Top Three, but Which One?
It’s been the worst kept secret in the NFL that there is a clear-cut group of three top wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft. Probably the second worst kept secret in the NFL is that the Philadelphia Eagles are in desperate need of an upgrade at the position.
Since the season ended and the scouting process has begun Jerry Jeudy, star Alabama wide receiver, was almost universally recognized as the top dog in the class. However, throughout that evaluation period, two other names have given Jeudy a run at that top spot. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma’s stalwart wide receiver, was quickly welcomed into the upper echelon while posting eye-popping statistics that saw him quickly rise into the argument of the top spot. Though a late riser at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis saw Henry Ruggs III, an electric deep threat receiver for Nick Saban’s Criminson Tide also, shoot into elite status posting a 4.27 40-yard dash and solidifying his status among that group of three.
But which elite receiver is right for the Eagles in a trade-up scenario? Throughout this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the three receivers in the upper echelon and let you decide which of the three is right for the Birds.
Universally thought as the most polished wide receiver prospect in this draft, and in recent years, Jerry Jeudy is a receiver that plays as if the game is in slow motion for him. With a naturally great release, quick hands and a natural football IQ, Jeudy can come open in the bat of an eye. His cuts on his routes are incredibly decisive and even utilizes faints and footwork to make elite defensive backs look like high school freshman when they bite on a double move, essentially leaving them standing still or running for the sideline. The biggest issue with the Alabama product is that he has an issue with “focus” drops, which Eagles fans are no stranger to watching. Carson Wentz watched several potential game winning touchdown passes and pivotal third or fourth down passes fall helplessly to the turf and watched Howie Roseman punt the position in free agency. Jeudy had a total of eight dropped passes on the season and seven of those came over the middle of the field. Although Jeudy doesn’t have a drop “issue” per say, but Eagles fans are no stranger to Nelson Agholor-type antics in game and may not be quick to overlook those drops. In addition to an average frame and mediocre run blocking with no special teams experience, Jeudy may or may not be a tough selling point for the Eagles front office. Is run blocking and a lack of special teams experience enough for you to pass on what’s thought to be the best receiver in the 2020 Draft? Not me, but that’s for you to decide.
CeeDee Lamb may be similar to Jeudy in some circumstances of the game, he is the opposite in the physicality department. Lamb may be best known to Eagles fans for the NASTY run block he put on Mack Willson against Alabama that allowed Kyler Murray to escape unharmed to the sideline. In addition to run blocking, I called CeeDee Lamb the stalwart of the Sooner offense earlier because he has played with three separate quarterbacks in his time at Oklahoma and produced for all of them. As a true Freshman, Lamb had 46 receptions, 807 yards (17.5 YPR) and 7 touchdowns with Baker Mayfield. 2018 echoed the same explosiveness with 65 catches, 1,158 yards (17.8 YPR) and 11 touchdowns with Kyler Murray. While an explosion of sorts occurred with fellow draftmate Jalen Hurts when he exploded for a similar 62 reception season that translated into 1,327 yards (21.4 YPR) and 14 touchdowns. Aside from these traits, Lamb plays with great competitiveness, great vision while carrying the ball and quick hands that allows for an easy transition to get those yards-after-catch. However, there are some down sides to Lamb as well. CeeDee demonstrates more rangy speed than short range explosion. His speed is built up over the duration of his routes or yards after catch. This is something that may not transition to the NFL as quickly as some would like because he will also be working to improve his ability to come off press coverage quicker. Playing in the Big 12 conference, Lamb did not see much press coverage on a regular basis until he played against teams outside the conference and this is something that opposing coordinators may look to key in on early in his career. Additionally, Lamb was prone to downfield penalties by looking to push-off to create more separation for the catch that he did not, or could not, create with his speed or his routes. Though not without his concerns, the highflying highlight reel himself, Lamb has developed himself into one of the Draft’s elite athletes but even more-so, an elite, NFL ready receiver.
Finally, let’s discuss our late riser in Henry Ruggs III. Seemingly overshadowed by teammate Jerry Jeudy’s production and polished route running at Alabama, Ruggs shot up draft boards when the inevitable thought from college football fans across the country happened at the NFL Scouting Combine. Henry Ruggs ran a 4.27 40-yard dash. The timeline went into a frenzy and everyone was convinced that he was THE guy. The Eagles front office speed and it was right in front of their faces. Just five-tenths of a second off the combine record, Henry Ruggs has done what every Eagles fan wanted him to, until we all looked at the draft board and realized where the team was drafting. With wide receiver needy teams like Jacksonville, Oakland (twice), Denver and San Francisco (via the Deforrest Buckner trade with Indy) all within the top 15, Eagles fans were crushed, but that’s why this is a trade up scenario so stay with me! Obviously, Ruggs posts elite speed and a natural explosion to his game but he also utilizes that explosion in a plant-to-burst manner which allows himself to uncover on any route. Ruggs being a natural hands catcher allows him to adjust to off-target throws and contort himself easily to come down with circus-like catches. Ruggs doesn’t come without his issues though either. Small framed and lean muscle could create some injury concerns that could creep up in his NFL career. The burner has already suffered a concussion on two separate occasions in college. Additionally, Ruggs has two separate off-the-line issues that will need some developing. His press release is less than ideal, though not completely hindering and he tends to rush through his routes whenever he does have a free release. A quick twitch athlete though, Ruggs has great competitiveness, great hands and special teams experience and is primed to be an elite wide receiver at the next level.
The 2020 NFL Draft is littered with wide receiver talent from top to bottom but the Eagles are looking to get younger at the position and get a guy that can create a rapport with franchise quarterback Carson Wentz for years to come. In my opinion, the Eagles need to look to make a move into the top 15 picks to secure one of these three wide receivers. Though costly, these are the receivers that will really set apart the wide receiver room for the 2020 season and beyond. Additionally, these players will be able to come in and learn from some of the best at their respective games. A historically great deep threat in Desean Jackson, learning the nuances of being a deep route runner and harnessing those slant-and-go routes or polishing the underneath routes, to Alshon Jeffery creating body positioning downfield to not get flagged and being able to go up and get the ball without creating a penalty down the field. Is there a clear-cut favorite? That’s for you to decide.