him stacking DBs on tape because he’s the type that gains separation and doesn’t get caught.  The best examples come on poorly placed throws where he shows the desired instinct and technique but he’s simply too light to hold his ground. He’ll box out the DB but he’ll slowly lose that box out. This was exacerbated by Penn States QB play. McSorley and Clifford are horribly inaccurate and wasted a lot of opportunities that Hamler created. If your QB can lead a WR and is accurate (at least put it on the proper side of his body) Hamler’s win rate will increase in these situations. He does enough to hold onto an advantage. He won’t win in 50/50 situations. The one part of Hamler that is truly poor is his work in the air. He might be tough when he’s grounded but when he’s up in the air he is as light as a feather.  High point, jump ball, contested fades will not work with him. I don’t know why you’d try to do that with him so I don’t see that as a big issue. It’s simply not what you do with his type of WR. Hollywood doesn’t do this well either. Tyreek does it better but his reckless abandon in these situations legitimately puts him in harm’s way. Hamler isn’t good at it, and will not commit to it like Hill does. He can adjust to a ball and go get it, but not if contact is present. He won’t shy away from it, he’ll try, but it’s a clear weakness. That being said, Hamler is a true weapon. You need to sit soft and shade him. If you do that he will carve you up inside and will be one Ferrari angle from taking a 7 yard post and turning it into a TD.  Ask Ohio State. He separated, accelerated through a lane, broke the FS’s angle and raced them 93 yards on a simple play. He will stretch a defense’s top and they’ll want to press him at the LOS. That creates a big hole in a defense. That’s an advantage if he gets the ball or not. His home will dictate the volume he receives and I’m very excited to see where he ends up. He is not quite as fast and fluid as Hollywood, but he’s stronger. He is not quite as fast as Hill, but its close and that’s all you need to know. There are parts of his game to polish, (defeating press clean, sniffing out chips, stem footwork) and if that happens he’ll be an incredible menace and he’ll outperform his draft slot. Hamler is the definition of dynamic. (One thing of note: torque WR’s hate sloppy fields.  Icy or wet conditions make it very difficult for them to keep their footing. They are the polar opposite of a mudder.) 

3rd Justin Jefferson WR LSU

Professional through and through.  It’s as if LSU coaches their players well.  With Jefferson we will start off with the negatives.  Despite being one of the big winners of the combine, (his 4.43 was a gigantic number for him to post) his ability to outrun and stack CBs vertically is average.  That ends his negatives and despite that negative he can still win in close quarters down the field with strength, catch radius and overall awareness. All season I was busy watching Ja’marr Chase.  After the year, I realized Jefferson deserved more credit than I gave him. He is seemingly open every single play. When you try to jam him he’ll usually get a clean release and even if you get the better of him it won’t last long.  He is very strong on his route path and you aren’t going to move him off course. He has experience as the point man on bunch stacks and jamming him is a tall task. His routes are crisp and he has every trick in the bag. Changing tempos, bending routes to set up the CB on the wrong shoulder, dead legging breaks that turn a CBs hips the wrong way.  Trick after trick after trick. Extremely veteran in how he runs his routes and creates space. It will make him his QBs new best friend and watching him reminds me of what I see from Cooper Kupp on Sunday. In the right offense he is a big slot WR who you can throw the ball to at a high volume. He is not pigeon holed into that role though. He can play possession 1 or 2 and slot.  If you don’t respect him deep, he’ll get you there too. Over the top, back shoulder, you name it but it won’t be due to separation. A small bonus to his game, especially in the slot is that if you tick him off (Auburn did), he’ll block his tail off in the run game. Who needs a pass catching TE when you have that? Run 3 wide like you are supposed to. Jefferson is a great player that seems to be a bit underappreciated due to a lesser degree of flash.  He won’t be a HR hitter, but the level of production he will bring is going to be very high. Think Adam Thielen, when that nuisance is healthy. PFF is going to grade his pro tape at or in the 80s.

2nd Ceedee Lamb WR Oklahoma

Even though I was very high on Hollywood, I repeated the same thing all year.  He’s a great weapon, but Lamb is the best WR on that squad. He makes football so easy that he is boring to write about.  Can’t jam him, he’s too strong. Can’t alter him, again too strong. Good luck tackling him, because he’s that strong. Every route is exact and on time.  Lamb’s about to be a rookie and Shenault should look up to him. Shenault studying Lamb can teach him what he can hopefully become someday. Lamb is already there.  Lamb doesn’t wow you with flashy speed or quickness but everything he does is perfect and he’s ready to step in as a #1 high volume WR. I compare him to Reggie Wayne.  Lamb isn’t a traditional superstar but you aren’t going to regret having him. He’s going to produce from day 1. This is a short blurb, that’s because Lamb is very good at everything but isn’t quite elite.  There’s very little to discuss with him.

1st Jerry Jeudy WR Alabama

As good as Lamb is, Jerry Jeudy stands alone.  There is no debate. I’ve seen people putting them back to back in mock drafts.  I’ve heard others say that either of them could go 1st or that they are 1a and 1b.  Yeah, no. There’s a huge difference.  Jerry Jeudy should be a top 5 pick. He is going to be a superstar in this league.  Immediately. He runs the best routes I can remember scouting in a dedicated 18-19 years of doing this.  The best that I can remember. I think Jeudy could end up being the best WR in the entire league and it might not take him very long to get there.  I expect him to be in the Pro Bowl in his rookie year and he is the favorite for OROY. That’s how good he is. Yet, you hear people question his ability to get off a jam because he’s slender and played in the slot.  He has no issues getting off a jam, he’s too illusive to jam. People gripe about his focus drops. Yes, those are annoying but he doesn’t have bad hands. I’ll accept a drop here and there if he’s open every single play.  Remember, Davante Adams couldn’t catch a cold for 2 years and look where he is now. His QB kept throwing to him despite drop after drop. Why? He was open. Jeudy isn’t going to struggle like Adams did. People keep nitpicking Jeudy as if they are looking for something negative to say.  That’s not the point of this. The things he can do are insane and he’s going to be a star. He is at full speed by the time his 1st step hits the ground.  He stays at full speed through his angles.  All of them. He is regularly out-running Ruggs despite a slower 40 time.  He covers a lot of ground. You can’t cover him, you have to shade him and he’ll still find space against a double team.  If you design your offense for it, you can get him the ball 100 times this year and it won’t be difficult. If teams let him fall to the Jets at 11, Darnold to Jeudy will make people talk about the Jets.  The Jets! Recently, I was told someone compared Jeudy to AB. Think of that. Prior to hearing that I said the only comp for Jeudy is Jeudy but that’s actually a very solid comp. Except Jeudy is bigger and faster.  Would you like a bigger faster AB who keeps his head down and is a good teammate? That’s an incredible player. Don’t let the guessers (who give you takes that build a player up while giving themselves an excuse as to why they might be wrong) tell you otherwise.  Jeudy is a star. A Phenom. Cooper Watkins and Green went 4th.  Julio went 6th.  Jeudy is every bit as deserving of a top pick.  The only thing that can stop him is an injury.

Next up:  Day 2 WRs.  There are a lot of them.

Day 2 WRs

I just got in an argument with over one of my hated parts of the draft process.  It’s a lie you are told every single year and it bothers me when people keep pushing that narrative.  That lie is the notion of ceiling/upside and floor. They do not exist. I’ve put years into this craft and one thing I can tell you for certain is that no one knows which players will improve once they enter the league.  It takes a crystal ball. We’ve seen polished players surpass their assumed ceiling. We’ve seen raw players never improve. We see stars who are good but not elite athletes. We see players with lauded work ethic fail to improve because they don’t have the physical traits to do so.  There is no floor, there is no upside. The only thing we can accurately decipher is what a player CAN DO NOW! Luckily, that is all you need. Drafting a guy who can play today, as is, will take you a long way towards success. You won’t draft guys who will sit on your bench for 2 years.  You won’t draft guys who show up in year 4 and then command a ton of money in their second contract. (Without putting up the track record to prove that they deserve said money.) You’ll get valuable pieces for your team who will produce at a bargain basement price for 4 years. Some, might blow your expectations out of the water and become elite players.  Many others will be the exact player they were in college and that’ll be an asset to your team. Rarely do they fail at the NFL level.

If you look at this in a business sense: You buy an asset for the price that it costs, not the price you expect it to appreciate to.  You see that appreciation as a possible gain. As a chance to earn value. This plays out in the draft. McLaurin in the early 3rd and DK in the late 2nd vs Harry in the late 1st?  McLaurin and DK have already proven themselves to be steals and NE is still waiting.  NE fans are already disappointed in Harry, and rightly so.  

You don’t draft players based on where they could end up because that’s how you consistently overpay.  Value is everything. No one knows who can get better and you will see that TRUTH reflected in my rankings.

6th Michael Pittman WR USC

Out on a limb.  Or standing alone on a twig of a branch.  Whichever. No one agrees with this placement.  I don’t even believe he will go in the early 2nd but when we look back on it, we’ll know that he should have.   He’s overlooked and doesn’t offer an elite profile but he’s a really good WR.  I’ll start off with the negatives on him. His hitch route does not separate. 45 degree come back angles do not agree with him.  He can jump but isn’t an explosive jumper and his speed is merely average. Yet, his 4.52 posted at the combine was a big positive for him.  I wasn’t sure if he was faster than I thought he was or if the Pac-12 defenses were miserably slow. Turns out he’s faster than I thought. Pittman shows a good amount of snap in his 90s and 135s.  He separates with these routes and he doesn’t need a lot of separation to finish you off. He is absolutely huge. 6’4 220 is big but that’s only half of the equation. He’s big and he takes up a lot of space.  You will need a big corner to jam him. Inside leverage does a better job of limiting him than outside leverage. You will not move him off his routes. If you try to get into his body and put your hands on him, you lose.  It will affect you more than it does him. He doesn’t have the deep speed to gain a large amount of leverage but if he can get his shoulders past you, you are stacked, controlled and done. This often happens with contact. Over and over on his film you see DBs trying to hand fight him and the jostling slows them down.  Pittman does not slow down. He’s a bully on his route path. Similar to Terrell Owens in this area. He cannot leap like Chris Godwin, but he is every bit as aggressive and strong in the air. In the air, he is a wrecking ball. When you try to contest the ball he will not be phased and you will bounce off him. He has some twitch and uses tempo changes in his routes quite well.  Does a good job of drifting to take away a CBs leverage before snapping off his break. He knows how to settle into a soft spot and present a good target for his QB. He’s not going to separate on the same level as the 1st round WRs but he seems to play with a force-field around him that repels DBs.  Due to that, he will be open. He will fit in as a big slot WR where his blocking game will play well.  He also fits as a possession 1 who will get deep more often than you expect. If the Jets don’t get a headliner at 11, Darnold absolutely needs a reunion with Pittman.

I hope to see this next run of WRs go from the mid 2nd to the mid 3rd.  There’s a lot of quality in this group, but also a number of questions left unanswered.  Improvement that will or will not be made. Taking them earlier will lead to regret in many cases.

7th Laviska Shenault WR Colorado

This has absolutely nothing to do with his combine numbers.  He was hurt heading into the combine and he runs a 4.5 flat on film, if not a shade better.  I would also love it if people would stop comparing him to Cordarrelle Patterson. He’s not Patterson and Colorado should have never used him that way.  They only did that because they are a terrible team who needed to manufacture offense by beating their best player to pulp. This has led to a number of injuries and has delayed his development.  When I watch Shenault, I see a lot of Roddy White’s athletic profile. He has the same physicality on his routes. He has the same 3 step burst that gains separation. It’s the same short lived separation that dries up quickly.  His routes need work. Especially when working down the field. On possession routes, he has a nice burst into his route and out of his break which creates good separation when you pair it with his strength. He does a good job settling into a good spot for his QB and keeps working to stay viable.  Everything 12 yards and under is clean enough to work. He needs to learn how to set up his routes so he can avoid fighting through contact and having to box DBs out all the time. He’s better vs zone. Every year his routes have improved a little bit and he has the athleticism to continue those slow gains.  Nuance is sadly lacking. Down the field, he struggles. He can be walled off in his vertical. He can be pushed towards the boundary. He doesn’t use his quick burst to stack DBs. If he knew how, he easily could accomplish it from the leverage point he gains. He gains his separation, he’s strong but he allows DBs back into his body.  He doesn’t high point through contact very well so this is an issue. His body control is average. Day 1 he is a possession 1. He’ll do some quality work after the catch and if you run off the slot you’ll give him plenty of room to win competitions. Drags, slants, hitch, out, dig, curl, shallow post route runner. You will be able to throw to him a great deal but it’ll take an old school Shanahan/Kubiak offense where they drew everything up to get their #1 the ball.  Teams won’t fear him down the field, yet. Remember, Roddy White was invisible for 2 years and then became a high volume player on a team who had absolutely nothing around him. It took until year 2 of Matt Ryan and the addition of Tony Gonzalez for him to prove he was a high volume target regardless of his surroundings. That was his 5th year in the league.  There are a number of aspects in Shenault’s game that show up well.  There are many things he needs to learn. He has a large number of additions he can make to his game that are on the mental side of the position.  We’ll see how long (if ever) that takes.  

8th Brandon Aiyuk WR Arizona State

I like to help people who are trying to learn how to scout whenever I can, so here’s a tip.  When you watch a Pac-12 WR start with their tape vs Oregon. They do the best job in the conference of taking the game to their opponents WRs.  Doesn’t mean they do it well but if you want to expose areas of concern in a WRs game, Oregon will show you where they are. (Someone tell BB because Harry was a quick downgrade) Oregon showed me that Aiyuk, in his current form, can only be trusted in the slot at the NFL level.  He is strong, and he has amazing arm length yet he struggles with press coverage. You’ll see the deep back bend and delay that only happens when CBs are able to jam a WR square. He has the tools to improve in this area of his game and he does some very savvy angle changes down the field (when his vertical route isn’t completely walled off) to avoid further contact but until (if) that problem is resolved he’s a slot only.  He’s a very good slot WR though. There is currently some 1st round buzz to him and while I think that is too lofty, I do see him as a great fit for New Orleans, Tennessee and Green Bay.  If those teams reach for him, it could pay off due to his system fit. He isn’t as twitchy and fast as many originally thought.  He runs very crisp routes out of the slot position but he does this because he’s able to drop his hips and power through his cuts.  It’s not torque, speed or twitch. It’s that he stays low (the way it’s taught) in his breaks. He will be a very friendly target in the slot and if your offense uses that at a good clip you can squeeze more value out of him.  Expecting anything more than slot work with him is a mistake. If you are a FF guy who drafts rookies, his home will be a huge factor in regards to his production. To some teams, he should be 6th on this list, to others he should be 10th.  That’s how it goes when you have a huge weakness in your game that can be hidden by a scheme.  As a KR/PR, he’ll be more than serviceable at the NFL level. He’s a dependable (but not special) return man.

9th Jalen Reagor WR TCU

This hot take made its way to my desk:  “Jalen Reagor is the 2nd best route runner in the draft class, only behind Jerry Jeudy.”  Whoever wrote that can be fired immediately. That may just be the dumbest take of the entire draft.  I call Reagor 50/50. That has nothing to do with 50/50 balls. The nickname is due to the fact that 50% of the time Reagor has absolutely no idea what he’s doing on his route.  He may think he knows what he’s doing but I sure can’t figure it out. There was the “river route.” Reagor bowed a vert to the outside, then bowed it to the inside, then ran straight into the CB, turned around and high pointed a TD.  There are numerous hook routes where he completes the 135 post portion, only to fall backwards up the field when he attempts the 90 degree cut to complete the hook. He doesn’t have the slightest clue what he is doing. He is a momentum based runner and he’s going to frustrate his QB.  When it’s good though. Sheesh. Reagor, like Hamler was a deeper dive than most WRs. There were contrasting traits that I needed to sort out. Pre-combine, I had circled his 3 cone drill as a number I desperately wanted to see. It would answer a questions I had. Watching Reagor you immediately see the explosive traits.  He can jump, he’s strong, he can explode and his 1st 4 steps are throttle.  You see some great work in the open field as well.  Until you see him make a dynamic cut. At times he will splay his feet out wide and promptly fall on his face.  Other times he will slam on the breaks heading into the cut and explode back out of it. This is very similar to John Ross who I nicknamed pause button.  When Ross made a dynamic cut he slowed down so much that it appeared the tape paused. (9th pick in the draft and we are still waiting)  Reagor isn’t quite that severe but it’s the same labored change of direction.  You saw this in the hook route. You saw this in some of his post routes and in his 90s.  At that time, I had a few questions. Does he know how to run routes? No. Can he learn how to run routes?  That will depend on his 3 cone drill. The 3 cone drill will show us if he is an explosive player who has tight hips.  7.31, there is your answer. This is why those testing numbers are important. That number shows that while Reagor is very explosive, he is not flexible.  This will limit his ability to run routes. He can’t carry his speed through angles and he currently loses separation on his 135s. His change of direction, while he can explode out of the cut, wastes time making the cut and that makes it easier to mirror.  When you watch his vert work, Reagor isn’t as fast as many believed. The 4.45 is legit. Many expected him to easily crack 4.4. He doesn’t win deep by running past people very often. CBs with eyes in the backfield, CBs who are biting on a jab step or head fake are the ones getting beat deep.  This won’t happen in the NFL. In fact, many well-schooled CBs in college yawn at these obvious bait flinches. A head fake is a great way to sell a false step. It’s meant to embellish. It doesn’t create space by itself. If you don’t move your body when you throw a head fake you won’t move a quality CB.  This is seen over and over on Reagor’s film. He should fall down the board because he is limited. He should fall down the board because he is very raw. That doesn’t mean he is worthless. Reagor reminds me of someone rare from the past. He ran a 4.44 40 and a 7.44 3 cone drill. He was 5’9 185 at the combine and was up to 195 as a pro.  You have to go all the way back to 2001 to find him. Steve Smith, the Utah one, not the USC one. That is the pipe dream hope of the Reagor fan boys. Smith did nothing in his 1st year.  Then Carolina focused on making him a part of their offense and gave him a role with jump balls down the field and quick passes at the LOS.  It’s unlikely you’ll see an offense commit to that as much as Carolina did back in 2002-2003. After getting hurt year 4, Smith was off to the races in year 5.  Reagor can pay off with smoke routes, drag routes, slant routes, skinny post routes and will command respect on his verticals. 4.45 isn’t slow. Everything else will cause timing issues for precision QBs.  His best cuts happen when he explodes out of a complete stop after running into a CB. From a dead stop he’s incredibly impressive. On the move, he struggles to control his momentum due to his stiff hips. His first line is great.  He’s very difficult to jam and he is very strong. He will win every jump ball down the field if he’s able to settle under it and go straight up. I’m not sold on his ball tracking skills but I do admit that the TCU QBs could have put a ball in the air that was impossible to track.  He is strong in the air but he is not a traditional high point WR who will win with catch radius/jumping ability AND body control/strength. Let’s also remember. Steve Smith was ahead of Reagor when he entered the league. (I’m realizing I’m old because I was scouting back then) Steve Smith was one of the hardest workers at the position during his time in the league.  It’s going to take a lot for Reagor to get to that level. He has no lack of explosive tools but his agility is the question. He will make big plays but getting him highly involved is going to take some work on the part of the OC. You have to manufacture the ball into his hands if he is going to get him a high volume of opportunities. He can be a bombs away vertical 2.  He can be a gadget slot. If he works on fielding punts, I love his quick acceleration and shallow angles in the KR/PR game. 1 seam and he’s going to break angles. My stance on him is certainly not as high as many others, but tools like his can’t be completely ignored. This is what you get at the end of the 2nd round.     

10th Denzel Mims WR Baylor

That brings us to the winner of the combine.  Where the uninformed blindly follow numbers regardless of what the film says.  The numbers he put up do not match the film. You can see the elite speed and quickness in his post/flag routes and his hitch routes.  90 degree angles are far worse than his combine numbers would lead you to believe. The rest of his routes are monotone. In general, his understanding of the WR position is mediocre.  There isn’t any nuance to it. He’s winning with speed and athleticism, especially his leaping ability but he’s not a technically developed WR. I love his concentration on the ball. He can certainly track it.  His leaping ability and extension is fantastic. There are a lot of tools to point to with Mims. Unfortunately, he isn’t as effective deep as Pittman who is considerably slower. His vertical route is easy to run with and he doesn’t separate with it.  He doesn’t stack CBs well. His play strength is adequate to match the defender. That will often be enough for him to win in the air but it shows up in other areas. It’s a given that he’ll out jump the defender but the defender will be on his hip. I’d expect his win rate to be much lower in the NFL.  He will get jostled on his routes by defenders who body him up. He also needs to improve against the jam. I know this write up about him sounds deflating but he isn’t a bad player. He’s a solid player who has a lot to learn about being a WR. I see a Tyrell Williams type WR who is more gifted in the air.  Tyrell Williams is a 10 million dollar WR. (I think that price tag was steep.) He’s a starter, but the excitement about Mims is going overboard and is overly fixated on raw tools that aren’t paying off on the field. He’s one of those pesky TRACK guys. His hitch and his post/flag are NFL routes. His high point talent is legitimate.  There’s a lot of work to do because nothing else in his game flashes. I see him as a #2 WR or 3rd WR if your slot target plays outside on early downs.  He’d fit well with the Chargers. LAC misses Tyrell and Mims would be able to learn everything he needs to know from Allen and Williams.  Right now, Mims is a track guy who runs 2 good routes and has high point skills.

On to round 3.  The board is starting to fizzle out.  Last year this happened after 6 WRs with a sleeper later on.  That sleeper ended up going in the early 3rd because Pittsburgh takes who they like.  We are kicking off the wave of average WRs with the next selection.  If I had missed out on the top 10, I’d likely hold off on drafting a WR for a few rounds.  Teams are grabbing WRs here to fill needs. Average WRs can produce in the right opportunity, but they can also be pushed out of their seat on the depth chart quite easily.  If you look hard enough, you can find similar talent into the UDFA market. It’s truly that close. Examples from last year would be Darius Slayton, Preston Williams (although he was a 3rd who suffered a character slide) and Steven Sims Jr.  Guys who got a role because their competition for said role was so bad that they were the best option in town.

11th Tee Higgins WR Clemson

Sometimes being 6’4 is a blessing and sometimes it’s a curse.  With Tee Higgins, it’s both. He has an incredible catch radius which makes him a great target for his QB.  He’s also a great target for DBs. He is weak and he is constantly getting moved off his routes. He gets beat up when he’s jammed.  On top of that, Clemson lied to us. The 40 times posted at the Clemson pro day were hot. Higgins didn’t run at the combine because he would have tested poorly and Clemson did their best to save his 40 time.  If you look at the variation (which is consistent across the board) you’d assume Higgins would have run a 4.6 flat at the combine. That’s what the film says too. He runs his routes with great footwork and it doesn’t amount to much.  He isn’t dynamic in his breaks, he doesn’t separate and struggles through contact. With his feet being as polished as they are it’s unlikely he will ever be dynamic in his breaks. That leaves us with an average WR who has good awareness and great catch radius.  He is much more Deon Cain than the studs Clemson has thrust into the league. Life is only going to get harder for him. The underbelly of the ACC a number of easy matchups that he won’t see in the NFL. I don’t like him at 1 because he isn’t strong enough. I don’t like him at 2 because he isn’t fast enough.  He’s not a slot WR. He’s an average option with great catch radius. He’ll be someone’s modest upgrade.

12th Donovan Peoples-Jones WR Michigan

Are you familiar with Lorenzo Cain?  He plays CF for the Brewers and played for the Royals.  He is a fantastic athlete but when he runs he looks like an arthritic 60 year old.  It looks slow and labored but he’s covering a lot of ground. DPJ is the same guy. Unfortunately a CF can run in a straight line and WR’s can’t.  DPJ shows zero twitch in his athletic profile. That’s strange because his vertical is absurd. Despite a lack of twitch, his routes are very clean and he can open up underneath.  He’s a big slot WR and a solid return man. The biggest problem for DPJ is that he gets mauled by the jam. He tries to fight through it and it doesn’t work. His lack of twitch makes him easy to jam.  He has the speed to play outside but he can’t if he is pressed. Struggles as the point man in the bunch as well. His speed is good enough, he’s strong, he can win in the air but at this point in time it hasn’t come together.  He sneaks into the late 3rd for me if you are looking for a big slot WR.  I like him but he isn’t overly exciting to me.

That’s it for the 3rd round.  Five in the 1st, five in the 2nd, a couple stragglers and then a whole mess of role players.  For example:

My sleeper this year is Darnell Mooney.  5-10 176 with sub 4.4 speed from Tulane. His routes are solid and he’s stronger than you would expect.  He took a beating versus Auburn and held his own. He has the jets to get deep separation. He’s stunningly good in the air.  Leap, extension, ball tracking you name it. He can go get it. There have been some critiques about his hands and I wonder if those people have ever seen McMillan throw.  He has a big arm, and can’t throw a spiral. Catching that isn’t easy. Hand size and arm length for Mooney is beyond what you typically see in 5’10 players. He is able to slip the jam with his twitch and footwork but he needs to use his hands better.  He’s being projected late but this guy is interesting.

I have a 2nd sleeper and that is Devin Duvernay WR Texas.  His 1st step isn’t sudden but he gets up to top speed very quickly.  His 90 degree angles separate and his 135s are fantastic. He has “blow by you” deep speed.  He is most comfortable playing below the rim. He doesn’t use his hands well against DBs in the jam or when stacking.  (In the slot he can run through a defense and no one will catch him) He finds the ball and can work back shoulder. He gets open and he’s a strong compact guy.  A threat with the ball. 1 lazy arm tackle will leave the defense watching him run away. It’s not pretty but he gets work done.      

Chase Claypool is a not a WR.  He is a move TE. Teams love move TEs, they all want move TEs and then they play them on 35% of snaps.  I don’t see the point of a toy you rarely use. Especially one you draft early when guys like Ebron get paid 5-7 million on the open market.  I don’t see the value but to each their own. He will be picked in the top 3 rounds. He is not a WR.

I love Lynn Bowden.  He’s a 4.55 40 guy. He’s quick not fast.  His routes aren’t good enough to make an impact but I’m still a fan.  I like his toughness and his return game. I wouldn’t be stunned if he made it into day 2.  

Bryan Edwards is a solid possession WR.  He is slow but he plays good football. He is a poor man’s Pittman.

Tyler Johnson is a solid slot option but I certainly prefer Bateman.

Isaiah Hodgins offers absolutely nothing deep but he runs really nice routes.

Van Jefferson gets some love but he is insanely weak.

Gandy-Golden gets some buzz but he’s a lot like Kelvin Harmon who fell to the 6th.  He’d be a value there much like Harmon.  Solid player. I see him being early day 3.

Gabriel Davis made a name for himself on his go routes.  He’s not lethal there and the rest of his work isn’t impressive.

We will get back to the WR class once they have found homes.