The 2020 wide receiver draft class is most certainly the deepest and most talented of all position groups, and could well eclipse the 5 first-round selections made at the position in 2014. Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jnr, Brandin Cooks and Kelvin Benjamin all went in the first round 6 years ago, with other notable names taken later on: Davante Adams to Green Bay and Jarvis Landry to Miami in Round 2, John Brown to Arizona in Round 3, and Quincy Enunwa in the sixth round to the New York Jets.
Predicting that Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb and Henry Ruggs III will be impactful players in their rookie seasons takes little research or effort. Last year, the three combined for over 3,000 yards and 31 receiving touchdowns. Each will be taken in the early-to-mid first round, and depending on their landing spot could take the league by storm in 2020. The Jets, Raiders, 49ers, Broncos, Eagles, Vikings, Patriots and Green Bay could all be tempted to take a receiver with their first-round picks depending on how the board falls to them.
The most challenging task facing NFL General Managers is finding hidden talent in the middle rounds of the draft. As the Draft progresses past Round 2 and into Round 3, team scouts begin to earn their living. Below are three individuals who may fall into the third round and beyond, and have the talent and/or potential to contribute to a franchise’s future success.
Duvernay could prove to be a promising talent for a team needing a slot receiver in Round 3 or 4, though he did prove to be a downfield threat for the Longhorns. Just 5’ 10” and 200 lbs, he is a small and speedy player with a surprising ability to break tackles for a player of his stature. He ran a 4.39 at the Combine, a time beaten only by first-round picks in waiting, Henry Ruggs III and Denzel Mims. He scored 2 touchdowns against eventual CFB playoff champions LSU, though one came with less than thirty seconds on the clock. His rushing touchdown at West Virginia suggests that he could also be utilised in sweep and end around running plays. A patient franchise with an expansive playbook could well get the best out of him.
Perfect pick: San Francisco 49ers
Gandy-Golden is big, heavy and has impressive catching ability. At 6’ 4” and 223 lbs, he is one of the tallest prospects in the draft class. He doesn’t have the same level of speed as those of a similar height (Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman Jnr, Chase Claypool), but he did run a respectable 4.60 in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis. A smaller school prospect, his size and physicality most likely project him as a red-zone threat in the NFL. Concerns over his lack of speed against NFL cornerbacks could see him slip down some draft boards. He has quick hands and will dominate smaller and less physical defensive backs, though they are in short supply in the pros.
Playing at Liberty may well have enhanced his standing with commentators, as his tape stands out against lesser opposition. Nevertheless, 1,396 receiving yards is a mean feat regardless of the schools you come up against. Gandy-Golden is a high risk-high reward prospect that could well flourish under the right scheme fit.
Perfect pick: Philadelphia Eagles
Bowden Jnr’s name may be familiar to those that follow college football, as he made headlines when injuries play quarterback at Kentucky in 2019. The success of Taysom Hill as a gadget QB/WR/RB hybrid in New Orleans may tempt other franchises to follow suit by drafting Bowden Jnr on Day 3. Bowden Jnr does want to enter the NFL at receiver and hopes that his stint behind centre will showcase his versatility and dedication to NFL franchises. When asked at the Combine whether he believed he had a position in the NFL, he smartly replied that “I’ll play wherever they want to play me”.
Needless to say, his draft stock has fallen as a result of playing most of his football at quarterback last season, racking up just 348 yards and only one touchdown as a receiver in 2019. Added to that, his punch on a Virginia Tech defender at the 2019 Belk Bowl may have some questioning his character. He did, however, go on to win the MVP award in that very game, rushing for over 200 yards and throwing a game-winning touchdown with seconds left on the clock. If Bowden Jnr can convince teams of his maturity, he could find himself a roster spot when training camp comes.
Bowden Jnr could well prove to be a bust in the NFL – he certainly hasn’t shown an ability to pass the ball consistently at Kentucky. However, a forward-thinking franchise with ambitions to replicate the work of Sean Payton in New Orleans could see a team take a punt on the 2019 Paul Hornung Award winner (awarded to the nation’s most versatile player), who rushed for over 1,400 yards and 13 touchdowns last year.
Perfect pick: Carolina Panthers
-Tom Scott @downthemannyrd