Rookie WRs Top Tier

Rookie Wide Receivers – The Top Tier 

It was a toss-up between my favourite offensive position and Quarterbacks for my next piece. Seeing as you’re reading this and have seen the title you’ll know it isn’t Quarterbacks. The Wide Receiver. The glitzy pass catchers, the chain movers, the guys who make special, spectacular, highlight-reel catches. My favourites are the pass catchers.  

Again I will hark back to my College Fantasy team. I wasn’t blessed to have a Jerry Juedy or a CeeDee Lamb. I did, however, manage to grab some of the other elite talents in the draft and in Free Agency. This means I know a little more about them than some of the other guys. I do, however, promise not to talk too much about my team. 

1, CeeDee Lamb – Oklahoma 

Yep Rush Nation, I’ve gone against the tide with this one. College fans will see what I did there. It really was a toss-up between Lamb and Jeudy for the number one overall wideout. There is one thing that I think separates them however, End game. I’m not talking about who lasts longer or who can finish a playoff. I’m talking about his ceiling in the NFL. I believe Lamb has the ability to become an Alpha for the team that drafts him. He has more room to grow in my opinion. I think Jeudy is at his ceiling and will be a perfect complimentary piece to a team’s Wide Receiver corp. Hot take? Maybe. 

In 2019, with the addition of Jalen Hurts as the new Oklahoma Quarterback, Lamb didn’t perhaps see as many targets as he would have liked. AJ Brown had departed the year before for the NFL and this perhaps was when we would see Lamb explode. We didn’t however. His numbers were still very good. He finished 2019 with 62 receptions for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also missed one contest with Baylor so his numbers could have been better still. Year on year Lamb has made improvements to his numbers showing he has what it takes to increase his role and usage for the team. 

Whilst CeeDee isn’t a true turf burner he does have a very good overall speed which will see him transition well into the NFL. Standing 6 foot 2 inches and weighing 189 pounds it’s almost like the second coming of Nuke Hopkins. They have the same tenacity, catch radius and big-play abilities. Lamb ran a decent 4.50 40-yard dash and made an absolutely unworldly catch off an errant ball in one of the drills. Highlight reel stuff captured in slow motion is already filling up Youtube. 

Tape Study

CeeDee Lamb has everything you could want for in your top dog. He possesses a fast first step and then a speedy second gear when getting into the backfield. Shows great size and strength when on the gridiron and has those silky smooth hands when catching the ball. He is an excellent route runner and after the catch is a YAC monster. Showing this in 2018 with Kyler Murray with 17.8 Yards Per Catch. His contact balance is superb and isn’t afraid of the physical side of being a Wide Receiver. These coupled with his superb ball tracking skills means he is good in contested catches and breaking tackles. 

Apparently opposing Cornerbacks have said he has a look in his eyes that he will claw your eyes out in order to get the ball. It’s this look and wants to win that I have chosen him over Jerry Jeudy. The world is his if drafted to the right team. With that being said he does like a party by all accounts so a team and city with a quiet nightlife may be key in squeezing all the juice out of this lemon. 

Pros 

  • Naturally gifted with catching and hand placement 
  • Huge catch radius and YAC beast
  • Too level route running 

Cons

  • Can’t be lazy on blocking the run game
  • Likes a party but this hasn’t affected his game so far. 

2, Jerry Jeudy – Alabama

We’re splitting hairs between these top two guys in this list. As I stated, I think Jeudy is good. I just think he shows all the traits of a top-level Wide Receiver two for a team. He may well prove me wrong and I’m more than willing to be so. Just from his tape at the Crimson Tide and his Combine performance didn’t show me the grit Lamb did. 

Whilst I’m not a talent evaluator or NFL scout, I think I can spot the tenacity and hunger that Lamb possesses over Jeudy. In my opinion obviously. There had to be a deciding factor and that was it. Jeudy is still a first-round talent, there is even speculation he could go top 10 in some mock drafts. Any team that lands Jeudy will get themselves a top-level weapon and the smoothest route runner I have seen out of college. His freshman year Jerry only totalled 14 catches for 264 yards, then he hit the big red detonate button and BOOM. 

2018 saw Jeudy go bananas at the expense of everyone he faced. He totalled 68 receptions for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns. Then in 2019 his receptions actually increased on his 2018 total but the other numbers came down slightly. He finished the season with 77 receptions for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns. Both seasons he provided his team with true number one Receiver numbers. However, you look at Jeudy, he looks NFL ready. He isn’t huge but has the size still to be a stud at the next level. 

Tape Study

Jeudy, as mentioned isn’t a beast in stature like Chase Claypool but is still a good height. Standing 6 foot 1 inch and coming in under 200 pounds, tipping the scales at 192 pounds. These measurables mean he isn’t a size-speed mismatch for Cornerbacks but so far it hasn’t been an issue for Jeudy. He can still make contested catches above defenders. Jerry also uses his speed to break off route when he needs to help his Quarterback when the play breaks down. 

Watching tape on Jeudy the one thing I noticed was his devastating speed. His take-off is lightning fast and then once the first few steps are completed he then breaks into hyper mode and gets into his stride fast and with limited movement off his route. His feet sometimes reminded me of Sonic the hedgehog when cutting and making people miss in the secondary. Whether he is double covered or not pressed at the line, he can run past both types of coverage. It’s how he runs his routes which are most impressive to me, however. It’s seamless and ridiculously smooth. No change of pace when he shifts direction and offers no clue as to when he changes direction. 

Pros

  • Smooth routes
  • Effortless speed 
  • Great after the catch 

Cons

  • Sometimes catches with the chest
  • Not the biggest build

3, Justin Jefferson – LSU

Ah, here we are. The first member of my winning College Fantasy team in the Wide Receiver write ups. We also have the first true Slot Receiver in the list. LSU standout Receiver Jefferson was almost always utilised out of the slot in the Tigers historic season. He was consistently making big-time plays for Joe Burrow all season. He racked up the catches too with 111 receptions. 

2019 saw those 111 catches lead to 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns! 18! A huge total of endzone trips for the Swiss Army Knife of the LSU offence. What’s also impressive is Jefferson’s improvement from 2018. He almost doubled his production on every metric except touchdowns. Here he tripled it. He finished 2018 with 54 receptions for 875 yards and six scores. Having Joe Burrow instead of Danny Etling obviously helped Jefferson immensely. 

Whist he has slightly more size and speed than the standard Slot Receiver he offers his team huge upside from the slot. Stood 6 foot 3 inches and tipping the scales at 192 pre-combine, Jefferson looked good in contested catches last season. The Combine, however, saw a very different look for Jefferson. Measuring two inches shorter than his stated height bought him into the shorter percentile for Receivers (47%). But he lumped on another 10 pounds of weight to give him the bulk needed for the next level. He was in the top 25% for his jumping, 40 time and arm length which makes perfect reading for a slot guy. 

Tape Study

Jefferson didn’t just line up in the slot, he lined up all over the field. Whilst he doesn’t have the true upper body strength of an outside receiver he can operate there because of his shifty route running. Has a decent shift of direction which helps him separate on the inside of the field. He could stand to gain a little more strength to be able to play as an X receiver. Maybe his weight gain was the start of this? Who knows but it’s a good direction to be headed. 

What really impressed me from his tape was his speed on go, hook and slant routes. He sets up defenders perfectly with his footwork and this allows him to get into deep areas if needs be also. Adding the weight also didn’t hurt his 40-yard time. He went from running a projected 4.50 to a speedy 4.43 seconds. Good enough to be in the top 25% again as mentioned. If he can work on his footwork off the line and learn how to use this speed he will thrive. I mean he knows where the end zone is. Again I reiterate 18 touchdowns last year. 

Pros

  • Utility knife skill set
  • Fast and shifty route runner 
  • Ability to get open and score after the catch

Cons

  • Lacks upper body strength 
  • Can lose sight of his blocks 
  • Isn’t a true X receiver yet

4, Laviska Shenault – Colorado 

O Laviska, Laviska, wherefore art thou Laviska? Recovering from shoulder surgery thats where. Shenault was most definitely my boy this year in College Fantasy. My first round pick at 1.08. Let it be known I auto picked my first two rounds as the draft time was moved. Terrible commissioning if you ask me. Do I regret drafting him with a first round pick? Hell no! For those of you that know me Rush Nation, you’ll know i love a Wide Receiver. Learning about an incoming stud was terrific.

He has the talent to be considered a first round Receiver in the upcoming NFL draft. The shoulder injury however could see him fall into the second unless a team is really high on him. I took him at 15 in the 5 Yard Rush mock draft a few weeks back. I rate him highly and it’s only the shoulder injury that has moved him from three to four in my rankings. Injuries have plagued his collegiate career and that might scare some teams off. 

His 2019 season was affected by an injury and poor Quarterback play at Colorado. He missed three weeks due to injury in 2019. His season was a bit of a squib numbers wise, finishing with 52 receptions for 721 yards and four touchdowns. Regardless of the limited opportunities Shenault received he made some clutch and spectacular plays when given the chance. It was 2018 where Laviska really popped as one of the league’s best Wide Receivers. He hauled in 86 receptions for 1.011 yards and six touchdowns. His usage in the run game is impressive. He operates either as a running back or in the wildcat formation. In 2018 he also carried the ball for 115 yards and five touchdowns off just 17 carries. 

Tape Study

Perhaps if Shenault hadn’t had the injuries he could be considered the best Wide Receiver in this class. Quite a statement i know, but i truly believe Laviska has all the traits of an elite Receiver at the next level. If he can stay fit in the NFL he could be the draft steal at his position. Whilst he doesn’t have the size or speed of Julio Jones, or my boy AJ Green, he is big enough to play all over the line. His speed is good enough to get him open in the secondary and has another gear when breaking free after the catch. It’s here where Shenault earns his crust. He is majestic with the ball in his hands. His strength and size allow him to run through some defenders and straight through arm tackles. He isn’t scared of gaining extra yards by smashing through defensive backs either. 

When watching tape i’ve seen a close similarity to Juju in the way he plays. He tracks the ball like a hawk and always knows where the ball is in the sky. He runs smooth routes and has good urgency in his direction shift. His body control is up there with Lamb in the way he can adjust mid air or if the ball is behind him. He almost never uses his body to catch the ball and uses his strength and hands to win contested catches when needed. Unlike other larger Wide Receivers he does use his physicality to push off defenders before the casch. Good news in the NFL. he creates ok separation with his route running and body control. If not for yourself Laviska, but for me, try and stay fit. Ill draft you everywhere so if you go down ill go down with you. 

Pros

  • Has Great hands and body control 
  • A Very good route runner
  • Toughness when playing 

Cons

  • Has injury concerns
  • No real combine or Pro Day to show of
  • Not a speed demon

Well Rush Nation, that was the fastest article i’ve written so far for these Rookie reports. I genuinely have an affliction with the Wide Receiver position. Let me know what you think of my first four. Am i right? Am i wrong? Get in contact over at @5yardrush on twitter and let’s debate. 

Until part two drops, as always, Keep Rushing

-Stocks @5yardrush

 

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