Rookie Wide Receiver Draft Predictions and Fantasy Projections

The NFL draft is fast approaching, and although the start of the season may be up in the air at the moment, there are still plenty of talented players preparing to join NFL rosters in a few weeks. At the wide receiver position specifically, there are a ton of players who will make an impact in the league right away. This might be the best group to come out since the 2014 class that featured Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Brandin Cooks, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, and Jarvis Landry, all of whom (except Cooks) have made Pro Bowl teams so far in their career. In this article, I’m going to project where I think each of the top guys in this class ends up being drafted, as well as some pro comps and fantasy projections for their rookie campaign.

First Round

Jerry Jeudy – Pick #12, Las Vegas Raiders

jerry jeudyThe Jets are currently listed as the favorite to draft Jeudy on Bet MGM (+250), but they have huge needs all over the roster and they can draft additional receiver help later on. I see them taking an offensive lineman like Tristan Wirfs or Jedrick Willis with their first pick. The Raiders have the next-highest odds to draft Jeudy (+300), and he would be a perfect fit for their roster. Whether Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota ends up starting this year for Vegas, they will need a go-to reliable receiving threat. Jeudy is the most polished route runner in this class, and he explodes after the catch to make him a reliably dangerous YAC threat. Tyrell Williams will stretch the field for the Raiders, while Darren Waller provides a consistent safety blanket at tight end. Now the team needs a dynamic X receiver, and despite running most of his plays from the slot at Alabama, Jeudy can line up all over the formation and make game-breaking plays for this team.

Pro comps: Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Antonio Brown, Marvin Harrison

2020 projection: 73 catches for 1,027 yards and 8 touchdowns; 223.7 PPR fantasy points

CeeDee Lamb – Pick #13, San Francisco 49ers

The defending NFC champions traded defensive tackle DeForrest Buckner to the Colts for their first-round pick and watched Emmanuel Sanders, who had 36 catches for 502 yards and 3 touchdowns, leave for the New Orleans Saints. The team’s midseason trade for Sanders was intended to fix a long-term hole at the wide receiver position ceedee lambwhich has existed for quite a while, and this move to acquire the #13 pick in the draft is certainly geared towards filling that. Lamb will provide this team with a physical threat who consistently outplays his size and has some of the best ball skills of any prospect in recent years. He doesn’t run a full route tree yet and isn’t totally polished as a prospect, but Kyle Shanahan would fix that quickly. What Lamb does have is an innate feel for the game and a contested-catch radius that significantly increases the margin for error for his quarterback. In this offense, there may not be a massive number of targets for Lamb right away – the Niners threw the third-fewest wide receiver targets in 2019. However, Lamb would transform this offense and give them the type of downfield presence they have been missing.

Pro comps: DeAndre Hopkins, Amari Cooper, JuJu Smith-Schuster

2020 projections: 63 catches for 964 yards and 6 touchdowns; 195.4 PPR fantasy points

Henry Ruggs – Pick #15, Denver Broncos

The Broncos seem to have finally found their quarterback, with Drew Lock providing new life to the franchise during his 4-1 run as the starter. Denver brought in talent on both sides of the ball this offseason in Jurrell Casey, henry ruggs IIIA.J. Bouye, Melvin Gordon, Nick Vannett, and Graham Glasgow. This roster is coming together and figures to contend for the playoffs in 2020. Now, they have to add another receiver to support Lock in the passing game, and it’s not exactly a secret that the team has been enamored with Ruggs. Courtland Sutton is a likely future Pro Bowler and gives the Broncos a physically daunting X receiver with his 6’4” frame and contested-catch ability. Ruggs, who ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash, was a combine superstar – and it was wholly unsurprising. He led college football in yards after the catch over the past two seasons and is a threat to take any play to the house. He pinballs off defenders with balance and precision, and he accelerates to top speed in milliseconds. Ruggs doesn’t have a massive catch radius at just 5’11”, and it will take some creative play calling to fully unlock his potential – but his speed/acceleration combo is second to none in this class. He can line up all over the formation and will be a threat on pop passes, reverses, and all kinds of trick plays. The Broncos would put together a perfectly complemented duo of receivers for the next several seasons with Sutton and Ruggs.

Pro comps: Tyreek Hill, DeSean Jackson, Santana Moss

2020 projections: 46 catches for 828 yards and 6 touchdowns, 15 rushes for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns; 200 PPR fantasy points

Justin Jefferson – Pick #21, Philadelphia Eagles

It’s fair to wonder if the Eagles have bigger needs than at the receiver in the first round – namely linebacker and in the secondary. It’s certainly a need though – Alshon Jeffery is 30 and coming off a Linsfranc injury, and the team justin jeffersonhas been trying to ship him out for over a year; DeSean Jackson is 33 and coming off a sports hernia surgery. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and Greg Ward have some long-term potential, but neither profiles as a true number one option. Justin Jefferson could come into Philly and contribute right away. He profiles as a bit of a bigger slot receiver, a player who shows great instincts, a tremendous catch radius, and solid route-running ability. Jefferson is willing to use his physicality to box out defenders and has really impressive contested-catch ability. He definitely benefited from LSU’s scheme this past season, but he is pretty versatile as a receiving option and could contribute to Philly’s offense in a variety of ways.

Pro comps: Tyler Boyd, Marvin Jones, D.J. Chark

2020 projections: 83 catches for 975 yards and 7 touchdowns; 222.5 PPR fantasy points

Tee Higgins – Pick #25, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings shipped away disheartened wideout Stefon Diggs to the Bills earlier this offseason, and despite reports that they will wait until Day 2 or 3 to replace him, I believe they will use one of their two first-round picks to take a tee higginsreceiver. Higgins is a special type of prospect with his elite combination of size (6’4”, 216 pounds) and speed (4.54 40-yard time). With Adam Thielen working as more of a middle-of-the field slot threat, Higgins would provide the jump-ball and outside route-running ability that would perfectly compliment him. Higgins scored a touchdown on 20% of his catches, including 13 in 2019, and he should be an elite red zone mismatch at the pro level. He also possesses great straight-line speed and explosive acceleration after the catch. Higgins would provide Kirk Cousins with an electric downfield weapon – a dynamic this offense has been lacking.

Pro comps: A.J. Green, DeVante Parker, Tyrell Williams, Marques Colston

2020 projections: 57 catches for 1,043 yards and 8 touchdowns; 209.3 PPR fantasy points

Laviska Shenault – Pick #28, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens need a physical guy to play X receiver in their offense and compliment Marquise “Hollywood” Brown who was their first-round pick last year. This team is pretty close to Super Bowl contention, but it’s clear their lavish shenaultoffense needs another downfield passing element which I believe Shenault can provide. He is a physically dominant player, utilizing his huge frame to body defenders for contested catches as well as break tackles after the catch. Shenault looks like a running back in the open field, using power and balance to pick up extra yards. His route-running isn’t polished, but it’s better than some would have you believe – he is good at using head and leg fakes to gain separation from defenders. Shenault has the upside to be the best receiver in this class with his physical tools, but his injury history and lack of polish could cause him to fall to the back of the first round. This is a boom or bust pick, but it could end up being a steal for the Ravens.

Pro comps: Sammy Watkins, Greg Little, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Julio Jones

2020 projections: 53 catches for 815 yards and 5 touchdowns; 164.5 PPR fantasy points

Second Round

Brandon Aiyuk – Pick #34, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts snagged Philip Rivers this offseason, and should now be looking to give him as much help as they can on offense. T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal are effective outside receivers, but Indy could use a slot presence, someone who can work over the middle of the field and use his sure hands to pick up first downs – enter Brandon Aiyuk. The former Arizona State product combines solid size with crisp route running. His long arms and soft hands should make him a sure receiver at the pro level. He has shown instinctive open-field running ability and explosion after the catch. Aiyuk improved massively during his senior season after the departure of previous first-round pick N’Keal Harry. He may not have the upside of some of the other names in this class, and he will need to improve on handling press coverage to succeed in the NFL, but he profiles as a solid addition to this roster and would fit in nicely with Frank Reich’s scheme.

Pro comps: Robert Woods, Jeremy Maclin, Eddie Royal

2020 projections: 45 catches for 610 yards and 5 touchdowns; 136 PPR fantasy points

Denzel Mims – Pick #40, Houston Texans

Despite some recent complications due to an inability to take physical tests, it does seem like the Texans will be shipping DeAndre Hopkins to the Arizona Cardinals and getting David Johnson, as well as this pick and some other draft compensation, in return. Houston will be left with Kenny Stills, Will Fuller V, and Keke Coutee at receiver, none of whom are over 6’0”. Denzel Mims would provide this offense with a true vertical threat. He profiles as an excellent red zone target and utilizes his combination of height, weight, and speed to make impressive contested catches. Mims has really long legs, which allow him to utilize long strides to separate from defenders and pick up yards after the catch. His lack of route-running polish and ability to beat press coverage could hamper the beginning of his career, but his physical profile should carry him to success.

Pro comps: Kenny Golladay, Deante Parker, Corey Davis

2020 projections: 55 catches for 880 yards and 7 touchdowns; 185 PPR fantasy points

Michael Pittman – Pick #48, New York Jets

The Jets hold off on taking a receiver in the first round, but jump at the chance to reunite quarterback Sam Darnold with his former college teammate. Pittman would likely immediately become the Jets’ number one option in the passing game, and he could have a great rookie season. He has elite size at 6’4”, 223 lbs, and combines that size with physicality and contested-catch ability which will allow him to be a target hog in the NFL. He might be lacking a bit in terms of ability to generate yards after the catch – his speed and acceleration are only average – and against bigger corners he may struggle to gain separation. However, with his size and physicality, he’ll likely be productive early in his career.

Pro comps: Courtland Sutton, Dwayne Bowe, Alshon Jeffery

2020 projections: 67 catches for 922 yards and 4 touchdowns; 183.2 PPR fantasy points

Jalen Reagor – Pick #49, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers aren’t a team with any massive needs, and as Ben Roethlisberger makes his return from injury, they will be hoping to make a run at the Super Bowl in 2020. The team met with Reagor in person in February, showing jalen reagortheir serious interest in him, and he would be an awesome compliment to JuJu Smith-Schuster in their passing game. Reagor is an absolute playmaker, able to line up all over the formation and pick up chunk yardage. He’s a fluid athlete and showcases elite explosion after the catch. Reagor is always a threat to score with the ball in his hands and will be a threat on gadget plays, reverses, pop passes, and the like. He actually seems to have an underrated ability to high-point passes, although his contested-catch ability is inconsistent. He’s certainly got the athletic profile to be successful in the NFL, he will just need to polish some of the technical parts of his game.

Pro comps: Christian Kirk, Curtis Samuel, Nelson Agholor

2020 projections: 55 catches for 665 yards and 5 touchdowns; 14 rushes for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns; 180 PPR fantasy points

KJ Hamler – Pick #50, Chicago Bears

Three wide receivers come off the board in a row here, with Hamler following up Pittman and Reagor. Hamler is the definition of a field stretcher – despite not running the 40-yard dash at the combine, he flies down the field in his film and said he ran a 4.27 previously. The former Penn State receiver isn’t going to be losing many foot races, and to go with his straight-line speed he showcases impressive explosiveness to get out of breaks. He’s certainly not the most imposing physical presence at just 5’9”, 178 lbs, but the NFL is transitioning more toward the smaller, shiftier, speedier receivers. Hamler’s catch radius is understandably not huge, although he does a good job of tracking the ball over his shoulders downfield and is a threat to gain separation and make plays on deep routes. The Bears could use a speedy downfield presence like him to pair with Allen Robinson and give their offense a field-stretching dynamic.

Pro comps: DeSean Jackson, Brandin Cooks, Marquise Brown

2020 projections: 47 catches for 775 yards and 6 touchdowns; 160.5 PPR fantasy points

Chase Claypool – Pick #61, Tennessee Titans

The Titans made a surprising run to the AFC Championship game this past season, and they will be looking to build on the successful tactics that got them there. It all started with Derrick Henry’s physical rushing style and a play-action heavy deep-ball passing scheme that created several opportunities for rookie A.J. Brown. Corey Davis was unable to take advantage, however, and as he enters his 4th season, it’s becoming clear he won’t live up to his #4 overall draft capital. The Titans should look to add another outside receiving threat to compete for the #2 job behind Brown, and Claypool fits the bill with his size (6’4”, 238 lbs), speed (4.42 40), and strength. He won’t really be a middle-of-the-field or underneath playmaker right away, but his skillset fits what the Titans look for in their receivers. An offense built on the play-action deep ball with Tannehill slinging it to Brown and Claypool could be menacing in 2020.

Pro comps: Miles Boykin, Chris Conley, Allen Lazard

2020 projections: 44 catches for 770 yards and 5 touchdowns; 151 PPR fantasy points

Donovan Peoples-Jones – Pick #62, Green Bay Packers

DPJ is a throwback at the wide receiver position who uses his big frame and reliable hands to make catches over the middle of the field. He’s a former 5-star recruit and was the top-rated receiver in his class coming out of high school, but it never totally clicked in Ann Arbor as he was hampered by a bland, run-first offense. In the NFL, he could make a real impact for a team that wants to play a more traditional style, and utilize its receivers on out-breaking routes and fades. In Green Bay, DPJ could provide a reliable downfield target for Aaron Rodgers and would likely add to the team’s red zone versatility as well. He struggled with press coverage and his lack of elite play speed could limit his upside in the NFL, but he could prove to be a solid receiver if drafted by the right team.

Pro comps: Anquan Boldin, Dez Bryant, Michael Crabtree

2020 projections: 36 catches for 540 yards and 4 touchdowns; 114 PPR fantasy points

  
What's up, I'm Jacob. I grew up watching Peyton Manning play and stuck with the Broncos after he retired. I'm also probably the only Clippers fan you'll ever meet. I'm from Southern California but I'm a junior at the University of Michigan studying sport management. Beyond my passion for sports I play guitar, grill a mean rib eye, and enjoy gambling on pretty much everything.

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