The 2019 NFL draft is in the books. Months of toiling over hypothetical scenarios between general managers and players for draft enthusiasts like myself has left me with a draft hangover.
I’ve heard that the “hair of the dog” is a time-honored remedy… Let’s see if it helps.
Questions/Comments/Hate Mail can be directed to @CKrisNorton on Twitter
Wide Receivers: Tier One
Since 2015, a total of 15 wide receivers have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. During this timespan, only one wide receiver (Amari Cooper) has been a Pro Bowl selection. This drought looks extreme considering the 2014 class gave us Mike Evans and Odell Beckham Jr. (5 combined Pro Bowls), plus Brandin Cooks, Sammy Watkins, and Kelvin Benjamin. It looks unlikely that either Marquise Brown or N’Keal Harry will buck the recent trend in their rookie campaigns.
Could 2020 be the year of the wide receiver slumpbuster? It certainly looks like it.
Jerry Jeudy – Junior, Alabama – 6’1”, 195lbs.
Had Jeudy been eligible for the 2019 draft, he may have beaten Marquise Brown to the honor of first wide receiver off the board. Year two of the Tua Show in Tuscaloosa should bring more of the same for Jeudy. Despite only (only?) reeled in 68 balls in his sophomore season, Jeudy rattled off 1,315 yards – good for 19.3 yards per reception. His 14 touchdowns ranked 7th in the NCAA among pass-catchers. Heading into just his junior year, Jeudy already ranks 5th in Crimson Tide history for receiving touchdowns.
The first thing that jumps off the tape is Jeudy’s combination of Football IQ and body control. He seemingly always is in the right place at the right time. Once he’s in position, he shows ability to contort his body and get both hands onto the ball. With soft hands, he reels everything in. After completing the catch, Jeudy stays on his feet and turns upfield at an elite level with game breaking speed. Even securing catches in the endzone, he refuses to fall to the turf.
Julio Jones, Amari Cooper, Jerry Jeudy. Don’t be surprised when Jeudy joins the Crimson Tide’s list of recent Top-Ten wideouts.
Tylan Wallace – Junior, Oklahoma State – 6’0”, 185lbs
Not a single college player has been overlooked as much as Tylan Wallace. It’s not often that a wide receiver from a Power 5 conference finishes 2nd in the NCAA in receiving yards and doesn’t receive much national attention. Playing for a 7-6 Oklahoma State team will do that.
With another 86-catch, 1,491-yard, 12-touchdown season, Wallace will force his way into the spotlight.
At quarterback, Jerry Jeudy has had Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa; CeeDee Lamb has had Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Last year, Wallace had Taylor Cornelius. Wallace’s route-running opens the door for downfield passes and his hand fighting shuts it on opposing defensive backs. Wallace may not measure in at the combine as a physical freak, but he’s a destructive possession receiver with a nose for the end zone (and defensive backs).
I struggle with calling a 1,491-yard wide receiver a dark horse, but if anyone has the potential to shake up the 2020 first round wide receiver pecking order, it’s Wallace.
CeeDee Lamb – Junior, Oklahoma – 6’2”, 189lbs.
A majority of NFL wide receivers will never play with a #1 drafted quarterback during their NFL career. CeeDee Lamb has caught passes from two, Mayfield and Murray, and he’s in only his third year of his college career. Side-by-side with Jeudy’s production, Lamb’s 65 rec., 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns look tame. But, Lamb shines on the biggest stages. In the Big 12 Championship game against Texas, the sophomore posted a 8-167-1 stat line and added 8-109-1 in the College Football Playoff Semifinal against Alabama.
Lamb lives to find soft spots in the zone. It will be interesting to see defenses key in on him (lost Marquise Brown to the draft) and push him to the outside – where he also excels. Either way, Lamb weaving through traffic is a beautiful thing.
Lamb’s success, and draft stock, will be closely tied to the Sooner’s success. He figures to be a mid first round pick.
As it stands, Jerry Jeudy, Tylan Wallace, and CeeDee Lamb are in a class all by themselves. However, both of the next members of Tier One-A boast size and ability on the field. If either can find a high level of individual and team success, they might find themselves selected in the first half of Night 1 in 2020.
Tee Higgins – Junior, Clemson – 6’4”, 200lbs.
Coming from the 15-0 National Champion offense, you would think that the leading receiver would be the focal point of the offense. You would be wrong. With a passing-rushing average split of 279-249, the Clemson offense was extremely balanced. Freshman phenom Trevor Lawrence only threw for 3,280 yards, but 40% of his 30 touchdowns went to sophomore Tee Higgins.
An oversized possession receiver for the reigning champions, Higgins will get plenty of opportunities to showcase his abilities on a national stage in 2019.
Collin Johnson – Senior, Texas – 6’5”, 220lbs.
One of the best-known programs in the NCAA, the Longhorns have not had a wide receiver taken in the first round of an NFL Draft since Roy Williams was taken 7th overall by the Lions in 2004. As Texas has returned to the Top Ten rankings 2018, it may be time for Texas wide receivers to return to the forefront.
Trade Texas’s burnt orange for Texas A&M’s maroon and Johnson’s college highlights mesh seamlessly with Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ wide receiver Mike Evans. Ignore, for a minute, his 6’5 frame and his catch radius that could cover a two-car garage, Johnson has the in-air tracking and traffic-weaving ability of a 6’2” receiver.
A monster 2019 college season and Collin Johnson is in the Top 20 of every mock draft next year.