INDIANAPOLIS –Daniel Jeremiah, lead draft analyst for NFL Network, said he had 27 wide receivers with grades in the top three rounds heading into the Scouting Combine. To put that in perspective, an average of 31 receivers are taken each year across all seven rounds.
With this perhaps the best class in a generation, each receiver is out to prove he is king of Indianapolis. Before they can show it on the field later in the week, they made their cases with their words on Tuesday. Along with quarterbacks and tight ends, it was media day for the wideouts.
Here is what each said about what sets him apart from the others:
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (No. 9 overall on Jeremiah's top 50 prospect ranking)
Bio: Ranks first at OU with 24 career catches of at least 40 yards and with six career games of at least 160 receiving yards. Second in career receiving TDs (32), third in career receiving yards (3,292) and career 100-yard receiving games (14), sixth in career receptions (173) and 15th in career all-purpose yards (3,799). His 19.0 yards per catch is highest average in school history among players with at least 130 receptions. Scored touchdowns by receiving, passing and rushing in his career.
What separates him: "I'm willing to my body on the line each and every day at practice. Any organization, I'm willing to give my all no matter who it is. I'm definitely always working to be the best."
What he wants to prove at the combine: "Creating separation consistently. Once I get that down, I feel like I'll be the receiver that I want to be – if not more."
Jeremiah's take: "Lamb is a tall, lean wideout with top-tier hands, toughness and production. He lines up inside and outside. He is a smooth, fluid route runner and understands how to set up cornerbacks. He also has a good feel in zone. He attacks the ball when working back to the quarterback and tracks the ball naturally down the field. Lamb doesn't have elite speed, but he can find some extra juice when the ball is in the air. He is at his best after the catch, as he consistently breaks tackles and is also very elusive. Overall, Lamb is a polished player who is equally explosive and reliable."
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (No. 10)
Bio: Recorded 26 career touchdown receptions to rank second all-time in Alabama history, behind only Amari Cooper's 31 from 2012-14. Ranks fourth on the Crimson Tide's career receiving yards list with 2,742 yards on 159 catches (fifth all-time). Averaged 17.2 yards per catch for his career, a number that is second in Alabama records behind only Ozzie Newsome's 20.3.
What separates him: "There are some things we do different," Jeudy said. "I don't really like to compare myself to other players but I feel I can do it all. I can play inside, I can play outside. I know how to sit in zones and find ways to get open. … It's very humbling really, being named one of the top receivers in the class, among all these great receivers. there's a lot of great receivers in this class. Very humbling."
What he wants to prove at the combine: "I need to work on my strength and getting stronger, in this league they got bigger opponents, bigger defenders, I need to be able to get off the jam and make the blocks I need to make."
Jeremiah's take: "Jeudy is an elite route runner with outstanding burst, body control and awareness. He explodes off the line and uses his quickness to avoid press coverage. His snap at the top of the route is as good as any prospect in the last decade. He has the ability to make plays outside of his frame, but he will have some concentration lapses, which lead to drops. After the catch, he is very slippery and elusive, although he isn't going to break a lot of tackles. Overall, Jeudy is a loose athlete with elite route skills and he should emerge as a high-volume production guy very early in his career."
Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (No. 11)
Bio: Finished his time with the Crimson Tide ranked third on Alabama's career touchdown receptions list with 24. Averaged 17.5 yards per catch across his three seasons, good for sixth on the UA career list (minimum 50 catches). Owned the team-long rush (75 yards) and the second-longest reception (81 yards) in 2019.
What separates him: "I feel like I bring everything. I'm a playmaker. I don't just pride myself on just speed. I want to be a guy can do everything on the field. I get downfield to block for my teammates, just as they do the same for me. I play without the ball, and with the ball in my hands I can make a play."
What he wants to prove at the combine: "I'm trying to hit the lowest ever [time in the 40-yard dash], so 4.22 or lower."
Jeremiah's take: "Ruggs has an unbelievable blend of speed and toughness. He lines up outside and in the slot. He ran a lot of slants and take-off routes in Alabama's offense -- and he was special on both. Ruggs boasts world-class speed -- he truly explodes off the line and after the catch. He needs to continue to refine his releases against press (he gives up his chest too often), but not many defenses will want to take that chance against his speed. His hands are good not great and he does allow too many balls into his chest. After the catch, he runs away from most defenders while occasionally running through them. He is outstanding on jet sweeps and also has kick-return value. Overall, Ruggs has Tyreek Hill-type ability. He will be a matchup nightmare every week.
Justin Jefferson, LSU (No. 16)
Bio: Set CFP Semifinal game records for receptions (14), receiving yards (227), receiving yards in a half (186), and receiving TDs (4). His 111 receptions in 2019 are a school-record and the third-highest total in SEC history. After not catching a pass as a freshman, ranks No. 3 in LSU history in receiving TDs, No. 6 in receptions and No. 8 in receiving yards.
What separates him: "Just my ability to get in and out of routes, I'm very versatile. I can do slot and outside. Just being able to play different positions on the field."
What he wants to prove at the combine: "Just show the coaches that I'm capable of being the best receiver, just doing every drill 100 percent, getting on the board and showing them that I'm a smart receiver. Just being the best receiver on and off the field."
Jeremiah's take: "Jefferson is a tall, slender wideout with off-the-charts production. He lines up in the slot and out wide. He is an outstanding route runner. He does a nice job getting on the toes of cornerbacks and then creating separation out of the break point. He does a lot of work in traffic and will extend and finish before taking hard contact. He can play above the rim down the field and can contort his body to make special catches. He doesn't have elite speed, but he's plenty fast enough. After the catch, he has some wiggle and will fight for extra yards. Overall, Jefferson is a polished receiver and should make an immediate impact at the next level."
Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State (No. 20)
Bio: Transferred from Sierra College for the 2018 season. Picked up third-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 honors after leading the Sun Devils with 65 receptions for 1,192 yards (18.3 per) and eight scores in junior season. One of the top returners in the country (14 returns, 226 yards, 16.1 average, one touchdown on punts; 14 returns, 446 yards, 31.9 average on kickoffs).
What separates him: "I talked to the coaches [during club interviews] and told them I wanted to play in the slot a little bit more this season because that adds value, versatility, being able to play outside and inside. Being able to run the routes from the slot, not everybody can do that. Not everybody can go from outside to inside and inside to outside."
What he wants to prove at the combine: "Coming from junior college, there is a lot of one-on-one football. You don't really have to identify coverages. You don't really have to do much. You just have to beat the guy in front of you. When I first got to Arizona State, that was a little bit different for me, having to identify stuff at the snap. I think that was one of the hugest parts I wanted to take the offseason before my senior season. That was probably my biggest area of improvement."
Jeremiah's take: "Aiyuk is one of my favorite players in the draft class. He has a solid, muscular frame and plays an aggressive brand of football. He is explosive in his release and he attacks the leverage of cornerbacks before suddenly snapping off his route. Aiyuk doesn't run a wide variety of routes, but he's very efficient and effective. He has strong hands and can finish in traffic. He is at his best after the catch, breaking tackles and making people miss without gearing down. Those skills serve him well as a returner, too. Overall, Aiyuk will need a little time to develop as a complete route runner, but he's a tough, explosive playmaker with added special teams value."
Laviska Shenault, Colorado (No. 24)
Bio: Led FBS with 9.6 receptions per game and ranked fourth in the country with 112.3 receiving yards per contest in 2018. Also scored on five of 17 rushes on the year, making him the only player in the country to have five rushing and receiving touchdowns.
What separates him: "I think my size will transition well. I think I'm just going to be able to outplay a lot of people with my size. … I think my versatility is a good thing. Like I said, I don't want to be in one spot. Then, I wouldn't get that many balls or attempts. I want to be able to mover everywhere. I want to be able to create mismatches everywhere on the field."
What he wants to prove at the combine: "I think my speed, how fast I can run. I think it will be a satisfying time, we'll see."
Jeremiah's take: "Shenault is arguably the best athlete in the entire draft class. He is tall with a thick, muscular build. He lined up everywhere in Colorado's offense -- out wide, in the slot, at running back and he even took snaps as a Wildcat quarterback. Shenault isn't a nuanced route runner, but he is a monster with the ball in his hands. He excels on quick hitters, fly sweeps and vertical routes. He has strong hands and his transition into a running back is immediate after the catch. He steps through tacklers and has a burst to finish. He is very competitive. Overall, Shenault will need time to develop into a fully polished wideout, but he can have an immediate impact for a creative offensive coordinator. He's too big, strong and fast to not contribute. His drafting team just has to figure it out."
Tee Higgins, Clemson (No. 30)
Bio: Finished his three-year career from 2017-19 with 135 career receptions for 2,448 yards with 27 receiving touchdowns over 1,279 snaps in 43 games (30 starts). His 27 receiving touchdowns entering bowl season were tied for the most in school history with DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins and tied for ninth-most in ACC history. Departed as the only player in school history to record double-digit touchdown receptions in consecutive seasons.
What separates him: "I feel like I'm going to bring that positive energy to the locker room, obviously I'm a tall receiver and I'm going to win a 50-50 ball, 80-20 my way. … I feel like I'm the No. 1 guy, I feel like I can go to a team and immediately impact that team and help that team get to the Super Bowl."
What he wants to prove at the combine: "Definitely a full route tree because I was limited on my routes but really just becoming a pro football player, I'm obviously not a pro yet but hopefully that day will come. Just something I'm going to have to work on, every receiver is going to have to run a full route tree eventually. A lot of people thought I was a slow tall guy, but the film speaks for itself, I'm not slow, I'm a tall guy that's got great speed."
Jeremiah's take: "Higgins is a tall, long and rangy wideout with elite high-point skills. He uses a quick foot fire to defeat press coverage. He is a smooth, long-striding route runner. He is at his best when on the move: slants, posts and go routes. He lacks snap at the top of his route when working back downhill. He has incredible ball skills down the field. He can elevate and also adjust to the back-shoulder ball. After the catch, he is very smooth and slippery. Overall, Higgins isn't going to do a lot of the dirty work in the middle of the field, but he's very effective on the outside and provides big-play ability."
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