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.
Previously, I laid out the elite tier of wide receivers eligible for the 2020 draft. You can read that article here.
Questions/Comments/Hate Mail can be directed to @CKrisNorton on Twitter
Wide Receivers Tier Two
Since 2015, wide receivers drafted in the first round have…. Underwhelmed. Only Amari Cooper, who didn’t make it through his rookie contract with the Oakland Raiders, has found his way to the Pro Bowl.
Second-round wide receivers, on the other hand, have outplayed their “elite” counterparts.
Just 6.7% of first-rounders drafted since 2015 have made the Pro-Bowl; second-round products come in at 14.3% (2-14). In other words, if your team drafted a wide receiver in the second round this year, he has a 1-in-7 chance in making a Pro Bowl in his first four seasons.
For the record, if Purdue’s Rondale Moore was eligible for the draft this upcoming season he would have been this group’s headliner (if not tier 1A). Let’s move on to the prospects that will be eligible come April.
Laviska Shenault, Jr. – Junior, Colorado – 6’2”, 225 lbs.
Take two inches off Shenault’s height, drop ten pounds, and add a throwing arm and what do you have?
Former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson.
From the backfield and shallow downfield, Shenault’s vision is elite. He’s a one-man bubble screen army.
However, with a majority of Shenaults targets coming within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, he’s well behind many of his 2020 class members when it comes to the deep ball. This isn’t to say that he can’t create separation or find the ball downfield, he just hasn’t had the opportunity. While Shenault’s talent is unquestionable, his combination of body type and skillset may scare away or puzzle some NFL scouts.
As far as his school’s history goes, this 1,226-yard and 11-touchdowns receiver will be fighting an uphill battle. Since Doug Baldwin went undrafted in 2011, only one other PAC 10 wide receiver has earned a Pro Bowl nod (Juju Smith-Schuster).
The first round talent may be able to work himself into Tier 1 and more importantly the first round, but Shenault has his work cut out for him.
Henry Ruggs III – Junior, Alabama – 6’0”, 183 lbs.
Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III form what is unquestionably the most daunting 1-2 wide receiver punch in the NCAA. Ruggs’ game is predicated on speed, but it’s his hands, concentration, and willingness to give up his body that shone on tape.
That extra effort pushes Ruggs into the endzone. Often. Despite only 46 receptions, Ruggs totaled 741 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Yet with any powerhouse 1-2 combination, a give-and-take relationship is present. The same attention that Jerry Jeudy commands from opposing DB’s to give Ruggs an open field, takes away both the eyes of NFL scouts and Ruggs’ hopes for an opening round selection.
Critics of Ruggs, if he has any, will point out his habit of pulling disappearing acts in meaningful games. Aside from a stellar touchdown catch in the College Football Playoff semifinal game against Oklahoma, Ruggs finished with just 3 receptions for 14 yards and said touchdown. On the largest NCAA stage – the CFP Championship against Clemson – Ruggs caught a single ball for 3 yards.
Ruggs seems to be firmly entrenched in second tier, and second round, territory.
K.J. Hill – Senior, Ohio State – 6’0”, 194 lbs.
K.J. may not be relegated to Tier 2 for very long. With as much attention as has been paid to the top end talent of this class, Hill has flown out under the radar. So far.
For what it’s worth, Hill is my sleeper for this point in the year.
With Parris Campbell (Colts) and Terry McLaurin (Washington) departed, Hill is the heir apparent at the WR1 position. Ohio State has seen a wide receiver drafted in the first two rounds in four out of the past five seasons. Hill will make it five out of six.
Without being the lead man, Hill compiled 70 receptions, 885 yards and six touchdowns. As the focal point of the passing offense, Hill can easily lift himself into the first tier in 2019-20.
Tyler Johnson – Junior, Minnesota – 6’2”, 200 lbs.
While we’re on the subject of off-the-radar guys, how about a football player in Minnesota?
Johnson will not get the national exposure that many of the preceding receivers in both Tier One and Tier Two; but he will have his fair share of opportunities to shine on a national level. The Gophers are slated to face Purdue, Penn State, Iowa, and Wisconsin this upcoming season. Making the most of those outings will go a long way in cementing himself within the first two tiers, and the first few rounds of next years NFL Draft.
From the NCAA to the NFL, separation translates. Johnson has it in spades. The senior receiver is seemingly 2-3 yards open every time the ball is in the air.
This leads to startling consistency. With the exception of a 2-catch, 12-yard stinker against Maryland, Johnson finished each of the other 12 games with more than 4 catches and over 50 receiving yards.