After everything that’s happened over the past six months, it’s been glorious getting updates on actually football occurring at NFL training camp updates. Life-changing really. And we’ve gotten some early buzz on a variety of rookies, most namely a handful of first-year wide receivers from loaded 2020 class.   

Now that we’ve been able to see these pass catchers on the field, it’s time to reset the position not just by overall talent but by opportunity and situation that altogether indicate how big of an impact these rookie receivers will make in 2020. 

Most fourth-round picks don’t fall into a starting role, but that very well could be what happens to Gandy-Golden in Washington. Terry McLaurin is bound to get peppered with targets from Dwayne Haskins (or Alex Smith) but with Kelvin Harmon out for the year with a torn knee ligament and Cody Latimer on the commissioner’s exempt list following an offseason arrest, AGG only has to beat out veteran Dontrelle Inman for playing time on the outside. AGG won’t separate like McLaurin of course, but he’s not a slow, stiff, 6-foot-4, 225-pounder, and his physicality will shine at the catch point.  

Skill set: Tall, deceptive athlete with an enormous catch radius and good cutting skills after the catch

2020 impact: Higgins has the most expansive catch radius in the 2020 class and is deceptive after the catch for such a large receiver. He’s on the Bengals team that’ll feature A.J. Green and has Tyler Boyd, a 1,000-yard slot wideout. There’s also John Ross and the rebounding Auden Tate in the wideout room. Higgins will make an impact because of what he provides above the rim for Joe Burrow, but there’s a heavy veteran presence in front of him. 

Skill set: Stocky, dynamic rocket who can play bigger tracking it downfield and is smooth after the catch

2020 impact: This first-round pick is lower on this list than you’d probably expect, but it’s all about the offensive philosophy in Philadelphia. The Eagles utilized “12” personnel — two tight ends — 52% of the time last season per Sharp Football Stats, by far the highest rate in the league. Sure, part of that was likely due to the lacking receiver group, but Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert are too talented to be on the sidelines for long stretches. Alshon Jeffery’s set to return this season, DeSean Jackson is back, and the Eagles drafted two other receivers outside of Reagor. Don’t forget Miles Sanders caught 50 passes a season ago too. Reagor has electric ability as a route-runner and after the catch, there’s just an abundance of mouths to feed in Philly. 

Skill set: Big, somewhat lanky slot with basketball-style releases off the line and reliable hands in any situation. 

2020 impact: Jefferson was Burrow’s go-to receiver in the immediately legendary 2019 campaign at LSU, but in watching the film, I noticed much of Jefferson’s production — and separation — came via the scheme, not him winning individually. And that’s not his fault. But I don’t think he’s as “ready” to contribute from Day 1 as 111 catches last season and being a first-round pick would normally indicate. As the immediate Stefon Diggs replacement, Jefferson is in line to get high target volume in Minnesota. That’s good. I see his relative rawness hindering the speed at which he moves the needle early.

Skill set: Large, precise route-runner lacking suddenness but will get open and come down with the football down the field. Best underneath and as an intermediate target. 

2020 impact: Philip Rivers has adored himself some large power forwards at receiver in his illustrious career, and he’s got one in his first season in Indianapolis. And Rivers loves matriculating the ball down the field. Of course, T.Y. Hilton will be the main target in this offense. We all know that. But don’t be surprised when the nuanced route running of Pittman and his chain-moving prowess leads to Rivers looking his way frequently in 2020. The Colts desperately needed a possession wideout. 

6. Henry Ruggs, Raiders

Skill set: World-class speedster with good agility, reliable hands. He’s and a threat to score anytime he doesn’t the ball.

2020 impact: What the? No. 6 for the first receiver picked in the 2020 draft? Understandable thought. Ruggs is going to play often in Las Vegas, yet I’m skeptical about truly how large of impact he’ll make in his rookie season. At Alabama, he was in a receiver room overflowing with immense talent, which needs to be considered when analyzing Ruggs’ collegiate career, but he did only catch 98 passes in three seasons with the Crimson Tide, and never reached the 50-catch mark in any year. And while the Raiders will absolutely give Ruggs every opportunity to flourish, there are ample bodies in the receiver room right now, including the next rookie wideout on this list. 

Beyond him, tight end Darren Waller returns from a year in which 117 passes were thrown his way. Tyrell Williams will get his fair share of targets, as will ultra-reliable slot wideout Hunter Renfrow who averaged nearly seven targets per game in the last six contests of 2019. And there’s running back Josh Jacobs who raised eyebrows when he was quoted recently saying his goal was to catch “at least” 60 balls in his second NFL season, per ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. Ruggs can absolutely be a West Coast Offense wideout and generate splash plays on short, horizontal routes. I just have a hunch he’ll be more of a low-volume receiver to begin his NFL career. 

Skill set: Big and chiseled, well-rounded receiver who can win in a variety of ways at any level of the field.

2020 impact: Of course, Ruggs is significantly faster and more sudden than Edwards. The former South Carolina star is more well-equipped to be a consistent option for Derek Carr in the Raiders’ offense. At 6-3 and 212 pounds with a high-caliber athleticism himself and a complete game that features sharp routes, physical rebounding, and deceptive YAC abilities and speed, Edwards will be a matchup nightmare regardless of the type of cornerback he faces. Per the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Carr heaped praise on Edwards, who’s returned from a broken foot suffered during the pre-draft process, early in camp, finishing with a comparison to Davante Adams, the star receiver Carr threw to in college at Fresno State. Edwards projects better to the perimeter than Ruggs, which should initially help him get on the field to showcase his wide-ranging talents. 

Skill set: Electric with the football in his hands and smooth off the line and as a route runner. Insane body control and strong hands down the field too. 

2020 impact: There’s no doubting it. Lamb will make an impact in Dallas as a rookie. He’s too talented not to. But he’s a little further down the list than you’d probably expect simply because of the horses in front of him, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, the latter of which coach Mike McCarthy referred to on Tuesday as “a No. 1 receiver” per David Helman of Lamb will have games in 2020 in which he outshines both Gallup and Cooper, but he’ll at least start the season as third in line for targets, and the Cowboys still want to run the football with Zeke Elliott and promising second-year back Tony Pollard. 

3. Laviska Shenault, Jaguars

Skill set: Receiver in a running back’s body with a running back’s mindset by way of his tremendous contact balance, vision, and violent cutting ability. 

2020 impact: Shenault was the ninth wideout picked in the 2020 draft, but he’s going to be one of the most impactful  rookies at his position. If he stays healthy. And, yes, that’s a big “if,” as Shenault battled injuries in each of his two seasons as a full-time contributor at Colorado. In terms of football talent, Shenault was the most impressive wideout I scouted in the 2020 class. Seriously. Humans standing 6-1 and 227 pounds should not be able to change directions the way he does, and he tracks it awesomely downfield. With Gardner Minshew dumping it down relatively often and the fact that Jacksonville will probably find themselves in holes early in games will provide Shenault with plenty of opportunities to showcase his otherworldly yards-after-the-catch talent. He’s drawn rave reviews early in camp, particularly from John Reid of 

Skill set: Good-sized burner with dynamic athletic talents to win down the field and after the catch on short routes. 

2020 impact: Aiyuk is in prime position to explode as a rookie for many reasons. He’s a part of Kyle Shanahan’s receiver-friendly offense that schemes tremendous yards-after-the-catch opportunities. George Kittle is the No. 1 receiving option in San Francisco. After him, at the time being, there’s Kendrick Bourne and not really another established and healthy target. Aiyuk didn’t run a full route tree at Arizona State but flashed freaky ability to accelerate out of his breaks when attempting to create separation. Given Aiyuk will threaten defenses with his burst and downfield speed — 40-inch vertical, 4.50 time in the 40 — he’ll make plays deep and have ample room to operate underneath with the 49ers, where he can be super dangerous too.  

Skill set: Most advanced route runner to enter the NFL in a while with impeccable releases and high-caliber long speed.

2020 impact: Jeudy will make the largest rookie-year impact at the receiver spot. He’s ready to produce immediately because (most) press coverage won’t faze him and his mature, technically-sound route running will get him open frequently against man coverage. Plus, Jeudy has 4.45 speed to win on the vertical route tree. And he’s on a team with an established No. 1 perimeter wideout in Courtland Sutton, who’ll draw the opposition’s top corner each week, yet not many other veterans guaranteed to be in line for a heavy portion of the targets from exciting second-year quarterback Drew Lock, a passer unafraid to rip it through tight windows and stretch the defense down the field.  


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