2020 NFL Combine Preview Scouting – WRs
I was thinking the other day, as I was reviewing the top WR names for the 2020 NFL Draft…and once again marveling at how many there are in the top 100 ranks overall – I was thinking: Damn, there is a lot of great WR prospects…and where are they all going to go to play?
Like, there are WAY too many WR prospects for number of available places they can go become starters or become their team’s #1 WR in short order. Some of them are going to sit to start the 2020 season, while others join loaded teams and just force the ball to be spread around more, thus affecting/confusing the existing WRs in fantasy. Total WR chaos is about on our doorsteps.
I was also thinking – when I reviewed the Lamb-Jeudy-Higgins group this summer, I didn’t think they were all that great. Yet, I see them universally 1-2-3 in the mainstream WRs rankings…which feels to me to be totally ridiculous. I know there are better WRs, and the NFL Combine is coming and I preview and re-preview all the attendees at the event ahead of time – but with such chaos at WR, maybe I should get stated a little earlier and report out a little earlier on this group? We need to see how deep this puppy really is going to be.
So, with that being said, to get ahead of the game, I’m going to preview a top WR prospect per day for the next few weeks going through all the tops guys and getting the WR group previewed, early graded/ranked for us heading into the NFL Combine event (and then we can really grade them and scout them fully).
I’m going to go in order/rank of a mainstream consensus and post one a day, putting them in order of my grades until we’re done with all the NFL Combine attendees. Wait until you (and I) see this stack of talent…
*I asked Mock Draft Guru Xavier Cromartie to add his grades and initial opinions for more context/info for everyone. Note, he's a tougher grader by his own admission and it's early in his evaluation process -- these are early reads on the prospects, subject to change post Combine numbers/analytics.
-- FINAL --
WR Jeff Thomas, Miami (5’10”/174)
Comp: Doesn’t matter
Smaller, skinny, not that fast, not that agile WR who barely did anything in three years at Miami…why should anyone waste our time looking deeper? How many top FCS WRs got passed over for guy like this? Unbelievable.
WR Austin Mack, Ohio St. (6’2”/215)
Comp: Who cares? Damion Ratley?
He shouldn’t be here. There has to be FCS guys better than this…several of them, and they are not getting a chance because ‘Ohio State guy’ gets one. Mack’s best season was 2019…27 catches for 361 yards and 3 TDs in 10 games. WOW! Electric!! Let’s give him a trip to Indy because of his 32-game college career with 79 total catches and 6 total TDs.
WR Darnell Mooney, Tulane (5’11”/175)
Comp: Any small WR who was average at a mid-major conference and never played in the NFL after attending 1-2-3 training camps.
I have no idea how he got invited to this event. There had to be several FCS and D3 players that could’ve used a chance. It’s a shame. He must have a relative or something connected to getting here.
WR Stephen Guidry, Mississippi St. (6’4”/200)
Comp: Damion Ratley, Damion Willis…Cleveland UDFA WRs
A very skinny framed WR prospect. He has decent speed but has no strength/physicality to offer. Being 6’4” at WR isn’t that special anymore…you have to be built to go along with it, and Guidry is not.
WR John Hightower, Boise St. (6’1”/178)
Comp: Lesser KeeSean Johnson
He’s a nice Mountain West WR who can look good against the likes of Hawaii. Not much to his game…MWC fast, but probably runs a 4.6+ at the Combine. Good college WR but I don’t see NFL WR jumping out…bad size and not super athletic.
Xavier Cromartie says: A joke. King of the lanklets. F
WR Isaiah Coulter, Rhode Island (6’2”/190)
Comp: Johnny Holton? Cody Core?
Thinner-framed…a concern for the next level body type. FCS fast, but so-so for the NFL. Didn’t see him getting good separation from low level coverage. He’d have to do something special at the Combine to get my attention because my first introduction on tape was not great.
WR K.J Osborn, Miami (6’0”/206)
Comp: Devin Fuller
Graduate transfer from Buffalo – solid college WR, not enough juice for the NFL. He could try to grind his way to a bottom rung roster spot at best in the NFL, from initial looks at things.
WR Trishton Jackson, Syracuse (6’1”/191)
Comp: Eli Rogers?
Forgettable WR prospect…average size, speed with below average hands. Solid college WR, but not anything great for the pros.
WR Cody White, Michigan St. (6’3”/215)
Comp: Lesser Cody Core
Very forgettable WR with NFL size…that’s about the entire reason he’s here – ‘size’ and ‘Big Ten’. Otherwise. OK hands. Below average speed/agility.
WR Tyrie Cleveland, Florida (6’2”/205)
Comp: Like Sammy Watkins, with 20% of the skills
He looks like a solid WR prospect…decent body/size, decent movement/speed, but he did nothing for four years at Florida because it appears he’s an unreliable WR, and every Florida QB seemed to know it. His senior year was arguably his best…for just 25 catches, 351 yards, 1 TD in 12 games.
WR Chris Finke, Notre Dame (5’9”/184)
Comp: Lesser Hunter Renfrow
From my East-West Shrine previews…
An underneath WR like Hunter Renfrow type, but nowhere near as talented. His tape put me to sleep. The Notre Dame QB did not seem like Finke was important to the operation at all.
WR Tony Brown, Colorado, 6’1”/195
Comp: JonVea Johnson…a decent WR who was in the shadow of Diontae Johnson at Toledo, in the shadows because he was not aggressive enough to get into the spotlight.
There are a million WRs like this out in the football world. Why Brown got the nod over some smaller school guys is a tragedy. He's an average WR who is not going to make it in the league. Just ‘average’.
WR Aaron Parker, Rhode Island (6’2”/208)
Comp: Smaller NFL-DeVante Parker, years 1 thru 3.5 in the NFL.
Very good hands. Makes some terrific catches on some throws…drops some basic ones as well. He likes the big plays. He also took advantage of a lot of simple throws to him because he was reliable to catch passes. Outside of his hands, he does not appear to have NFL movement skills…no real burst, no real sharp cuts on the next level. Just a really neat FCS WR who would be a 3rd-4th wheel on a D1 major conference team.
WR Kendrick Rogers, Texas A&M (6’4”/206)
Comp: Way less athletic Miles Boykin.
Sweet red zone/end zone threat in college, but not much besides that – tall, skinny/lanky jump ball threat over smaller DBs. Otherwise not a technician or gifted receiver. A one-trick pony WR it appears. Doesn’t look like a serious NFL prospect.
WR K.J. Hamler (5’8”/176)
Comp: To me, possibly the most overrated bigger name/ranked WR in the draft. He looks like he’s moving fast because he’s got short legs and he moves like an antsy water bug but it’s just optics…he was caught from behind and covered tight on most of the tape I watched. He’s too fast for some college DBs, but by and large he didn’t run the ball on jet sweeps effectively nor was he a killer kick or punt returner. He was an OK wide receiver for two years, and he had a blip game or two off a big play in a game. Nice college WR with college-fast speed but not a top pro prospect that I see.
Xavier Cromartie says: Remarkable 3-cone skills but a small guy. Tarik Cohen like. C+
WR Quez Watkins, Southern Miss (6’2”/190)
Comp: Slower Paul Richardson.
Solid college WR, reliable, good effort but just too skinny to work the interior in the NFL and lacking high-end speed to be a deep threat.
WR Collin Johnson, Texas (6’5”/220)
Comp: Pick your favorite tall but fragile WR prospect who doesn’t have enough frame to convert to TE.
From my Senior Bowl previews…
Update: Did not look good to me at all this week…a lot of drops, and double-catching. I was already shaky on him, but now I’m just moving on.
Org. Comments: 10 years ago, Johnson is a top 10 pick on his size. Big catch radius guy with good hands. The problem I see (and saw two years ago when I did a preview on him) – he’s too slow, gangly in motion for the NFL…he’s going to have trouble getting open because he’s so slow to get up to speed. And I don’t think he has the NFL speed/movement skills to be a key starter in the league.
He’ll have a role in the red zone at his size, but the new era WRs are so quick, sharp, versatile…and Johnson is just ‘big target’. A little better version of Auden Tate…which works to some degree in the NFL, but not a star, not a guy the defenses worry about until the end zone – which a career just doing that isn’t the worst thing.
He’s not got the frame to consider moving to TE either. I have feeling he’ll be lost in the NFL some, or could be the XFL’s #1 WR in TDs. His choice.
Xavier Cromartie says: All length. Really just an underweight TE. D-
WR Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon St. (6’4”/209)
Comp: Tim Patrick…reliable and has height, can grind his way to some NFL relevance.
Taller, thinner, so-so speed, good hands…capable but not a ‘wow’/star prospect. Has some NFL hope but not a ton of upside showing through for the next level.
WR Marquez Callaway, Tennessee (6’2”/204)
Comp: Demarcus Robinson/Florida/KC Chiefs
Reliable, athletic, compact…could be better than this initial grade, but he was living in the shadow of ace WR Jauan Johnson. Some of that is Johnson is better than Callaway, some of it is Callaway didn’t grab the bull by the horns (just my impression). You want more swagger in your WR prospect.
WR Quartney Davis, Texas A&M (6’2”/200)
Comp: A solid but unspectacular WR prospect like Isaiah Ford.
He’s a solid college WR, could hold his own in the pros as a backup. He’s just going to get lost in the tidal wave of talent and freak WR prospects flooding the NFL. There’s nothing that stands out about Davis
From my Senior Bowl previews: A solid underneath, tough WR who has enough juice to go medium-deep as well. I’ve previewed so many stud WRs ahead of watching Davis, he’s like a super letdown by comparison. He’s just ‘good’ in a world of a lot of ‘great’. He’s going to get lost at the Senior Bowl considering all the other talent there.
WR Ben Victor, Ohio St. (6’4”/195)
Comp: Lesser Equanimous St. Brown
Has the size and some of the movement of a legit NFL WR prospect, but then you look at his CFB career and see a bunch of ‘meh’. He’s played in a lot of games the past three seasons with top QB play and nice offenses and in 33 career games he’s never had an 80+ yard game…which seems unconscionable given his raw physical tools. He just doesn’t have that presence of a star WR. His best games came against weaker competition – I just don’t see evidence of a fire in his belly for his craft…he’s coasting on natural gifts.
WR Dezmon Patmon, Washington St. (6’4”/228)
Comp: Bigger former Wash State WR prospect Dom Williams. Who? Exactly.
From my East-West Shrine previews…
Body of an NFL #1 WR. Tape of a guy who won’t make it in the XFL potentially. Playing for an offense that throws a million times a game, Patmon had his best season in 2019…but just a 58-762-8 tally. Nothing special. Body is wonderful, abilities are very suspect/not there.
WR Malcolm Perry, Navy (5’9”/180)
Comp: Smaller, faster Keenan Reynolds
From my East-West Shrine previews…
Was an option QB for Navy…and quite a successful option-QB at that…2,017 rushing yards and 21 rushing TDs for his 2019 season. The AAC Offensive Player of the Year. There is 0% chance he’s an NFL QB…he’s listed 5’9, might be 5’7”/180 and I have a better arm throwing the ball and I have shoulder issues.
BUT Perry can play the game…he ran the ball like a Phillip Lindsay-type playing QB. He’s tough with some nice speed/burst. If he can catch, he could have a career in the NFL as an underneath WR…one who offers jet sweep and wildcat QB options. Really looking forward to seeing how he transitions to WR during E-W week.
WR Freddie Swain, Florida (6’0”/199)
Comp: Antonio Callaway…really nice athleticism and feet but no real bite to his game, no consistency – just flashes of talent but not fully actualized.
From my East-West Shrine previews…
If I only saw Swain’s five best college plays on a highlight reel…I’d swear he was a top 100 NFL Draft pick. But looking at his CFB career and watching him in games…he was more of a non-factor. Best season was 2019 with a 38-517-7 tally in 12 games, but that’s not close to impressive on a decent passing game in this era of elevated WR talent.
There is raw, physical talent here. He should move to CB/SAF, if I were him…because WR doesn’t seem like his path to NFL starting lineups. There’s talent here, we’ll see if it shines at the East-West week…or just confirms he’s not a real NFL WR prospect.
WR Aaron Fuller, Washington (5’10”/185)
Comp: Taywan Taylor, shorter DaeSean Hamilton
Nice ‘little’ WR…good feet, good hands, smart but quite small. His size is not damning but it doesn’t help in this era of so many WRs with his same skillset and they’re 2-5 inches taller and 20-40 pounds thicker. Fuller might be more 5’9 than 5’10-11”. He’s a good player though…just not a ‘wow’ prospect.
WR Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty (6’4”/220)
Comp: Physically, athletically he reminds me of Julio Jones…but his ‘hands’ are in question as his readiness for the NFL. He might need a couple years to develop.
From my Senior Bowl previews…
Update: Looks like a great NFL WR prospect, has the body and athleticism…but he looked shaky in performance all week. Had some ‘wow’ plays in easier drills, but in the 11-on-11s, he was not really a factor. Could be he was just overwhelmed with the adjustment to the higher caliber of college play and he’ll improve with time, but…
Org. Comments: Reminds me of a slightly slower Julio Jones, with more confidence/aggression. Has the perfect NFL size. Great hands. Contests for every throw. Willing to go inside for catches. Great, quick feet off the snap. He’s a WR prospect that might be as good as there is in this draft. Hasn’t faced high-end competition or played with a great QB, so it’s hard to see/know his full upside or limitations. When I watched him against Syracuse, he was toying with coverage (6-119-0 in a loss)…just his QB was not so hot.
Xavier Cromartie says: All size. Can't separate from the worst FBS CBs. D-
WR Gabriel Davis, C. Florida, (6’2”/212)
Comp: Reminded me of watching Darius Slayton in the pros last season with Daniel Jones…nice ‘go deep’ guy but not a lot of technical work otherwise.
He’s a ‘go deep’ WR most every route I watched. A one-trick pony of sorts. Has the speed to play long ball and good hands to go with, but I didn’t get much of a chance to see a well-rounded WR here. The full package might be there but the QB he played with in 2019 was weak and didn’t help him -- and Davis won’t see prayers thrown to him often in the pros…the UCF passing game was like ‘throw it up deep to Davis and see what happens’. There might be more here that will be revealed better at the next level. When he did work inside, he looked pretty good but not enough to know if he’s just more comfortable being a deep ball guy.
Xavier Cromartie says: Underrated. Big with an aggressive mindset. B-
WR Van Jefferson, Florida (6’2”/197)
Comp: A little faster Geronimo Allison?
From my Senior Bowl previews…
Update: Was the WR who his team leaned on the most, the one the QBs were looking for in 11-on-11s. Increased his football stock overall, but we had decent grades on him already.
Org. Comments: Quality NFL prospect. Not as flashy as some of the top names I have ranked here, but a quietly very good WR prospect. Fast feet, quick off the snap to get himself open. Good hands and awareness. Has NFL size and athleticism. He’s good, maybe not great…but good or very good. We’ll see if the Senior Bowl competition helps or hurts his case.
Xavier Cromartie says: Deadly routes but his type rarely succeeds. D-
WR Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt (6’1”/201)
Comp: Sterling Shepard
From my Senior Bowl previews…
It’s hard to tell what’s an ‘OK’ WR prospect vs. a ‘good’ one anymore…the new era of WR prospects are so good, they’d be ‘A’s’ 10 years ago, now I’m not sure whether to classify a guy Lipscomb as a solid ‘B’ or is he a ‘C’ on the scale of new era prospects.
Example…Lipscomb reminds me a bit of Sterling Shepard. In his 2016 NFL Draft, Shepard was #40 pick and a coveted WR. Today, Shepard would be lost in a wash of Sterling Shepard’s and be around a #100 +/- pick. 10 years ago, Shepard might be the top WR talent in the draft. The passing game is evolving so fast at the lower levels, that naturally the WRs (and CBs) are getting better…along with the QBs.
Lipscomb could be a starter and top 5 WR from this class, or a forgotten backup…depending upon where he lands. He’s a very solid WR prospect who doesn’t standout in one thing but is good/fine at everything…and hard to scout because the QB play at Vandy was a disaster in 2019.
WR Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin (6’1”/207)
Comp: Tougher, slower Sterling Shepard
Cephus is going to be underrated and under-discussed for the NFL Draft, which is a shame because he is a really solid NFL WR prospect. He did it to himself, to a degree – he went to Wisconsin, a run-first pass challenged offense that isn’t going to showcase WR talent. Hidden in this Badger offense was Cephus making very difficult catches on poorly thrown balls…had Cephus gone to Oklahoma, he’d probably be a top 10 WR prospect this draft. He just didn’t get the chance to shine here, but he’s a very gritty, ready NFL WR…one likely overlooked in the draft and in training camp.
Xavier Cromartie says: Feels like the bargain version of Aiyuk. D
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan (6’2”/208)
Comp: A bigger Willie Snead. A better Kelvin Harmon. A Chris Hogan potential?
Sneaky good/capable WR lost in the wash of bigger/faster WR prospects and/or ones who played in dynamic offenses in college. Playing at Michigan, as a WR, is a blow to any WR prospect’s draft status. At first, I thought DPJ was too slow and boring…but the more I watched, I started thinking he’s very technically sound with good hands, and that he’s so reliable that it seems too easy or not sexy. He’s a guy who might never be an NFL star but will be a really good WR to have on the team and have a long career being reliable. Michigan did him no favors to show him off.
Xavier Cromartie says: Complementary type of build. Bad QB hurt him. C
WR Justin Jefferson, LSU (6’2”/192)
Comp: Reminds me of Marvin Jones…gets underrated and then has a huge game and gets overrated, and we toggle back and forth too often. At the end of the day, Jones has become a ‘good’ NFL WR. Not great, sometimes disappears…but is ‘good’/capable+…and Jefferson feels like that.
Hard to grade Jefferson…he’s got a talent for catching the ball on the run and adjusting to passes in-flight. However, Joe Burrow was a star-maker with surreal accuracy on his throws…and Jefferson was a big beneficiary. If you agree with this statement, then you’ll recognize the scouting issue here – had Justin Jefferson been sick with the flu and never played in the CFB playoff game vs. Oklahoma, where he had 14 catches for 227 yards and 4 TDs…if that never happened, Jefferson would probably be around the #15+ ranked WR in this draft class, a day three guy. However, that game everyone saw…it pushes him into the consensus top 10 because analysts remember CFB playoff games more than anything. He has talent and that fact gets lost in this debate, but I don’t believe it’s high-end NFL talent…just ‘solid’ NFL talent.
Xavier Cromartie says: Benefited from Joe Burrow's perfect throws. Lanky. C-
WR Juwan Johnson, Oregon (6’4”/231)
Comp: Demaryius Thomas
Big dude who can move. Injury riddled career from Penn State (4 years) to Oregon (2019)…not major injuries, just a lot of nagging ones – which is its own issue. When he’s playing, he’s a ‘wow’ player because of a ‘wow’ body. He’s big but looks sleek and moves like a WR that’s 20 pounds lighter. Almost looks like he could try to be a tight end. There’s NFL action here, but it’s been hidden by injuries – he could really launch himself at the Combine. I bet he does to some degree.
WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (6’0”/190)
Comp: Bigger Marquise Brown without the hands or play-making/flair of Brown. Slower John Ross?
I came into this preview pre-hating Ruggs…I thought he was getting an ‘I play for Alabama’ unfair bump in the prospect rankings nationally, and he is, but there is some NFL talent here. There are two thought processes on Ruggs right away:
1) The positive = He is very fast, nice feet. He is a home run hitter. He might have had a bigger statistical CFB career if not surrounded by such WR talent around him taking targets away.
2) The negative = The reason Ruggs was lesser used of the Alabama starting WRs was because he’s not that great/reliable of a WR. Just a speedster. For all that speed…two carries in 40 career games and was a weak punt and kick returner as a freshman. He doesn’t seem to have the X-factor or have the trust of the staff to go make plays. In his CFB playoff games, SEC title games, bowl games – he was an underwhelming ghost most of the time.
The speed is here. The hands are decent. But there are a million WRs like this hitting the NFL. You gotta give the league more than just speed to be a star…and I’m not sure Ruggs can, but he is an NFL-worthy player and could be a sweet deep threat/#3 WR.
Xavier Cromartie says: Pure speed. Will he stay healthy unlike John Ross and Will Fuller? C+
WR Omar Bayless, Arkansas State, 6’2”/207 (Grade: C)
Comp: Corey Davis…a little Tyler Boyd, maybe?
A good football player, a very promising WR…93 catches, 1,653 yards, 17 TDs in 13 games last season. Was an outstanding playmaker for Arkansas State…bubble screens, slants, comebacks, bombs…he did it all. Played in a higher volume offense. Might not get away with what in the pros what he was able to do in the Sun Belt.
WR K.J. Hill, Ohio State (6’0”/195)
Comp: DaeSean Hamilton…which means, he’ll be as good as his surroundings but as a #2-3 WR not a lead dog #1 WR alpha.
Watching a little more tape for this preview…I am wondering if Hill might be a better pro than college WR. His game is more meticulous NFL not college RPOs/with a rolling out QB (like 2019).
From my Senior Bowl preview: Capable NFL WR…but I do not see any ‘it’ factor here, in a game/showcase week with a handful of ‘it’ factor WRs. Hill is just solid/capable but not special…he’s forgettable, not a good attribute to have going into the NFL Draft. He has high end speed it looks like, but I didn’t see a total WR stud to go with it. A lot of people love him among the WR class, I just haven’t seen ‘it’ yet.
Xavier Cromartie says: All-around solid player. Patriots supporting cast type. C-
WR Lawrence Cager, Georgia (6’4”/220)
Comp: A bigger Josh Reynolds?
Neat sleeper prospect – has an attractive size to get attention, but his swift feet jumped out at me. For his size, his ability to stop-start-shift/get open or cut into routes is really underrated. He started at Miami and was not used a ton, but then transferred to Georgia and really had nice numbers in games until he got injured and missed a few games.
WR Denzel Mims, Baylor (6’3”/215)
Comp: Lesser Kenny Golladay? Some DeVante Parker…a hesitant WR who might only like jump balls, not the physical play of being a WR otherwise?
From my Senior Bowl preview…
An end zone assassin. The guy takes on a different spirit in the end zone, he catches everything thrown his way whether he high points, dives, leaps/extends, has guys draped all over him, is getting held/P.I.’d. His TD-ability is an A+. He’s just a good receiver before the end zone that I can see, BUT he might have more to give in that area as well…he’s just so accomplished on bombs and high point plays.
Xavier Cromartie says: Overrated. Always shoves off to win contested balls. D+
WR Jauan Jennings, Tennessee (6’3”/210)
Comp: A more polished Cody Latimer?
From my Senior Bowl previews…
Could be more of a B/B+ prospect. Really shows the confidence and swagger and ability of a #1 WR in the NFL. Has size, speed, and catching skills of an NFL starter. Had a couple knee surgeries in 2017, and that’s a minor red flag…but looked a lot better two years removed from it (2019) than he did coming of it in 2018. I’m intrigued. Jennings could steal the show at the Senior Bowl…or get exposed a bit. I’m interested to see.
Xavier Cromartie says: Stays on his feet. Caught a famous Hail Mary. C-
WR Darrell Stewart, Michigan St. (6’2”/216)
Comp: If Sammy Watkins was slower but really cared about playing football and was a tougher player.
I was pleasantly surprised watching this tape – Stewart is a hidden gem potentially. Great size…in that he’s like a tailback after the catch, but he also has really nice feet off the snap…a higher end ability to get open/beat coverage off the jump. Has good hands, that I saw…but I need to watch more tape to be sure. Mostly it looked like he was screwed out of numbers/action by his weak offense/QB. He was open a lot but their QB was terrible/never looking beyond the 1st pre-determined option. A real sleeper here at first glance…may warrant a ‘B’ grade.
WR Jalen Reager, TCU (5’11”/195)
Comp: A lesser Diontae Johnson.
Reager can really fly, he has very smooth feet…effortless in motion but not an elite burner or elite agility/cutting on routes – but good in both senses. He’s a really good/solid+ WR prospect for the NFL. He might have stood out more working with a better passing game. He’s a legit NFL prospect and might be better than my initial grade if we could see him really shine working in a real QB/passing game.
Xavier Cromartie says: Good body positioning. Elite speed. B
WR Tee Higgins, Clemson (6’3”/215)
Comp: Bigger Darius Slayton?
Trying to discern between all these top WR names gets a little maddening – they’re all competent, good, athletic…and I’m trying to see the X-factors in their games to discount/expose them as ‘weaker’ for the next level or to elevate/to see potential Hall of Fame type greatness in. In the scouting preview search for ‘As’ and ‘D’s…there are a ton of Bs and Cs. It gets very confusing, frustrating to try to figure out which C/B is better than the other in raw talent and NFL projection…and it’s probably going to come down to NFL landing spot, coach, and mental discipline more than ‘who played better against LSU that one time’ and their 40-time.
Enter Tee Higgins…another guy seen as a #1-2-3 overall ranked WR prospect name, and I don’t see it. I mean, I know he is good…he might be really good, but I think he’s more of ‘guy from a uber-respected college program’ and ‘lucky to have played with an A-grade QB’ than he is a force of nature. He’s good…but I don’t see how anyone can say he’s great at this point.
What I see in Higgins is a taller version of CeeDee Lamb…capable, skinnier framed, fairly athletic but not ‘wow’. But with Higgins, I see a WR just playing on the wings…a go-deep, hug the sidelines for protection guy more than an all-over-the-field warrior. The Ohio State and LSU corners had little issue with Higgins in the CFB playoffs. If that’s the case – Higgins deserves to be a ‘C’ translation for the NFL because the NFL has plenty of 6’3”/210+ guys who run 4.5s and have decent hands but don’t work over the middle. There is nothing ‘fresh’ or amazing about that kind of receiver – 10+ years ago, sure, but not today. If Higgins went to South Carolina versus Clemson…he probably wouldn’t be a top 10 WR prospect this draft, I think. He’d be a respected mid-draft sleeper/useful WR…not a supposed #1.
With all the tool scouts and analysts have available, were still firmly rooted in ‘how good their college team was last year/how many times I saw them on TV’ as the basis for January-February scouting. The top four consensus ranked WRs are from Oklahoma-Alabama-Clemson-Alabama…with an LSU WR never really thought about coming on strong because of his CFB playoff performance seen by ’eyes’.
Xavier Cromartie says: Uses his size well. Good star potential. B+
WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (6’1”/189)
Comp: Lesser (quite lesser) DeAndre Hopkins?
I previewed some of Lamb’s work in the summer of 2019 and graded him a C- at first look. I’ll move him up to the ‘Bs’ after his 2019 season/work, but I don’t feel great about it.
On the positive side, I see the ability – he can catch the ball, he’s pretty fast…but not blazing fast or like Hopkins in catchability. He is ‘good’ at his craft. Lamb is ‘good’ overall, to me, at best.
On the negative side, I see a guy with a troubling frame for the NFL…very skinny. That’s not damning, but trying to wade through 10-15-20 good-great WR prospects in 2020, and so many ‘A’ potential candidates and looking to see if Lamb is a top 3 or thee #1…it’s not a mark in his favor that he’s so skinny of frame.
I watched him against LSU (2019-20 playoffs) and Alabama (2018)…watching him against elevated competitions/opponents/DBs and with Lamb working with good/great QBs – I didn’t see Lamb take over the game nor give covering corners any ‘fits’. I never saw him blow away CBs but did get steps on safeties when they picked him up deep. I watched his routes/cuts and they were fine, but not amazing, nothing like a Diontae Johnson or (this year) K.J. Hill with his feet/cuts.
Everything I see ‘good’ or ‘OK’, I never see a ‘great’ so far. He knows what he’s doing, as a technician, as a back-shoulder catcher or poorly thrown ball adjusted -- but so does about every top WR these days. CeeDee Lamb, for my two preview sessions now, is not my ‘jam’. I wanted him to be this time around, because everyone else is so sure of it – but I don’t see it, not compared to the other top guys I’ve seen…or compared to top guys from 2019 Draft.
Xavier Cromartie says: Good YAC guy. Hopefully better than Calvin Ridley. B-
WR Joe Reed, Virginia (6’1”/215)
Comp: Chris Godwin-ish?
From my East-West previews…
Hands down the best traditional WR at this showcase. He’s a tough, fast, good hands quality WR…and a topflight kick returner. Was #3, #1, #2, and #1 in the ACC in KR return average in his four-year college career…#2 all-time in the ACC in KR average and #10 all-time in the NCAA, and #9 all-time in career KR TDs (5).
He kinda reminds me of a Chris Godwin type WR, maybe all-around better than Godwin considering his kick return ability. Some Michael Gallup maybe? Hard to fully classify because he played with a running QB who was not a precision passer. He’s a go-to guy in the NFL, I think…go-to to make plays.
WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State (6’1”/206)
Comp: I’m a fan…I see a slightly smaller, but quicker Davante Adams potential (We’ll see if he can find his Aaron Rodgers to turbocharge him).
From my Senior Bowl preview…
Update: Didn’t blow anyone away at the Senior Bowl week. Was fine but I was looking for something attention-getting and did not see it.
Org. Comments: Maybe he’s an ‘A’, I don’t know…I can’t take it anymore, there is such an abundance of talent in this Senior Bowl game/showcase week. Aiyuk was the 2nd to last of 14 Senior Bowl WR prospects that I preview-scouted and I’ve seen so many possible ‘A’/freak talent WRs, and thus a really terrific, capable WR like Aiyuk becomes a ‘B’ unless he does something out of this world. He is really talented and high effort and effective and quick to get open and fast after the catch. He didn’t make me fall out of my chair, in this first watch, so he only gets a ‘B’ but I’m wondering if I just don’t know how to classify these guys anymore…they’re all so great.
Xavier Cromartie says: Slippery but seems like a straight-line only type. Curtis Samuel is better. D+
WR Lynn Bowden, Kentucky, 5’11”/195
Comp: No clue…one of the most unique players you’ll see. Maybe Jerick McKinnon (but not as an elite of an athlete as McKinnon tested as at the Combine)…like a young Randall Cobb, only 2x better? Antwaan Randle-El?
Is he a WR? Is he a wildcat QB? Could he be a straight up tailback? Is he a future Pro Bowl return man? He might be all these things. In his college career -- Stud receiver, then stud running QB/WR/RB, stud return man…9 career punt returns, two TDs. Had a 13 catch for 166 yards game in 2018 against Missouri with a punt return TD. Ran 34 times for 233 yards and 2 TDs and threw 12 passes for a TD in his final college game/bowl game vs. Va Tech. I don’t know what he’ll be in the NFL, but he’s going to be good…unless the NFL botches this like the Steelers do with Jaylen Samuels, and I could name many more examples of the limited vision the NFL has for these types of players.
WR James Proche (Pro-shay), SMU (6’0”/193)
Comp: The first thing that came to mind was a better, (hopefully) more mentally stable/less diva Jarvis Landry.
From my Senior Bowl previews…
‘A’ hands. ‘A+’ route running skills. ‘A’ toughness. ‘A’ WR IQ/instincts. He’s everything you want in an NFL WR prospect except probably ‘B-ish’ speed. He’s not a burner, he’s just sensational at his craft. I’m trying to classify him in my head, and the first thing that came to mind was a better, (hopefully) more mentally stable/less diva Jarvis Landry.
Proche gets open at will it seems and makes every catch on every ball thrown his way it seems…diving catches, one-handed catches regularly, catches with guys draped all over him. He’s one of those guys that are always open, but he’s not that fast…but the DBs have to respect him and they can’t figure out how to play him. He wins in tight coverage; he eats them alive in soft coverage. He’s just a great football WR/technician.
Xavier Cromartie: Legit. Led FBS in receptions. Can be a great slot. C
WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina (6’3”/215)
Comp: He’s a little like A.J. Brown, if Brown was a better WR technician.
From my Senior Bowl preview: Breakaway speed just jumps out at me, especially at his size. Beyond tough…plays physical and is hard to bring down. Wonderful hands, often making ‘wow’ catches. He’s the total package. The only small knock I had on Edwards was that he's not as quick off the snap and not as sharp cutting on routes, and that will hurt him a touch at the next level from being instantly great…but he almost has it all. A true talent who played on a terrible passing game team. He caught 6 of his team’s 12 TD passes in 2019.
Xavier Cromartie says: Nice frame. Good development potential. B-
WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (6’1”/192)
Comp: A little+ better Calvin Ridley?
I watched some of Jeudy’s 2019 work after I watched/reported out on CeeDee Lamb, and it instantly made me think/confirmed my hesitations on Lamb. Jeudy is a similar sized/styled WR as Lamb, but better in every way. Better hands than Lamb (both good). Thin-framed, like Lamb, but more muscular than Lamb (by my eyes). Much more quickness than Lamb…that quickness jumps out immediately. Jeudy’s movements are effortless with breakaway ability, whereas Lamb looks a bit more clunky, less sharp in his movements and cuts/routes by (high level) comparison.
Jeudy’s numbers are good, but they aren’t eye popping…but he also played on a team with three NFL WR options. They didn’t need to lean on Jeudy. The slight scouting negative here is – Jeudy had a lot of room to work…surrounded by talent from his WR group, to the QB, to the O-Line. It’s hard to tell how good Jeudy really is because he had near perfect surroundings the past two years.
Last summer, I graded Jeudy as a shoulder shrug ‘C’ grade at first look, but he’s stronger than that – he has higher-end NFL movement and the more I watch the more I see how good his hands are, how professional he tends to catch the ball. Between Jeudy and Lamb…it’s not even close for me, it’s Jeudy.
Xavier Cromartie says: Unbelievable explosiveness. Concerning body type. Sort of a fully actualized Darius Slayton. B
WR Devin Duvernay, Texas (5’11”/210)
Comp: Throw the ingredients of Tyreek Hill/A.J. Brown/Julian Edelman in a blender and mix…but with fears that a Corey Coleman ‘great athlete who shrinks at the next level’ head fake is lurking.
From my Senior Bowl previews…
Update: A total downer for the week. I was expecting to see something compelling, but he showed he was fast and that was about it. He didn’t do anything wrong; he just had a chance to show out and just looked ‘good’/OK. It’s harder for WRs like him to shine in this setting, so I give him some grace…but my eyebrow is raised and looking forward to doing deeper study here.
Org. Comments: I mean, I can’t even explain this WR group at the Senior Bowl…it’s overloaded with talent. Every player I bring up to watch, just when I think there can’t be another ‘A’ potential prospect…here comes another one.
Duvernay may be the best of the bunch. Not that guy that jumps out at you at first glance, but the guy who ends up the top guy. He’s got a great knack for getting open. He’s got super-fast feet/burst 2-3 steps into his route, he starts to look like Tyreek Hill speed at a certain point but he plays more of a bulldog, Julian Edelman style over the middle/underneath but will play medium-deep and burn you that way as well.
The most impressive attribute of them all with him is – after the catch, he’s like a top tailback. Tough as nails with breakaway speed. He’s also like a smaller A.J. Brown, but 10x the receiver instincts. He’s a ‘wow’ worker. 8.2 catches per game, #1 in the Big 12 in catches, #3 in all the NCAA in 2019. #1 in rec. yards in the Big 12, #5 in the NCAA in 2019. He’s the kind of warrior WR every team would love to have.
Xavier Cromartie says: Nice burst but his type never works at the NFL level. D
WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota (6’2”/198)
Comp: There’s a little ‘Michael Thomas’ action here, maybe? That might be a stretch…but this guy can play the game.
Johnson is just a helluva WR…a craftsman with B+ athleticism, very good hands and great concentration to catch in traffic and one-on-one up for grabs situations. He's going to be a very good pro WR…assuming the Combine shows him with solid+ speed and agility, etc.
From my East-West Preview: An absolutely legit NFL WR. Whether he is an NFL star or just ‘on the team’ needs further study but Johnson is one of the top prospects here and I wouldn’t be surprised if he also wound up at the Senior Bowl. In Minnesota’s Outback Bowl shocker defeating Auburn, Johnson had 12 catches for 204 yards and 2 TDs…he was uncoverable. He’s had back-to-back 1,100+ yards and 12+ TD seasons the last two years. I can’t wait to see the measurables. The rare WR/team captain. Was an all-everything high school basketball player as well.
Xavier Cromartie says: Overlooked because this type has busted often. An ideal #2. B-
WR Laviska Shenault, Colorado (6’2”/220)
Comp: If A.J. Brown were a true, all-around #1 WR…he’d be Shenault. Laviska is a better all-around Deebo Samuel, but maybe not as hard a worker.
It’s the second time I’ve previewed Shenault, this time watching some of his 2019 work…he’s still an elite prospect in my book. Lamb-Ruggs-Higgins rated ahead of him by anyone, to me, is utterly ridiculous. There are a lot of good or very good WR prospects in this draft, but there are only a few that have ‘special’ as a possibility -- Shenault is one of them.
Shenault is a ‘B’ or better WR talent (routes, speed, hands, technician) but is an ‘A’ after the catch – high-end, breakaway speed and built and moves like a top tailback – like A.J. Brown or Deebo Samuel. Shenault is part of the new age WRs – excellent receivers but can line up and take 2-5 carries a game and do damage that way as well.
My only question is his mindset and willingness to put in the work to be great, not just satisfied with ‘really good’. Some diva potential here. As far as his down 2019, statistically, he was doubled+ by most teams, so he could only do so much – like Courtland Sutton was in his final season at SMU, which scared scouts, but they weren’t really looking for the facts/truth, per usual.
Shenault is potentially the single best WR prospect in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Xavier Cromartie says: He could be an A+ without the injury history. Better than Deebo Samuel. A
WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame (6’4”/229)
Comp: A smoother, faster Mike Evans.
I’ve watched various preview tapes of Claypool and the one thing that sticks out above all, and I think is the thing people are missing so far (because they’re not looking/stuck on Higgins-Jeudy-Lamb), is how smooth his movements are/how quickly he can change directions in a route or stop on a dime – guys his size should not be able to move like this. His ability to get open because of his footwork is overlooked and combined with his size/catch radius – it’s a lethal combo.
If Claypool runs in the low 4.5s and sub-7.0 for a three-cone, his draft stock will fly. His quick feet off the snap ability are hard to measure/can’t be measured at the Combine…just like Diontae Johnson’s feet/speed measurables were not stand out in pre-Draft measuring but he’s the fastest/quickest guy off the snap I’ve ever scouted.
Xavier Cromartie says: He looks like a tight end. Rare type that is boom/bust with no middle. C-
WR Michael Pittman, USC (6’3”/220)
Comp: Julio Jones/Chris Godwin thrown into a blender?
Re-looked at him again for this report, and because I’m smitten…I’m still smitten. What a receiver. So many good/great prospects, but Pittman takes the cake for me. His feet, for his size, are amazing. Great for running/cutting/stopping on routes, has very good-to-great hands, has breakaway speed and great size. He’s as good, polished, smooth a WR prospect as I have seen in all my time doing this. Might be an A+, we’ll see what the Combine times say on the speed-agility side.
From my Senior Bowl preview…
I can’t wait to see more, but what I just saw in a preview…might be the best total package WR in the 2020 NFL Draft, and one of the best WR prospects I’ll have ever scouted. Just a quick reaction to some preview tape.
Has the size of a true #1 force WR but has the speed/agility of a much smaller-sleeker WR…a very smooth athlete. Everything he does seems effortless…he might have 4.4+ speed with 6.7-6.8 three-cone at his size. Great hands. Dominated with pretty mediocre QB play for a major-name school.
Xavier Cromartie says: Relies on his size and strength. Not as good as JuJu (USC). C