The Others: 2020 Wide Receiver Class
The 2020 wide receiver class is obviously on tap to be historically good, as everyone is reporting. 2014 is the most closely resembling class to come through and it produced the likes of some of the top receivers in the NFL today, but it also created some blunders for NFL teams. For example, Sammy Watkins was highly regarded as a “can’t miss” prospect, taken number four overall by the Buffalo Bills, and he, surprisingly, played well for the Bills……whenever he played. Sammy managed to miss 11 games in three seasons and was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for a 2018 second round pick and cornerback E.J. Gaines. So the number four overall pick turned into a second round pick and a middling cornerback. However, this draft created some franchise cornerstones for their respective teams as well. Being drafted to the New York Giants, Odell Beckham Jr., the New Orleans Saints was Brandin Cooks, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Mike Evans, and Davante Adams was taken number 53 overall by the Green Bay Packers and we all know who holds that pick this year! But that’s not what you’re here for, you want to know the names to know for the Eagles in this upcoming draft, and there are a lot of them!
Starting off with receivers that have a potential first round grade. There’s an obvious reason to love each of the big three receivers. Jerry Jeudy is drawing comparisons to the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Deandre Hopkins, and Davante Adams, two of which came from the draft we just spoke of. CeeDee Lamb’s numbers jump off the page as he recorded a staggering 1,327 yards with 14 touchdowns and 21.4 yards-per-reception. Henry Ruggs III posted his nearly record-setting 4.27 second 40-yard dash and was as sure handed as both of the previous two, but who are the names being mentioned after these receivers? Justin Jefferson is a name that many Eagles fans will know already, as he’s been linked to the Eagles in several mock drafts and has risen up mock drafts to go as high as 18 to the Miami Dolphins. With an extremely low drop percentage, a guy who led the nation in receptions (111) and was third in yards (1,540) this is a no-brainer pick for Howie and the team. However, what if JJet isn’t there? Tee Higgins, Denzel Mims and Jalen Reagor are names that Eagles fans should become more familiar with.
Higgins would be a universally hated pick because of how he projects to the NFL. I have his player comparison as current Eagles receiver, Alshon Jeffery. Sure handed (73.8% catch rate), average speed (4.55 40), a big target in the red zone (6 foot 4 inches) are not exactly the most jaw dropping stats you’ve ever seen. However, Higgins is more than just a red zone threat. The Clemson product managed to accumulate 1,167 yards with 13 touchdowns and managed to do it by averaging 19.77 yards per reception, which is better than Jeudy (15.1), Ruggs III (18.65), Justin Jefferson (13.87), and both Claypool and Reagor. Not bad for “just a red-zone guy.”
Denzel Mims from Baylor is a guy who has shot up draft boards late in the scouting process. Known for setting the combine on fire with his blazing fast 4.38 second 40-yard dash time, Mims offers what every Eagles fan is hoping for, SPEED! With a good combination of size, speed, route running and productivity, this very well could be a guy that creates the number one receiver type that Carson Wentz has been yearning for since he was drafted in 2016.
Jalen Reagor is the guy that I’m secretly, or not so secretly, praying for every night. Stuck with well below average quarterback play at Texas Christian University, Reagor still finds a way to flash his greatness on tape. With RAC ability and a respectable 4.47 40-yard dash, Reagor checks all the boxes of what the Eagles are looking for. Size? 5 foot 11 inches, 206 pounds. Speed? We’ve been through that already. Agility? 7.31 second 3 cone drill, 4.46 second 20-yard shuttle. Explosion? A 42-inch vertical jump with a 138 inch broad jump. For perspective, that’s only 6 inches short of Byron Jones’ NFL Combine record broad jump. While I do understand that Reagor’s 611 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns are not jaw dropping numbers, what you must understand is that Jalen only saw a 56% catchable ball rate in an offense that totaled less than 2,000 total passing yards on the season. To say abysmal is disrespectful to the word.
Outside of these guys there are certain names that I am interested in later in the draft, if the Eagles choose to punt the wide receiver pick at 21. Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State, Lynn Bowden from Kentucky, Tyler Johnson of Minnesota, Michael Pittman of USC, Antonio Gandy-Golden of Liberty, Van Jefferson of Florida, Stephen Guidry of Mississippi State, Donovan Peoples-Jones of Michigan, and Devin Duvernay of Texas are all names that Eagles fans should be aware of in rounds two through six. However, there are some prospects that Eagles fans are high on that I think they should take a second look at and really decide if that is worth one of the teams eight remaining draft picks.
K.J. Hamler of Penn State is getting a lot of attention from Eagles fans, mostly due to the home roots and big play ability with the ball in his hands. However, that is when the ball actually finds Hamler’s hands. Hamler dropped 16 total passes on 114 catchable opportunities, creating a drop rate of 16.9% in 2019 which is among the worst in the draft class. Although Hamler has good speed, he projects as a slot receiver with a small frame and did not see much press coverage, which is not what the Eagles are looking for right now. Combine all of that with an NFL player comparison of Nelson Agholor, and it’s a hard pass for me.
Laviska Shenault Jr. is another receiver that was linked to the Eagles in the early days of the draft process, for obvious reasons. The big framed Shenault averaged 12.7 yard per reception and lit up the corners of the big 12, when he was on the field. Shenault played in 11 games, banged up in countless others, came with previous injury concerns, and even managed to injure himself at the NFL combine while running his 4.58 40-yard dash. Let us not forget that Shenault also has a scheduled core muscle surgery prior to the draft and managed to have two separate surgeries, on his toe and shoulder, prior to his 2019 campaign. Just to remind everyone, Carson Wentz finished the year throwing passes to Greg Ward, Deontaey Burnett, J.J. Arcega Whiteside, and even Joshua Perkins at times in the season. With availability being one of the best abilities on every NFL team, the Eagles need to take a pass on the explosive Colorado receiver.
The final receiver that the Eagles must avoid is Collin Johnson of Texas. Devin Duvernay’s running mate on the Texas offense has done himself zero favors in his three seasons in the Lone Star State. Much like I said with Shenault, Johnson’s injury history is extensive, only managing to play seven games for the Longhorns in 2019. Johnson is a tall, lengthy receiver who you would think is built to beat press coverage and be a jump ball receiver in the red zone or on pivotal third-down plays and you would be wrong in that assumption. Johnson struggles to get off the line against press coverage, has bigger issues tracking the ball down the field, and is more of a finesse/feel receiver rather than polishing his routes in an effort to mitigate his lack of “big man” play ability. He is a project for NFL teams and the Eagles already have a jump ball/route runner project with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside.
All in all, yes it is a deep class for wide receivers and the Eagles should have their work cutout for them in terms of upgrading the position but they MUST do their homework and REALLY study the tape on these receivers or they could end up making a further crippling mistake at the position. Howie knows what must be done and how vastly the position must be upgraded, by punting free agent wide receivers he cannot afford to make mistakes with these eight picks.
HONORABLE MENTION MID-LATE ROUND RECEIVERS: Quez Watkins, Southern Mississippi. John Hightower, Boise State. K.J. Hill, Ohio State. Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State. Tyrie Cleveland, Florida. Jeff Thomas, Miami. James Proche, SMU. Justin Hill, Mount Union (D3).