In the market for a young wide receiver? This is the draft class for you.
The selection of wide receivers that will be available in the 2020 NFL Draft is loaded with talent and historically deep. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. predicted as many as 30 could come off the board in the first three rounds. NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah has a similar outlook, saying last week he has 27 receivers with first-, second- or third-round grades.
The New England Patriots could use some help at the position after employing just one reliably productive receiver (Julian Edelman) during the 2019 season. They’ll get a good look at the entire draft class when the NFL Scouting Combine kicks off this week in Indianapolis.
Top prospects CeeDee Lamb of Oklahoma and Jerry Jeudy of Alabama are near-locks to be gone by the time the Patriots make their first pick at No. 23 overall, but there are plenty of other options who could pique New England’s interest. Here are 14 names we have on our radar as draft day draws closer, ranging from likely first-rounders to potential Day 3 steals:
Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Unreal speed and sure hands. Very good chance he’ll be snatched up before No. 23.
Justin Jefferson, LSU
Joe Burrow’s favorite target (111 catches, 18 touchdowns) for the national champion Tigers in 2019. Draft experts love his catch radius and instincts but say he must improve his route-running.
Tee Higgins, Clemson
Versatile big-play threat who excelled in contested-catch situations. Twenty-five touchdown catches over the last two seasons.
Laviska Shenault, Colorado
Enticing combination of speed, strength and size (6-foot-2, 220 pounds). Numbers slipped from 86-1,011-6 in nine games as a sophomore in 2018 to 56-764-4 in 11 games in 2019. Also threatened defenses as a running back in direct-snap situations (seven rushing scores over the last two seasons).
Jalen Reagor, TCU
Another burner who, like Shenault, saw a decrease in production this past season. Two punt return touchdowns in 2019.
K.J. Hamler, Penn State
Undersized (5-9, 176), field-stretching slot receiver who also is dangerous on kick and punt returns. Had “an alarming number of drops in 2019,” per his NFL Media draft profile.
Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
Former teammate of 2019 Patriots first-rounder N’Keal Harry. Explosive big-play threat but lacks Harry’s contested-catch ability. Reportedly plans to work out in Indy after a groin injury kept him out of this year’s Senior Bowl.
Michael Pittman Jr., USC
Big (6-4, 220), physical, sure-handed outside receiver who’s garnered comparisons to Alshon Jeffery and Courtland Sutton.
Devin Duvernay, Texas
Beefed-up slot receiver (5-11, 210) who put up huge numbers in 2019 (105-1,392-9) and had just three drops on 129 targets, per Pro Football Focus. Evaluators question his ability to beat press coverage.
K.J. Hill, Ohio State
Turned heads with his superb routes in Senior Bowl practice. Ohio State’s all-time receptions leader, but had little downfield production in college.
Van Jefferson, Florida
Another Senior Bowl standout. Excellent route-runner. Son of ex-Patriots wideout and current New York Jets wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson.
James Prosche, SMU
Very few drops (nine in 312 career catchable targets, per PFF) and ball skills that have been described as “elite” and “exceptional” in scouting reports. Patriots scouts reportedly were heard “gushing” over Prosche at the Senior Bowl.
Jauan Jennings, Tennessee
High school quarterback-turned-jumbo slot target (6-3, 208) who forced more missed tackles in 2019 than any draft-eligible receiver, per PFF.
Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky
Slot receiver who also racked up 1,468 rushing yards as a read-option quarterback for the Wildcats in 2019. Uber versatile.
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images