The 2020 draft carried one of the deepest wide receiver groups in NFL history. There were thirteen taken in the first two rounds and thirty-seven total. Usually the wide receiver landing spots don’t change roster outlooks as much as other positions because teams can carry multiple successful receivers, but when this amount of talent at any position enters the league at once, there is a little bit more of a shakeup. These are the 2020 NFL draft’s biggest winners and losers from the wide receiver position.
This is part 3 in my post-draft winners and losers series. Check out my other 2020 NFL Draft Winners and Losers:
These wide receivers are already in the league and have benefitted from their team’s decisions in the 2020 draft.
Allen Lazard (GBP)
Instead of drafting Aaron Rodgers help at the wide receiver position in one of the most wide receiver heavy drafts ever, the Packers decided to draft a quarterback and a running back with their first two picks. In fact, they didn’t draft a single wide receiver in all seven rounds. Lazard became a trusted target for Rodgers last season and it looks like there is a good chance now that that trend will continue.
Sterling Shepard (NYG)
Second year player Darius Slayton has most likely become the number one wide receiver for the Giants. Shepard is a good receiver, but he has struggled with injuries in his career. The Giants were one of the teams that didn’t draft a wide receiver, and that bodes well for Shepard, Slayton, and Golden Tate in 2020. Tate will be 32 years old this season. With Slayton already locked in, Shepard will have the opportunity to prove to the new coaching staff that he can stay healthy enough to be a part of their future plans.
Emmanuel Sanders (NOS)
A lot of draft experts had New Orleans drafting a wide receiver. When they didn’t, that was a plus for all of the Saints receivers not named Michael Thomas. The Saints brought in Sanders to start opposite Thomas and his outlook for 2020 is much better now with Tre’Quan Smith being the only real competition for wide receiver targets. Sanders is 33 years old, so his value isn’t going to go through the roof, but if he is on your team already, his rise in production will give him a nice value bump that can help your team in a win now situation or help to acquire a better return in a mid-season trade to a contender.
N’Keal Harry (NEP)
The Patriots went heavy on defense early in the draft, then they grabbed two tight ends in the third round, and didn’t select a wide receiver at all. Jarrett Stidham will be the starter with Julian Edelman and Harry as his top two targets. Last season, Harry started the season on the PUP, and when he came back, it was difficult for him to build a rapport with Tom Brady. If Stidham and Harry play well together, there is a chance that they could build a good connection for years to come. Stranger things have happened.
Preston Williams (MIA)
Williams went undrafted last year, but he definitely would have been if it wasn’t for off the field concerns. The Dolphins took a chance on him and he looked really good until he was placed on IR with an ACL injury after week nine. The Dolphins didn’t really put a lot of emphasis into the wide receiver position in the off-season and didn’t draft a single one. Williams has a good shot to come back next year and start right where he left off.
Corey Davis (TEN), Adam Humphries (TEN), Brandin Cooks (HOU), Will Fuller (HOU), Sammy Watkins (KCC), Mecole Hardman (KCC)
These rookie wide receivers have landed in some really great spots and in doing so, their dynasty stock has risen.
Henry Ruggs (LVR)
The Raiders selected Ruggs out of Alabama over Ceedee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy as the first receiver taken in the draft. He will go into the season as the unquestioned number one wide receiver on the team. Ruggs has blazing speed, but has a more all-around game than a lot of the speed wide receivers taken early in recent drafts. Wide receiver was the biggest need for the Raiders and they addressed it immediately. Ruggs will be heavily utilized right away.
Justin Jefferson (MIN)
Minnesota fans must have been pretty excited when the Eagles took Jalen Reagor over Jefferson one pick before they were on the clock. Jefferson was very productive at LSU and will step right in and replace Stephon Diggs. Adam Thielin will be 30 years old when the season starts, so if Jefferson is the real deal, he has a good chance to be the Viking’s number one wide receiver for many years to come.
Jalen Reagor (PHI)
The Eagles decided to go with the speedy receiver Reagor out of TCU over the more polished Justin Jefferson with the twenty first overall pick. Desean Jackson and Alshon Jefferey are both on the wrong side of thirty and are both coming back from injury. Reagor was a first-round pick and at this point probably the best wide receiver on the team. Wentz to Reagor could develop into a special connection for a long time in Philadelphia.
Michael Pittman (IND)
The Colts drafted a wide receiver in the second round for the second year in a row. Last year it was Parris Campbell out of Ohio State and this year it was Pittman out of USC. Campbell was battling injuries all of last year and has been deemed a disappointment. Their number one receiver is 30 years old T.Y. Hilton, who has been dealing with his own health issues in recent years. Pittman was drafted with the second pick in the second round after wide receiver Tee Higgins, and finds himself in the type of situation in which a good showing could entrench him as the top receiver on the team.
Joe Reed (LAC)
The speedy senior wide receiver Joe Reed out of Virginia was named first-team All-American as a returner last season. The Chargers took him in the fifth round with the hopes that he can compete for the third wide receiver job along with returning kicks right away. They have struggled for a couple years now trying to find a receiver to contribute behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, and although he was expected to run faster than his 4.47 40-yard dash, Reed plays with a lot of quickness and playmaking ability.
Brandon Aiyuk (SFO), Denzel Mims (NYJ), Bryan Edwards (LVR), Van Jefferson (LAR),
These are the wide receivers already in the league that took the biggest hit by their team’s decisions in the 2020 draft.
Michael Gallup (DAL)
It wasn’t Jerry Jones’s plan to diminish the value of the talented third year wide receiver, but when Ceedee Lamb out of Oklahoma was available at seventeen, the talent was just too much to pass up. For many, Lamb was the top wide receiver available in this year’s special class. There is a good chance that Lamb is so uniquely gifted, that Amari Cooper becomes the number two receiver in Dallas, but for now, it is Gallup’s descent that will be most noticeable.
James Washington (PIT)
The Steelers drafted Chase Claypool out of Notre Dame in the second round which muddles the wide receiver situation in Pittsburgh quite a bit. Juju struggled last year, but is still considered the number one. Second year player, Diontae Johnson played well in his rookie campaign and will most likely be a full-time starter next year. The battle for third receiver snaps will be between James Washington and Claypool. Washington’s value is teetering on whether or not Claypool and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger are able to build a good rapport.
Parris Campbell / Zach Pascal (IND)
The Colts had a lot of issues at the wide receiver position last year. With that in mind, they selected former USC Trojan Michael Pittman early in the second round. T.Y. Hilton is the number one receiver in Indy, but has had a hard time staying healthy. Last year as a rookie, Campbell struggled with injuries, and didn’t show much when he was on the field. Pascal stepped in and played well, but he doesn’t have the draft pedigree of the other three receivers. Campbell will be working with a clean slate in 2020, but both his and Pascal’s value took a significant hit when Pittman was drafted.
Hunter Renfrow (LVR)
Renfrow was the Raiders fifth round pick and third player they drafted out of Clemson last season. He wasn’t much of a factor for most of the year, but finished strong with 13 catches for 209 yards and 2 touchdowns in the last two games of the season. Renfrow owners were pretty psyched about his outlook for 2020, even after they drafted wide receiver Henry Ruggs in the first round. Then they drafted two more receivers back to back in the third, and things became a little bleaker. Renfrow is still a good player, but there will be a lot more competition for catches in Vegas.
Josh Reynolds (LAR)
Finally, Josh Reynolds owners rejoice. Brandin Cooks has been traded and the third receiver spot is open for Reynolds to step right in and produce like he’s done for years as the injury replacement. Come again? The Rams have drafted a wide receiver in the second round.
Yup, they drafted former Florida Gator Van Jefferson whose draft stock had been steadily rising leading up to the draft. The good news is that Reynolds knows the playbook and will start the season as the third receiver. Jefferson is talented though, so Reynold’s heavy snap counts are far less guaranteed than they were before the draft.
John Ross (CIN), Dede Westbrook (JAX), JJ Arcega-Whiteside (PHI), Greg Ward (PHI), Kendrick Bourne (SFO)
Ceedee Lamb (DAL) / Jerry Jeudy (DEN)
These might be the top two wide receivers in the draft, so they are landing spot immune, but they both landed on teams that already have number one wide receivers in Courtland Sutton and Amari Cooper. I wouldn’t worry at all about drafting either one of these players, but it would have been nice if they could have stepped into clear-cut number one target share situations.
K.J. Hamler (DEN)
Denver went nuts drafting offense this year taking Jerry Jeudy in the first and the productive Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler in the second. Hamler has a chance to start the season as the third wide receiver in Denver, so it’s not all bad, but he will be fighting for targets behind Courtland Sutton, Jeudy, and Noah Fant. Not to mention the targets that Melvin Gordon will receive. Hamler will certainly carve out a role for himself, but his production will be capped because of the talent surrounding him.
Tyler Johnson (TBB)
The Bucs got great value when they drafted former Minnesota Golden Gopher Tyler Johnson in the fifth round. He is a solid route runner with good body control, but he slipped in the draft because of his below average separation and concerns about him getting off the line against NFL competition. The Bucs are stacked at the receiver position, so expect to be patient if you draft him in the later rounds.
Donovan Peoples-Jones (CLE)
Peoples-Jones was the number one wide receiver coming out of his high school class. He has all the tools to make it in the NFL, with the one knock on his game being his quickness in short spaces. He slipped into the sixth round because of his lack of production for the Michigan Wolverines, but it was erratic play from the quarterback position that was most to blame for that. Peoples-Jones projects to be a better pro than college player and has a chance to carve out a role behind Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, and Austin Hooper, but with that said, a sixth-round receiver being drafted by the Browns is not ideal for immediate playing time.
James Proche (BAL)
While researching rookie receivers, Proche’s film really stood out to me when going through the later picks. In a deep wide receiver draft class, Proche out of SMU might be a real diamond in the rough. He has average size, quickness, and speed, but his ball skills are extraordinary. He is on another level when it comes to tracking the ball, body control, focus, and instincts after the catch to gain extra yards. That being said, he was a sixth-round pick drafted by a run first team. Proche’s target crumbs will come after Marquise Brown, Mark Andrews, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, and second round pick Devin Duvernay are all fed first. The landing spot could have been so much better for Proche to work himself into a good rotation, but I still urge you to consider him as a late round flier because of his ability. I will be.
Devin Duvernay (BAL), Darnell Mooney (CHI), Antonio Gibson (WAS)