Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III are highly likely to be first-round picks in the 2020 NFL Draft; they may not have left the University of Alabama early without that status. Where exactly they land in that first round remains tricky to project.
When the NFL Draft starts on April 23, Jeudy and Ruggs III will be alongside Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb and LSU’s Justin Jefferson as receivers commonly projected in the first round. But the projections of where those four will be picked vary widely; ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper outlined some of the reasons why.
“Slot guys tend to transition pretty quick,” Kiper said. “You’ll see some of these — like Devin Duvernay from Texas I think will transition very quickly, K.J. Hill from Ohio State — those slot guys will transition quick. The outside guys, with a route tree and pacing routes and being able to be precise with your routes and the timing with the quarterbacks, coming out of college, that’s the tough part. The tough part is for the outside guys, not the inside slot guys.
“Obviously a CeeDee Lamb, his snaps came 50 percent inside and 50 percent outside.”
That could play a factor in Lamb being the first wide receiver selected in The Athletic’s most recent mock draft, going No. 12 ahead of Ruggs at 13 and Jeudy at 15. Bucky Brooks of NFL.com reached the same conclusion of Lamb over Ruggs and Jeudy.
It’s not unanimous, however: Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports has both Jeudy and Ruggs ahead of Lamb.
Competing for draft spots with one another is not the only thing making exact projections difficult for these top three wide receivers. There is a case to be made that their value is undercut by the strong group of wide receivers behind them, making perfectly valid options for the second and third rounds and beyond. Kiper used the example of the Denver Broncos picked at No. 15 overall, likely to be looking at the best offensive tackle available and any of the previously mentioned wide receivers available.
“They’re in the same situation as the Jets. The Jets could go wide receiver (then) offensive tackle, but what tackle are you going to get in the second round that’s as good as a receiver you’re going to get in the second round?” Kiper said. “Guys like Chase Claypool from Notre Dame or a guy like Jalen Reagor from TCU or Devin Duvernay, Texas or Michael Pittman Jr., USC. KJ Hamler of Penn State would be another.”
Wide receivers have gotten more valuable in the NFL lately, but the pool of projectable talent has also gotten deeper. It’s likely that at least two teams have enough of a need at the position to select both Jeudy and Ruggs (among others) before the end of the first round, but it’s possible that selection doesn’t land in the top 10, even top 15, due to those factors surrounding them.
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