The draft is less than one week away! The anticipation of football fans across the nation is getting high. Tensions are building in front offices across the league. The time has finally come: It’s NFL Draft week! Let’s swoop right into the most prominent question throughout the Eagles fan base: Which wide receiver will the Eagles select in next week’s draft? This 4 part series on Wide receiver prospects should help you decide which receiver the Eagles should target come draft day. This edition will focus on talent that would require a move up the draft ladder for the birds. Here we go!
The Elite Talent
These players are the cream of the crop. The top 4 wide receivers available in the 2020 NFL Draft are unlikely to be on the board at #21. Howie Roseman will have to make a move to secure one of these studs. Let’s take a look at the elite options available on draft day.
CeeDee Lamb is a junior from the University of Oklahoma. Lamb is entering the draft after a tremendous season in Norman, OK. Ceedee Lamb burst on the scene as a freshman and broke the Freshman record for receiving yards (807yds) at Oklahoma. He earned a selection to the Freshman All-American team. Fast forward to his junior year, and the progress is well documented. He finished the year with 62 receptions for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns. He averaged an astounding 21.4 yards per catch! These statistics earned him 1st team AP All-American honors.
What stands out about Mr. Lamb? To me, the ability to dominate yards after the catch is very impressive. The defenders he’s faced over his college career will be the first to say CeeDee Lamb is one of the most elusive players in College Football. CeeDee has excellent footwork at the point of release and can catch the ball in tight windows, exhibiting terrific hands. Lamb enjoyed much success with plays close to the line of scrimmage. He capitalized on soft coverage from opposing defenses via quick outs, shallow crosses, and jet options. Lamb plays with a very high motor, can break tackles, and overall, is a playmaker on the field.
The initial knock on CeeDee Lamb is his speed. He ran a 4.5 40 yard dash at the combine. Lamb does appear to struggle with breakaway speed downfield on tape. In college, many teams tend to play soft coverage on defense vs. Lamb. He didn’t experience many press coverages but did tend to struggle with a press release in times where it was presented.
Depending on who you ask, Jerry Jeudy is the top wide receiver in this class. The University of Alabama Junior elected to forego his senior season and enter the draft. Jeudy made his presence felt in a big way as a sophomore. He finished the 2018 season with 68 receptions for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns. Above all, He brought home honors of being selected to the 1st team ALL SEC and All-American teams. A fantastic sophomore season was capped off with being awarded the Fred Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s most outstanding receiver. The loss of Tua Tagovailoa affected Jerry Jeudy’s junior season, but he still finished with 10 touchdowns and 1st team ALL SEC honors.
The one strength of Jerry Jeudy I’m impressed by is his route running ability. Each move seems so smooth and effortless. Terrific route runner! The footwork at the line of scrimmage is quite fantastic, as well as good acceleration off the release. Speaking of acceleration, Jeudy’s long speed is dangerous. Once he breaks away from the defender, watch out! He becomes very elusive in the open field and tough to bring down.
If you are looking for a physical wide receiver, then I’d move onto the next prospect. Jeudy is a finesse player. He’ll shake the defender right out of his boots, but Jeudy won’t out muscle a player. Due to his slender frame, he’s unable to get as physical as he wants. While the former All-American may blow past the defender on a deep ball, he struggles with reeling in a tough catch in contested situations. If Jeudy can work on improving his drops, the team drafting him will reap the benefits of drafting an elite receiver.
Henry Ruggs is a 5’11, 188lb wide receiver playing at the University of Alabama. Ruggs erupted onto the college football scene as freshman seeing action in 14 games and scoring 6 touchdowns earning a spot on the Freshman All-SEC team. Move ahead to his sophomore season, and he caught 46 receptions for 746 yards totaling 11 touchdowns. What’s truly remarkable for Ruggs is that 34 of his 46 receptions resulted in either a 1st down or touchdown. Henry Ruggs can be referred to as Nick Saban’s security blanket. He can find holes in the second level and exploit the flaws of the defense. 2019 resulted in similar production for Ruggs with 40 receptions for 740 yards and 8 total touchdowns.
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Henry Ruggs has electric speed! He ran a 4.27 Forty yard dash at the combine, and Ruggs was disappointed in himself. Harsh critic, but the guy can fly! Obviously, Ruggs has breakaway speed that can create separation in the defense very quickly. For his size, Henry displays good body strength. He plays with a toughness and grit, showing a competitive spirit on the field. He displays terrific yards after catch ability. Ruggs has the talent to score from anywhere on the field each time he touches the ball. Speaking of touches, he doesn’t drop passes too often. Ruggs has only one recorded drop in his college football career. Pretty impressive!
While he may exhibit some dynamic features of a future stud receiver, Henry Ruggs does lack in some areas which need improvement. Let’s start with the press release. Sometimes, he gets jammed up on the line, and his footwork gets choppy, slowing his acceleration downfield. Ruggs has a tendency to get open, and there’s no denying that. However, it’s more a product of finding holes in defense rather than proper route execution. Route running will need to be improved at the next level. Finally, his physicality pre-catch is an area of concern. He can easily get bumped off his rhythm pre-catch. If he can exhibit the type of toughness shown post-catch, he might be unstoppable.
Finally, we get to a player Eagles fans have been clamoring for the last few weeks. Many mock draft specialists are slotting Jefferson to the Eagles at 21. I put him in this article because he very well may be drafted before the Eagles pick at 21, with his stock rising in recent weeks.
So, what has Justin Jefferson done on the football field? In 12 starts as a sophomore, he caught 54 balls for 875 yards and 6 touchdowns. That was just an appetizer for LSU fans. The main course was this past season as a junior. Jefferson went bonkers on the field. He hauled in 111 receptions for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. He finished 2nd in touchdowns behind fellow teammate Ja’marr Chase. In 2019, he finished 8 games with over 100 yards receiving. Remarkable! While he achieved most of his success from the slot, Jefferson can play outside as well if given the opportunity.
The one strength of Justin Jefferson that we can put to bed is his versatility. The man can play all over the field. Inside or out, it doesn’t matter. The production will be there for Jefferson. In terms of his catching ability, Jefferson can go up and get the ball. He exhibits an excellent catch radius and demonstrates the skill of making contested catches. Jefferson is a tough runner. He plays with some physicality, and not afraid to battle for the reception. Food for thought: Justin Jefferson could make an excellent option in the red zone on Sundays.
Justin Jefferson went crazy in 2019 with ridiculous stats. He must be a perfect prospect, right? Wrong. Every prospect has flaws, so let’s address the areas of improvement for Mr. Jefferson. First, let’s discuss the speed. He’s not a burner, that’s for sure. The straightaway speed is definitely lacking, but he makes up for it when jumping up for the contested catch. One of the main concerns centering around Jefferson is a press release. A receiver doesn’t deal with press much in the slot. The question remains, Can Jefferson play outside and get around press coverage. Only time will tell, but with a concentration on improving his footwork and hand control, he can overcome press coverage and be successful.
Will the Eagles trade up?
This is a growing question in the Tri-State area over the last few days after hearing rumors of the Eagles rumored interest in CeeDee Lamb. Will the risk greatly outweigh the reward? Who knows. However, the fans always have that black hole in the back of their mind. The Eagles can’t draft wide receivers. They can’t risk giving up draft capital on a receiver. Well, this wide receiver draft class might be legendary five years down the road. Could you trade up to grab a can’t miss prospect? Sure! Each player mentioned above is worth it in my eyes. However, it could also make sense to stand pat and draft at 21 because of the deep talent in this class. We’ll discuss some options that could be available at the Eagles current draft slot, or perhaps in a trade back scenario to acquire additional draft capital. Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series. Cheers!