NFL Draft: Top-20 WR Rankings

The NFL Draft is two weeks away and the Eagles’ biggest need is clearly at wide receiver. This class of wideouts is being billed as the most talented and deepest in some time, giving the Birds ample opportunity to address the position.

1. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma

I wavered for a bit on who I liked the most out of the consensus top tier (Ruggs, Juedy, Lamb) but I’ve been settled on Lamb for a while now. His ball skills are as elite as they come and he has the sort of skillset/athletic gifts that make him a can’t miss prospect.

He can do just about anything you ask out of him—attack vertically, create separation on intermediate routes, dominate in pitch-and-catch YAC situations—and will immediately demand double teams at the next level. I try to find a hole in his game and there just isn’t an obvious answer; his size may underwhelm some but he plays so much bigger than his profile suggests.

I wouldn’t blame anyone for ranking Jeudy or Ruggs over Lamb, but to me Lamb is a baller with a higher floor than both ’Bama wideouts. You may be tempted to link his gaudy numbers to Oklahoma’s system, but the tape debunks that pretty easily.

2. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

Jeudy could very well be the best in this class. He’s a murderer of a route runner who consistently leaves corners in the dirt. The same start-stop ability that makes him a devastating route runner is also what makes him devastating with the ball in his hands.

Much like Lamb, Jeudy is just a natural wide receiver through and through who’s a lock to be your top receiving threat. There’s really no reason to dislike Juedy unless you think drops will be a problem, but the reason I have Lamb ahead of him comes down to comparing contested-catch ability, where Lamb is just on a whole other level.

3. Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

Ruggs is a burner (4.27-40) who shouldn’t be pigeon-holed as a vertical threat in the mold of Desean Jackson, he’s more complete than that. He may not quite be the complete product that Lamb and Jeudy are but he’s damn close. He’s a guarantee to demand double teams, and more so than the first two wideouts on this list, Ruggs is a walking big-play who’s capable of taking every touch to the house.

4. Justin Jefferson, LSU

Eagles fans know Jefferson at this point, so I won’t take too long here. I wrote about him in my second mock draft and here’s what I had to say:

While I like Reagor, Mims, and others, I think Jefferson is still my #4WR due to his high floor and obvious translation to the Birds offense. Right now the Eagles need to be prioritizing players who can get open (separate) and catch the football, and Jefferson absolutely satisfies that. Will he get wide open? Not really. But between his sound route-running, size, ball skills, and Wentz’s arm, I think he’ll separate plenty enough.

Jefferson also has the ability to threaten vertically—with a 4.43-40 he‘s not necessarily a burner, but he definitely has the speed and ball skills to make plays downfield. On top of that, his red zone potential is clear. Sure, we could take a wide receiver with a higher ceiling, but Jefferson would immediately be a threat out of the slot, and Wentz’s favorite target next to Ertz. Given our current circumstances I’ll go with the safer-bet.

5. Jalen Reagor, TCU

Reagor is the most recent prospect I covered in the third edition of our mock draft, and I’m starting to fall in love with his skillset.

He’s a nice combination of technically-sound and athletically-gifted; he posted the 2nd best vertical and broad-jump scores at the combine (both behind the next prospect on my list), and while his 3-cone and shuttle times were a little underwhelming, anyone who watches his film knows he plays with exceptional twitch and quickness—a textbook case where tape should overrule testing numbers. Anyone who argues his stock took a hit at the combine is mis-perceiving the situation.

The fact that he played in a spread offense at TCU means he‘ll certainly require more seasoning at the pro-level—his ability to improve his release will essentially make or break his value—but not nearly as much seasoning as required for someone like Denzel Mims (who seems to be a fast riser on most boards).

6. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan

I was torn between Reagor and Peoples-Jones, but regardless I have DPJ rated higher than most. A few weeks back I took him in the second round of my first Eagles-only mock draft, and while I assumed he would be a sure bet to rise up draft boards in the time since, that hasn’t happened.

It’s astonishing to me that some evaluators will link a Tee Higgins to the Eagles at 21 because he’s an immediate “pro-style” fit for Wentz, and then fail to even mention Peoples-Jones in round two. It’s the least defensible mistake I see in Eagles mock drafts that have generally been loaded with poor information, but I’ll get more into that when I get to Higgins.

DPJ had the most impressive combine of any receiver present—it’s not a debate. He posted the highest vertical (44.5’) and longest broad jump (139’) while still managing to run a 4.48-40 at 6’2” 212 pounds. If those numbers don’t mean much to you then that’s fine, but Peoples-Jones is arguably the most explosive wideout in the class and nobody is talking about him.

He’s as pro-ready as any wideout in the class given his development in Jim Harbaugh’s pro-style offense, and unlike a Justin Jefferson or Tee Higgins, Peoples-Jones is a legitimate NFL-athlete (Jefferson is barely that, and Higgins is far from it). The fact that he can likely be had at 53, whereas most of the receivers on this list are being discussed in the top-40, is a testament to the fact that the talking-heads who often shape the popular narrative around these prospects are more clueless than we realize.

7. Denzel Mims, Baylor

I like Mims as a prospect but I would be pretty disappointed if we took him at 21—he’s just not that sort of prospect. He posted a similarly confusing combine to Reagor; they both somewhat impressed where they weren’t totally expected to, and disappointed where they expected to impress—only Mims’ is being perceived a little different than Raegor.

The main knock on Mims when you watch him play is how stiff he is as a runner—both vertically and in-and-out of breaks. But his impressive combine testing in the 3-cone drill has evaluators throwing out everything they saw on tape and saying essentially that their eyes deceived them. Huh.

It’s almost condescending to the reader to have to refute that logic, because I know most fans are aware of how misleading certain drills can be—3-cone and 40 yard dash being prime among them—but here I am.

What’s the more likely scenario:

– Mims magically developed loose hips and a pliable stride? Or…

– Mims mastered the technique of the 3-cone drill and the 40-yard dash to post impressive numbers that somewhat blurs the strong evidence we have on film.

There’s no reason for me to dignify that with an answer.

The thing is, I don’t even dislike Mims, he’s a tall, mildly-explosive receiver who should have a solid career in the NFL after a year or two of growth; but the idea that he’s a top-25 prospect in a class such as this one is pretty ridiculous. If you’re prepared to throw out hundreds of snaps of evidence because he was kinda impressive in spandex then your making the sort of textbook mistake that I’m ashamed to even argue against.

8. Laviska Shenault, Colorado

Shenault feels a lot like what people think Brandon Aiyuk of Arizona State could be, only Shenault is clearly the better prospect. Built like a running back, he’s the type of guy who is at his best with the ball in his hands.

He needs to refine his route-running a lot, and his overall game could use some time to develop, but his YAC ability is immediately appealing to a lot of teams. He has good hands and an impressive combination of burst and vision. Does he have great long-speed? Not really, but he’s physical and does well tracking balls downfield.

I don’t love Shenault but he’s definitely worth considering in round two.

9. KJ Hamler, PSU

I like Hamler but not as much as some. He’s an ultra-twitchy speedster who’s difficult to hang with in coverage, and impossible to touch in the open field. With that said he’s somewhat raw technically, and doesn’t have the best ball skills in contested catch situations.

It’s pretty clear to me that Hamler will be a RAC-monster that coverages will need to cue in on, and if he’s developed correctly he can be a Tyreke Hill-lite. But his lack of size and “go get it” ability downfield limits his potential a ton.

Nonetheless, he should be gone in the top-50 picks given his fit in a pass-happy NFL that saw the Chiefs win a super bowl with receivers all in a mold somewhat similar to Hamler (Hill, Watkins, Hardman).

10. Tee Higgins, Clemson

Honestly, Higgins probably doesn’t belong in the top 10 but I wanted the opportunity to write about it him because for some reason he’s being mocked to the Eagles at 21—which I can promise you will not happen.

Higgins runs sound routes and has decent jump ball skills, but his explosiveness and overall athleticism is as pedestrian as it gets. He declined the opportunity to test at the combine, citing a short rebound from the college football playoff, but the truth is that he knew the only chance of posting solid “test numbers” was at the safe-confines of Clemson’s pro day—where his numbers still underwhelmed observers.

I could go on about Higgins as a prospect, but given the presence of JJAW and Alshon on the outside, and the team’s stated desire of getting faster, Higgins probably isn’t even on the Eagles big board.

11. Michael Pittman Jr., USC

12. Bryan Edwards, South Carolina

13. Van Jefferson, Florida

14. Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona St.

15. Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

16. Devin Duvernay, Texas

17. Tyler Johnson, Minnesota

18. Juaun Jennings, Tennessee

19. Collin Johnson, Texas

20. Lynn Bowden


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