The first-ever virtual NFL Draft wrapped up over the weekend. In our Veteran Market Watch, Joe Dolan and I already broke down which players saw their stock rise and which players saw their stock fall for the upcoming season based on this year’s selections. Now that the dust has settled a bit, it’s time to examine this year’s draft class for the 2020 fantasy season.
Based on pre-draft expectations, let’s see which fantasy rookies are looking better and which rookies are looking worse for the upcoming season. I’m primarily focusing on playing opportunities and a player’s supporting cast to determine if I’m feeling better or worse about each prospect for the 2020 fantasy season.
Based on pre-draft expectations, rookies that I’m more optimistic about for the 2020 fantasy season because of potential playing opportunities and/or a strong supporting cast.
CeeDee Lamb (Dal)
Selected: 17th overall, WR3
Competition: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup
Available Targets: 190 (2nd-most)
I initially disliked Lamb’s fantasy landing spot like seemingly everyone else, but I’ve warmed up to Lamb in the Cowboys offense in the days after the draft. The Cowboys vacated the second-most targets (190) from last season, and they didn’t add a single receiver outside of Lamb this off-season. Former slot WR Randall Cobb and TE Jason Witten each vacated 83 targets each. Lamb and Amari Cooper figure to split up the workload in the slot this season, and Lamb is a major upgrade over Cobb. The former Oklahoma WR averaged an absolutely silly 6.11 yards per route run out of the slot last season. He also led this year’s draft class in yards per target (15.1), and he finished behind only Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk in yards after the catch with 10.7.
The Cowboys now have the league’s most formidable trio at WR between Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup. Our Greg Cosell didn’t see Lamb as an X receiver at the next level, but he’ll be able to focus on playing the slot and the Z with Gallup primarily handling the X. Lamb should routinely face softer coverage than his fellow receivers. He’ll be in a battle for touches in an offense that also features Ezekiel Elliott, but at least it will be in one of the league’s premier offenses. The Cowboys finished first in total offense (431.5 yards per game), second in passing yards per game (296.9), and sixth in scoring offense (27.1 points per game) last season. Both Cooper and Gallup battled knee issues during the 2019 season, as well, and we all know about Coop’s propensity to disappear multiple times a year against tough competition — he fell below seven fantasy points five times last season. Lamb is my top rookie WR for the 2020 season heading into the summer, and he has a path to 100+ targets this season — D.K. Metcalf was the only rookie WR to reach the mark last season. I’ll be drafting Lamb as an upside WR4 hopefully outside the top-100 picks with his stock dropping a bit.
Justin Jefferson (Min)
- Selected: 22nd overall, WR5
- Competition: Adam Thielen
- Available Targets: 110 (14th-most)
The Vikings created a huge void in their passing game when they traded Stefon Diggs to the Bills near the start of free agency. Buffalo sent multiple picks back in return for stud WR, and the Vikings used the Bills’ first-round pick to select Diggs’ replacement in LSU’s Jefferson. Jefferson has excellent timed-speed (4.41), and he led the nation with 38 catches of 15+ yards last season (per PFF). Jefferson finished with a ridiculous 111/1540/18 receiving as a 20-year-old junior last season in LSU’s nation-best offense. Our guy Greg Cosell said Jefferson is effective in the middle of the field in the short and intermediate levels, but he wondered if he could consistently win in man coverage and when working on the outside. Jefferson ran a whopping 98.5% of his routes from the slot (575-of-583) last season, and he averaged 2.64 yards per slot route run and he had an 83% catch rate (per PFF).
Jefferson landed in a passing game that’s devoid of a #2 receiving option behind Adam Thielen, who spent the second half of last season primarily on the shelf with a hamstring injury. Diggs left behind a massive hole in Minnesota, opening up 30% of the receiving yards and 20% of the receptions from last year’s Vikings offense. The Vikings had just Olabisi Johnson and Tajae Sharpe behind Thielen earlier this off-season before they added Jefferson on Day One of the draft. Minnesota will be one of the run-heaviest teams this season after they attempted the third-fewest passes per game last season (29.2), but Gary Kubiak consistently coaches offenses that score plenty of points. His offenses have finished in the top-10 in points scored in 11 of his 12 seasons as an offensive coordinator. Jefferson will have to play on the perimeter a lot more than he did at LSU, which is a bit of a concern since the Vikings will be among the league leaders in two-TE sets. He dominated as a puppy at LSU last season, and he landed in an offense in which he could average 6-to-8 targets per game. Jefferson has the potential to be a solid WR4 option in PPR formats, and he has some ceiling potential if Thielen continues to struggle with his soft-tissue issues in his first season in his 30s.
Michael Pittman (Ind)
- Selected: 34th overall, WR8
- Competition: T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell, Zach Pascal
- Available Targets: 145 (seventh-most)
GM Chris Ballard was building a roster for Andrew Luck to make a 2020 Super Bowl run, but those plans changed when he retired last August. The Colts moved on to their second QB since Luck’s retirement when they signed Philip Rivers this March, and Ballard made sure they left this year’s draft with a couple of pro-ready weapons in Pittman and RB Jonathan Taylor for the veteran QB. Rivers loves to feed his favorite receivers, and he may have got his new Keenan Allen after the Colts drafted Pittman to be his new big possession receiver. Colts HC Frank Reich loved Pittman's college tape and compared him to Vincent Jackson. Our guy Greg Cosell compared Pittman’s size (6’4”, 220 pounds) to Mike Evans and his competitiveness to Michael Thomas. That’s pretty good company to be included with. Greg projected Pittman to primarily play as an X receiver, but he believes he can play the Z and in the slot. Pittman steadily improved during his four seasons at USC, culminating in his senior season when he erupted for 101/1275/11 receiving in Graham Harrell’s new Air Raid offense.
Pittman steps into an offense that didn’t have a single receiver reach 50+ catches or 625+ receiving yards last season playing with Jacoby Brissett. T.Y. Hilton has been the top option in this offense for the last seven seasons, but a multitude of small injuries may have him on the downside of his career as he enters his first full season in his 30s. The Colts are going to run the rock a ton with Taylor in the fold behind one of the best O-lines, and Pittman should endear himself quickly as a big, competitive run blocker. Pittman should slot into the X-receiver spot in this offense with Hilton and Parris Campbell splitting time at Z and in the slot. Pittman isn’t going to blow away defenders with his explosiveness, but he’s a big receiver that runs routes like a smaller receiver, which should quickly make him a favorite for Rivers. Pittman will enter the summer as a WR5 option with some upside potential in PPR formats if he quickly turns into Rivers’ go-to receiver in a relatively thin receiving corps.
Jalen Reagor (Phi)
- Selected: 21st overall, WR4
- Competition: DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Greg Ward, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside
- Available Targets: 128 (10th-most)
GM Howie Roseman and HC Doug Pederson went to work on their league-worst WR depth chart from last season, which saw the Eagles rolling with Greg Ward and Robert Davis as their top receivers in the Wild Card Round. Most mock drafts projected the Eagles to select LSU WR Justin Jefferson, but they passed on the primary slot receiver to take the more dynamic weapon in Jalen Reagor. The TCU receiver is a bit on the smaller side (5’11”, 206 pounds), but he makes up for it with 4.47-speed and a 42-inch vertical. Reagor’s production plummeted from the 2018 season (72/1061/9 receiving) to the 2019 season (43/611/5) because of a disastrous quarterback situation as a junior. According to our guy Graham Barfield, Reagor saw a catchable pass just 31% of the time last time — K.J. Hamler was the next closest receiver in the class at 42%. Our guy Greg Cosell called Reagor a nuanced route runner who can line up all over the formation and who can make plays at all three levels of the field.
The Eagles totally revamped their WR depth chart by adding speed, speed, and more speed during the draft. They selected Reagor (4.47 speed), Boise State’s John Hightower (4.43), and Southern Miss’ Quez Watkins (4.35), while trading for Olympic long jumper Marquise Goodwin (4.27). When he’s available to play, the Eagles already had one of the most dynamic downfield weapons in DeSean Jackson (4.35). I love the spot for Reagor in a WR depth chart that doesn’t have a #1 WR with Alshon Jeffery falling off a cliff. I am worried about the Eagles using a rotation with all their speedy WRs, and the Eagles will be near the top of the league in two-TE sets. Ball-hog TEs Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert also combined for 222 targets last season. I’m lower on Reagor for 2020 than the rest of our staff (he’s my rookie WR5) because I don’t see him coming in and commanding a massive target share right out of the gate. With that said, I have no problems selecting Reagor aggressively as a WR5 in re-drafts for the 2020 season. He may have the most upside potential of this year’s rookie WRs if he can quickly become the #1 WR in an offense that’s clearly going to take more shots downfield.
Denzel Mims (NYJ)
- Selected: 59th overall, WR13
- Competition: Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson
- Available Targets: 183 (third-most)
GM Joe Douglas had a successful first draft, surrounding his franchise QB Sam Darnold with a big-time tackle (Mekhi Becton) and a potential game-changing WR (Mims) with the Jets’ first two picks. The 22-year-old Baylor WR blew up the Combine with his athletic testing. At 6’3”, 207 pounds, Mims ran a 4.38 40-time, and he posted a WR-best three-cone drill (6.66 seconds). He fell to the final picks of the second round because of the depth of this year’s WR class. Mims was the 13th WR selected despite being projected in the first round quite a bit before the draft. Our guy Greg Cosell said no other receiver in this year’s class made more tough catches than Mims, and he made plays along the boundary and in the middle of the field. He finished his Baylor career with two different seasons with 60+ catches and 1000+ receiving yards, and he averaged 15.7 YPR over his four-year career.
Mims may have been the 13th WR selected in this year’s draft, but he has a legitimate chance to finish as a top-five rookie fantasy WR. Heck, Mims is even the 10th-favorite to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year next year at +2000, ahead of 10 of the receivers who were drafted ahead of him. Only CeeDee Lamb (+1500), Jerry Jeudy (+1500), and Henry Ruggs (+1800) have shorter odds than Mims to OROY honors. Cosell projected Mims as more of a Z receiver in the NFL, which is exactly what he’ll play in this Jets offense with Breshad Perriman handling the X duties and Jamison Crowder lining up in the slot. Robby Anderson left behind 96 targets and 52/779/5 receiving from last season, and Mims could step into quite a bit of that work if he’s ready to play. Crowder is coming off a career year and Perriman isn’t a proven commodity after his five-game breakout at the end of last season. Mims is looking like boom-or-bust WR5 option in fantasy drafts this summer, and he’ll be helped if Darnold takes a big step forward after an uneven sophomore season because of his mononucleosis.
Brandon Aiyuk (SF)
- Selected: 25th overall, WR6
- Competition: Deebo Samuel, Jalen Hurd, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Trent Taylor
- Available Targets: 98 (18th-most)
QB Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t going to have a lot of work to do this playing with the All-YAC Team. HC Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch clearly have a player type they’re looking for when they draft receivers, and they swapped three picks to move up six spots to draft Aiyuk. They had two of the nastiest receivers after the catch in WR Deebo Samuel and TE George Kittle last season. Deebo ranked second (8.5 YAC per reception) and Kittle ranked fourth (7.3) among all receivers with 50+ targets last season. Somehow the 49ers receiving corps got even nastier after the catch when they selected Arizona State’s Aiyuk 25th overall. According to our guy Graham Barfield, Aiyuk led this year’s WR class in yards after the catch with 10.9 per reception. Greg Cosell’s described Aiyuk as a well-built, explosive receiver who can line up all over the formation and be deployed in multiple ways, which sounds eerily similar to Deebo’s profile coming out of South Carolina last season. He checks in at 6’1”, 206 pounds with 4.5-speed, and he’s coming off a senior campaign in which he posted 65/1192/8 receiving (18.3 YPR).
Deebo is the only WR guaranteed to get consistent work behind Kittle in this passing game this season, and Aiyuk will be competing with a host of secondary options for a consistent weekly workload. Aiyuk could step into some of Emmanuel Sanders’ role from the end of last season, which will have him working as a vertical threat and as a weapon at all three levels of the field. With Samuel serving as the #1 WR for Jimmy G at the end of the season, former #2 WR Sanders averaged just 4.7 targets per game in his 13 regular season and postseason games. The 49ers are likely to stick with their run-heavy approach — the 49ers attempted the second-fewest passes per game last season (28.2) — I see Aiyuk making a bigger impact in real life than for fantasy like Sanders. Kittle and Deebo should get their weekly touches each week, but Aiyuk will likely be a volatile option as a late-round fantasy option.
Tee Higgins (Cin)
Selected: 33rd overall, WR7
Competition: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross
Available Targets: 64 (23rd-most)
The Bengals got their quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick, and they made the new face of the franchise happy by selecting Higgins with the first overall pick of the second round. Higgins has some similarities to his new teammate A.J. Green with his length and huge catch radius, and the Bengals once paired Green with Andy Dalton in the same draft back in 2011. The Bengals hope they can get another successful 10-year run with their new franchise QB and WR. Higgins helped Clemson to a national title in 2018, and he ended his three-year college career with 59 catches in each of his last two seasons for a combined 2103 yards and 25 TDs. He fell into the top of the second round after a dreadful Pro Day, posting an ugly 31-inch vertical and 4.54 40-time at 6’4”, 216 pounds. Our guy Greg Cosell believed Higgins can play both outside and in the slot with his size, movement, and contested-catch ability — he took the vast majority of his snaps on the perimeter at Clemson.
Selecting Higgins made a lot of sense for the Bengals since both Green and John Ross could be gone after the 2020 season. Higgins’ main competition to get on the field in three-WR sets will be Ross, and The Athletic’s Cincinnati beat writer Jay Morrison believes Higgins will open the year as a starter over Ross. Higgins will be a late-round fantasy selection this summer because he has to contend with two potential ball hogs in Green and Tyler Boyd. He’ll also have to compete with Ross for targets and playing time, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Higgins begins to surge in the second half of the year if he develops a rapport with his fellow rookie Burrow. Higgins should at least see fantasy’s most valuable targets in the end zone and down the field as a rookie.
Antonio Gandy-Golden (Was)
- Selected: 142nd overall, WR17
- Competition: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon, Cody Latimer
- Available Targets: 134 (9th-most)
The odds are a bit stacked against Gandy-Golden ever making a huge impact as a fourth-round pick out of a small school like Liberty, but AGG at least landed in one of the thinnest WR corps for potential upward movement. Our Greg Cosell believes Gandy-Golden has the physical traits to be a physical mismatch as a boundary X receiver or as a big slot receiver. He checked in at 6’4”, 223 pounds at the Combine, but he ran a 4.6 40-time and he had a sluggish 4.55-second 20-yard shuttle. Gandy-Golden dominated against lesser competition the last two seasons, averaging 16.2 YPR and posting 70+ catches and 1000+ yards in each campaign.
The Redskins have only one surefire option at receiver heading into the season in Terry McLaurin. The old regime drafted Kelvin Harmon last season, and the new regime, under HC Ron Rivera, signed former Giants WR Cody Latimer this off-season. Harmon and Latimer will be the primary competition for Gandy-Golden in training camp this summer, which isn’t the most formidable group to overtake. AGG won’t be on the re-draft radar this summer unless he tears it up in the preseason, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he becomes a waiver-wire option if he’s given a chance to play. The biggest problem is the Redskins could have one of the worst passing attacks this season with second-year QB Dwayne Haskins at the helm. It’s difficult to envision a consistent weekly fantasy performer emerging from this passing attack outside of McLaurin.
Based on pre-draft expectations, rookies that I’m less optimistic about for the 2020 fantasy season because of a lack of playing opportunities and/or a weak supporting cast.
Henry Ruggs (LV)
- Selected: 12th overall WR1
- Competition: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards
- Available Targets: 56 (28th-most)
Al Davis must still be making picks from “The Black Hole.” The Raiders made the #3 Alabama WR from last season the #1 WR selected in the 2020 draft. Ruggs finished behind Jerry Jeudy and 2021 WR prospect Devonta Smith on the Alabama receiving leaderboards, but the Raiders desperately wanted his unique speed (4.27 40-time) and explosiveness (42-inch vertical). Las Vegas’ receiving corps went down the tubes last season after Antonio Brown went off the deep end so the Raiders used three of their first four picks to help this passing attack. Our Greg Cosell called Ruggs the most explosive WR he’s seen in recent years because of his short-area burst and his easy acceleration. The 21-year-old WR isn’t just a deep threat coming into the league. He lined up all over the formation and he worked all three levels of the field as a receiver. The Raiders are banking on Ruggs having some untapped potential after topping out as a sophomore in 2018 with 46/741/11 receiving.
Las Vegas’s depth chart was shallow heading into the draft with perimeter receiver Tyrell Williams and slot WR Hunter Renfrow leading the way. The Raiders revamped the group by taking Ruggs as the first WR before selecting Kentucky athlete Lynn Bowden and South Carolina WR Bryan Edwards with consecutive picks at 80th and 81st overall. Ruggs will primarily be the team’s Z receiver, and he’s the only Raiders WR guaranteed to see significant snaps and targets. Edwards and Williams will likely be competing for snaps at the X-receiver spot with Renfrow and Nelson Agholor battling in the slot. The Raiders will look to get Ruggs involved in a number of different ways, but HC Jon Gruden will need to get his conservative QBs to pull the trigger more downfield this season. Both Derek Carr (9.4%) and Marcus Mariota (8.8%) finished near the bottom of the league in 20+ yards attempts last season. Ruggs landed in a good spot to see immediate targets, but his quarterback situation will make him a volatile weekly performer in the WR4/5 range.
Jerry Jeudy (Den)
- Selected: 15th overall, WR2
- Competition: Courland Sutton, K.J. Hamler
- Available Targets: 58 (26th-most)
The Chiefs started an offensive arms race in the AFC West, and the Broncos used their 2020 draft trying to catch up. The Broncos, unfortunately, have Drew Lock leading their offense and not Patrick Mahomes, but they’re doing their best to give him a chance to succeed as a second-year player. Lock already had two ascending young receivers in WR Courtland Sutton and TE Noah Fant before the Broncos snatched Greg Cosell’s favorite WR prospect in Jeudy. The Broncos were reportedly looking to trade up from #15 to draft Jeudy, but concerns about his knee may have enabled him to slide to the Broncos. Cosell saw similarities between Jeudy and the likes of Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham because of his route running and his complete skill set. Jeudy won at all three levels of the field, and he played all over the formation at Alabama. He totaled 145/2478/24 receiving the last two seasons playing against the highest level of FBS competition at 19 and 20 years old.
The Broncos used their next pick on yet another WR, drafting Penn State’s K.J. Hamler 46th overall to round out their new WR corps. Hamler brings blazing speed and big-play ability with the ball in his hands, which gives Lock four playmakers at receiver now. Jeudy figures to primarily be the Z receiver while Sutton mans the X spot and Hamler works out of the slot. Jeudy will likely step in behind Sutton as the #2 receiving option in this offense, but Jeudy’s potential this season will be capped by Lock unless he takes a huge leap in his second season. Lock topped 210+ passing yards and 6.5 YPA in just one of his five starts to close out last season, but he will have a better cast of receivers and another year of development. Jeudy has the potential to be a WR1 in the near future, but he’ll be a WR4 entering the summer as he competes for targets with Sutton and Fant from a developing young QB (i.e. one of the worst QBs).
Laviska Shenault (Jax)
- Selected: 42nd overall, WR9
- Competition: D.J. Chark, Chris Conley, Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole
- Available Targets: 52 (31st-most)
The Jaguars drafted one of the most fascinating WR prospects in this year’s draft in Shenault. Colorado used him more like a running back playing at WR, generating touches for him any way they possibly could despite having an NFL-caliber QB in Steven Montez (a Redskins UDFA signee). I see a lot of Cordarrelle Patterson in his game, which isn’t exactly the kind of comparison Jaguars fans want to hear. Shenault was at his best with the ball in his hands, and the Buffalos threw plenty of passes to him around the line of scrimmage, they gave him carries, and they even lined him up in the Wildcat at the goal line. Shenault’s production cratered in 11 games as a junior last season (79/925/6 scrimmage) after dominating in just nine games as a sophomore (103/1126/11). Greg Cosell called him one of the most versatile WRs in this year’s class with the physical traits to play all over the formation, but he needs refinement to become a more complete receiver.
The Jaguars lost the second-fewest targets this off-season (52), but Shenault should still see the field early as a rookie. Third-year WR D.J. Chark is locked into his role at receiver, leaving Shenault to battle with Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, and Keelan Cole for playing opportunities. Those three WRs will also be free agents at the end of this season so Shenault has a chance to quickly lock himself up at the top of the depth chart, but the Jaguars also have an uncertain future with Doug Marrone looking like a potential lame-duck coach. The QB situation could also be up in the air in the future depending on how Gardner Minshew does in his one-year audition to become the team’s full-time QB. Shenault is worthy of just a late-round flier in re-drafts this summer as a sporadic producer in Year One. Westbrook and Conley aren’t exactly studs ahead of Shenault this season, but they will keep him off the field some in what could be one of the league’s worst offenses.
K.J. Hamler (Den)
- Selected: 46th overall, WR10
- Competition: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy
- Available Targets: 58 (26th-most)
The Broncos and the Raiders spent their drafts trying to catch up to the Chiefs in terms of offensive weapons, which included Denver taking two wide receivers with their first two picks. The Broncos drafted Greg Cosell’s favorite WR prospect in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy at #15 before selecting Penn State burner Hamler in the next round. Hamler brings blazing speed and big-play ability with the ball in his hands, which gives second-year QB Drew Lock four playmakers at receiver now. Hamler, who will turn 21 in July, comes in a pint-sized package (5’9”, 178 pounds), but he posted major production at Penn State, finishing with 98/1658/13 receiving in just two seasons. Hamler can take it to the house when he’s out in space, but he needs to improve as a receiver in traffic and he had far too many drops passes (nine last season) during his college career.
Hamler figures to work primarily out of the slot next season with Jeudy handling the Z-receiver spot and Sutton playing at the X. Hamler will likely slot in as the #4 receiving option in this offense that also features 2019 first-round TE Noah Fant, and the Broncos will also be feeding touches to RBs Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay. Hamler’s 2020 prospects aren’t looking great unless there’s an injury in front of him and unless Lock takes a huge leap in his second season. Hamler will start the summer of the fantasy radar unless you’re playing drafting in leagues that go deep into the roster pool.
Bryan Edwards (LV)
- Selected: 81st overall, WR14
- Competition: Henry Ruggs, Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Nelson Agholor, Zay Jones
- Available Targets: 56 (28th overall)
The Raiders weren’t letting last year’s debacle at wide receiver happen again this season. Las Vegas’ receiving corps went down the tubes after Antonio Brown went off the deep end last season so the Raiders used three of their first four picks to help this passing attack. Edwards was a major contributor during all four of his seasons at South Carolina, and he finished his career with 234/3045/22 receiving. His 234 catches rank third in SEC history while his 3045 receiving yards rank fourth. He didn’t work out at the Combine because of a broken foot this winter, and some injury concerns likely pushed him down in the draft. Edwards played all over the field at South Carolina, and he showed the ability to make plays downfield and after the catch.
Las Vegas’s depth chart wasn’t too deep heading into the draft with Tyrell Williams and slot WR Hunter Renfrow leading the way. The Raiders revamped the group by taking the first WR off the board in Alabama speedster Henry Ruggs before landing Kentucky athlete Lynn Bowden and Edwards with consecutive picks at 80th and 81st overall — Bowden will likely be used primarily as a gadget player in this offense. Ruggs is the only WR guaranteed to see significant snaps and targets, leaving Edwards and the rest of these receivers to battle it out for playing time next season. Edwards and Williams will likely be competing for snaps at the X-receiver spot with Ruggs primarily playing the Z and Renfrow and Nelson Agholor playing in the slot. I like Edwards’ chances of earning a top-three WR role next season, but I’m not excited about owning secondary options behind Darren Waller and Ruggs in what should be one of the league’s weaker passing attacks led by Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota.
Chase Claypool (Pit)
- Selected: 49th overall, WR11
- Competition: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington
- Available Targets: 53 (29th-most)
The Steelers have quite the track record of success drafting WRs after the first round since they took Mike Wallace in the third round back in 2009. The Steelers surprised many by selecting Norte Dame’s Claypool 49th overall, and they’re hoping they landed their next stud in Claypool. He’s so massive at 6’4”, 238 pounds that many evaluators believed he may transition to tight end in the NFL, but he put those thoughts to rest when he ran a blazing 4.42 40-time at the Combine — OC Randy Fichtner confirmed he’ll play receiver in Pittsburgh. Claypool improved every season with the Fighting Irish, culminating in a dominant senior campaign in which he posted 66/1037/13 receiving.
Claypool’s size and athleticism on the perimeter will remind Ben Roethlisberger of former downfield and red-zone threat Martavis Bryant. Claypool’s selection is good news for JuJu Smith-Schuster who figures to play mostly from the slot next season. Second-year WR Diontae Johnson impressed as the top outside option last season despite terrible QB play. That leaves Claypool and James Washington to compete for the #3 WR snaps, and Claypool could have the upper hand since they invested their first pick in the 2020 draft on him. Claypool will most likely be a rotational player with Washington early in the 2020 season, but he could be a big factor later in the season if Big Ben takes a shine to him. He’ll likely be off the re-draft radar for most unless you’re playing in a deeper non-PPR format, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he emerges at some point as a fantasy option because he could see the most coveted targets in fantasy: deep passes and end-zone targets.
Devin Duvernay (Bal)
- Selected: 92nd overall, WR15
- Competition: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead
- Available Targets: 74 (20th-most)
The Ravens added even more speed and athleticism for QB Lamar Jackson when they selected Duvernay. HC John Harbaugh was a little excited about the pick, giving a couple huge fist pumps when the Patriots passed on Duvernay the pick before them. Duvernay came out of high school as a five-star recruit, and he won the Texas high school state championship in the 100-meter dash. Unsurprisingly, he burned a 4.39 40-time at the Combine at 5’10”, 200 pounds. Duvernay is a slot-specific player who Greg Cosell compared Duvernay to Golden Tate, and the similarities between the two are hard to miss — Tate ran a 4.42 at 5’10”, 199 pounds at the 2010 Combine. Duvernay does his best work on crossers where he turns into a running back with the ball in his hands, and on vertical routes where he can use straight-line speed to run past defenders. After a quiet first three seasons at Texas (71/1082/7 receiving combined), he torched Big 12 competition as a senior with 106/1386/9 receiving.
The Ravens have drafted silly speed at wide receiver in the last two drafts. It won’t be long until Baltimore trots out Duvernay (4.39 40-time) in the slot, Marquise Brown (4.32) at the Z, and Miles Boykin (4.42) at the X in three-WR sets. Duvernay will likely start the season behind Willie Snead for slot snaps, who is under contract through the 2020 season. Duvernay was one of my favorite deeper prospects at the position, but I hated this landing spot for him in terms of being a high-volume slot receiver out of the gates for this season. The Ravens attempted the fourth-fewest passes per game last season (29.4), and Baltimore WRs averaged a pathetic 11.4 targets per game and 7.2 catches per game last season. Lamar said before the draft that he’s not going to be running as much this season. I still don’t see him throwing it enough to prop up receivers behind Mark Andrews and Hollywood Brown, so Duvernay can be left along in re-drafts this summer.
Van Jefferson (LAR)
- Selected: 57th overall, WR12
- Competition: Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds
- Available Targets: 126 (11th-most)
The Rams traded Brandin Cooks to the Texans for a second-round pick in mid-April, and they used the pick from the Texans on Cooks’ potential replacement in Jefferson. He’s the son of 13-year NFL WR Shawn Jefferson, who appeared in two Super Bowls and who has been an NFL wide receivers coach since 2006 — he currently works for the Jets. Van Jefferson has definitely picked up a few things from his dad over the years. Our Greg Cosell said the younger Jefferson was a higher-level route runner who will transition to the league as a Z and slot receiver. He comes into the league with some red flags having spent five seasons in college. Jefferson will be 24 years old at the start of this season, and he totaled just 175/2159/16 receiving over four seasons with Ole Miss and Florida. He also needed surgery for a Jones Fracture in his right foot, which was discovered at the Combine.
Jefferson will have his work cut out for him to get significant opportunities early in his career. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp will dominate targets at wide receiver, and I’m projecting TEs Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett to have significant roles this season. Van Jefferson will be competing with Reynold for playing in three-WR sets, and Rams beat writer Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times believes Reynolds is still the downfield replacement for Cooks this season. Reynolds is also the best equipped to play the X receiver out of the Rams’ top four WRs with Jefferson being better equipped to play behind Z receiver Woods and slot receiver Kupp The Rams are likely to go with more two-TE sets this season anyway so the #3 WR position in Los Angeles was going to be a long shot to be a productive fantasy spot. I’ll be passing on Jefferson in fantasy drafts this summer, and he’ll likely need an injury in front of him to have a chance for fantasy this season.