The 2020 rookie receiver class might be the best since 2014. It's certainly deeper.
With six first-rounders, seven second-rounders and a ridiculous 37 receivers drafted in total, the class all but guarantees all kinds of potential for Fantasy managers to consider anywhere from Round 7 to the last pick.
The best part? Plenty of receivers are more than prepared for the rigors of the NFL. That's partially because the NFL game is becoming more and more like the college game, and partially because the prospects are well-trained now compared to 10 years ago. They're sharper mentally and gifted physically.
Maybe that helps them adjust to what's been a unique offseason, to say the least. Because of the Coronavirus pandemic, NFL teams were prohibited from holding minicamps. That includes the introductory rookie minicamps every team holds to help new players get acclimated. Between the draft and the start of training camp, players are forced to work out on their own and meet virtually with their new coaches. It's highly likely that most of the 2020 rookie class will be affected by their limited offseason exposure in some way.
Following a trip to the Senior Bowl, attention paid at the NFL Combine and hours and hours of watching college football (tough life but someone's gotta do it), here's how the incoming rookies will affect Fantasy leagues this year and beyond.
Editor's notes: Players are listed in the order of Dave Richard's 2020 PPR rankings. Players ages are as of a presumed Week 1 date of Sept. 13.
Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles
5-10 5/8, 206, 21 years old
Reagor doesn't have the notoriety that other receivers in this draft class have, but he's got something they don't have: a fantastic offense to play in. With Alshon Jeffery coming off a broken foot, DeSean Jackson coming back from core muscle surgery and both on the wrong side of 30, Reagor gives the Eagles receiving corps a much-needed injection of youthful play-making talent. He had over 1,000 yards and nine scores as a sophomore before seeing his numbers tank in 2019 thanks to playing with a true freshman quarterback (only 30.7% of his targets were catchable, according to Pro Football Focus). By comparison, Carson Wentz was on-target with 74% of his throws in 2019 and ranked in the top 10 in PFF's deep passing metric. Reagor has blazing speed, huge hops and is a double-move champion in his routes. If the injury-challenged Jeffery isn't ready for the season, Reagor could make a move on the No. 1 spot on the Eagles depth chart, paving the way for a banner rookie year.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Reagor truthers will consider him by 80th overall, but if your draft doesn't have one of those, you could see him fall into the 100th-pick range. That's bargain territory.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: He'll get snagged between sixth and 10th.
Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
6-1, 193, 21 years old
Jeudy is the most complete receiver in the 2020 crop. He runs routes like a six-year veteran, varying his speeds and moves to keep defensive backs guessing. Paired with instant acceleration when in the open field, Jeudy should become Drew Lock's most trusted target, just as he was Tua Tagovailoa's most trusted target at Alabama when he locked up over 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He's a little lean, and he dropped 10 passes over two seasons, but he's otherwise a clean prospect (the knee injury he suffered in 2018 is in his rear view). Jeudy profiles as the eventual No. 1 receiver for the Broncos, but expecting it in September feels hasty.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Jeudy's upside makes him tempting in Round 7, but Round 8 would ideally be the right time to take him.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Easy top 5 overall pick.
Ceedee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
6-1 5/8, 198, 21 years old
The Cowboys overlooked need when they drafted Lamb, and their offense will be better off for it. Lamb was a beast at Oklahoma, posting over 1,150 yards and 11-plus touchdowns in each of his past two seasons, shredding Big-12 defenses with his violent, physical style and fantastic hands. Expect him to make plenty of dazzling plays with his ability to win jump balls, run through tackles and even occasionally speed past slower defensive backs for long touchdowns. He could end up replacing Randall Cobb and his 5.5 targets per game as the Cowboys' primary slot receiver, perhaps getting a bigger share if Amari Cooper gets hurt or if Michael Gallup regresses.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Fantasy managers fearful of Lamb's limited role as a rookie will wait to take him, but his NFL-ready talent and the Cowboys' aggressive offense (597 pass attempts last year) suggest he'd be worth the Round 8 or 9 price tag in PPR.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Easy top 5 overall pick.
Henry Ruggs, Las Vegas Raiders
5-11, 188, 21 years old
Ruggs hasn't played a down of NFL football, but by virtue of his 4.27 time in the 40-yard dash, he's already among the fastest players in the game. It's that speed that helped him average 17.3 yards per catch and a touchdown every 4.8 receptions in his past two seasons at Alabama. Ruggs is more than a one-trick pony -- he's got huge hands and great lateral agility to make defenders miss before speeding past them. He's got a stocky build but wasn't particularly physical in college (two broken tackles last season), plus he wasn't an every down player with the Crimson Tide as Jeudy was. The Raiders will utilize Ruggs speed, but he figures to spend a lot of time running deep so Derek Carr can find other open receivers closer to the line of scrimmage. Less than 10% of Carr's throws have traveled more than 20 yards in each of his past two seasons with Jon Gruden.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Hype could push Ruggs to a Round 7 or 8 pick, but Round 9 is the sweet spot for him.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: You'll see him get taken between sixth and 12th overall.
Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
6-1 1/4, 202, 21 years old
The most slot-ready rookie besides Jeudy and Lamb, Jefferson should seamlessly fit into the Vikings' passing game. Jefferson was one of Joe Burrow's most reliable targets at LSU, running very good routes with crafty feet and winning jump balls with his size and vertical. That skill set helped him cash in for over 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2019. Jefferson isn't a burner despite his 40-yard dash time suggests, but is quick on the move to help him get open. In a way, he's a lot like Adam Thielen in that his precise moves help him get open. But because he will share the field with Thielen in a Vikings offense that prefers to run than pass, the hunch is that Jefferson can be a solid PPR bench receiver but not a steady Fantasy contributor in 2020.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Late Round 9 is the right spot for Jefferson in PPR, but he's a double-digit round pick in non-PPR.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Jefferson is a first-rounder, but closer to 10th overall than fifth.
Laviska Shenault, Jacksonville Jaguars
6-0 5/8, 227, 21 years old
Shenault is a shifty, do-it-all receiver with sudden movement in his routes and a mean streak when he has the ball. He's a little stronger than most of the receivers in his class which helps him pick up yards after the catch (58% of his yards came after contact in 2019). After registering over 1,000 yards in 2018, his numbers took a dip in 2019 because of poor quarterback play. Shenault also took snaps as a wildcat quarterback and at running back, tacking on another 280 yards and seven rushing touchdowns. The Jaguars may find themselves rushing Shenault into the starting lineup because of his aggressive traits, but health has held him back in the past. If he plays regularly, good stats may follow since Jacksonville profiles as a team expected to play with few leads.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Because he doesn't have the same hype as other rookie receivers, some in your league might not even know who he is. He's worth the risk of a Round 10 pick in PPR.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Shenault is much safer as an early Round 2 pick in long-term formats.
Michael Pittman, Indianapolis Colts
6-3 7/8, 219, 22 years old
Pittman has drawn comparisons to former giant receiver Vincent Jackson because of his rangy speed and enormous size. Now he'll play with a quarterback who used to throw to Jackson in Philip Rivers. Pittman had an amazing 101 receptions for 1,275 yards and 11 scores last year in his breakout campaign with the Trojans. It all was helped by his large, reliable hands and dominating nature over smaller defensive backs. Questions about his speed will persist, but he moves well for a guy his size and could set up as a red-zone favorite in Indy.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: He's a late-round pick for sure, but the Colts have a deceptively crowded receiving corps and a hot rookie at running back you might have read about earlier in this story. Don't expect too much.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Pittman should get selected between ninth and 16th overall.
Denzel Mims, New York Jets
6-2 3/4, 206, 22 years old
Mims has been a big-play receiver for the past three years at Baylor, racking up at least eight touchdowns per year with two plus-1,000-yard campaigns. Still, he was under the radar until he throttled Senior Bowl competition and then dazzled with 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash at the combine. Mims has a rare size-speed combination along with a physical nature that helps him get open off the snap and in his routes. However, his hands aren't perfect (18 drops in the past two seasons), nor is his route-running. Outside receivers in Adam Gase-led offenses have rarely been productive, so it's probably best to expect Mims to take a little time to develop into a playmaker.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: Someone enamored with Mims' size and speed will overlook his new team and take him before Round 11, which is where he should go in a perfect world.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Mims' massive potential should put him toward the end of the first round.
Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
6-3 5/8, 216, 21 years old
Clemson's big-play receiver over the past two seasons, Higgins used his height and ridiculous catch radius to win on jump balls. He also has solid speed to help him get open and quick feet to stop and start his routes. That combination of skills helped Higgins snare 25 touchdowns in 30 games since 2018. He's pals with Joe Burrow, so getting on the same page shouldn't be too hard, but questions about his lean frame and his role in a packed Bengals offense keep Higgins' value down for now.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: The 11th round is where Higgins should get picked, the perfect spot to match him with A.J. Green on Fantasy rosters.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: Higgins does have late first-round appeal since there's a real chance he'll be the Bengals top receiver starting in 2021.
Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
5-11 5/8, 205, 22 years old
Aiyuk is a faster version of Deebo Samuel in that he's great after the catch. He's not so bad before the catch, either. At Arizona State he stepped up in his final year and grabbed 65 passes for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns, besting N'Keal Harry's yardage total from 2018. Aiyuk's second gear can devastate defenses and his fearlessness on crossing the field helps him make big plays. However, he did deal with some drops, struggled with contested catches and didn't run a full route tree. You know the 49ers prefer to run the ball rather than throw, and Aiyuk will struggle to command targets ahead of Samuel and tight end George Kittle.
2020 DRAFT OUTLOOK: He'll have his fans, but Aiyuk ultimately shouldn't get considered until after 120th overall.
ROOKIE-ONLY DRAFT OUTLOOK: He'll go somewhere between 10th and 18th overall.
* * *
1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, KC
2. Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND
3. CeeDee Lamb, WR, DAL
4. Jerry Jeudy, WR, DEN
5. J.K. Dobbins, RB, BAL
6. D'Andre Swift, RB, DET
7. Cam Akers, RB, LAR
8. Jalen Reagor, WR, PHI
9. Henry Ruggs, WR, LV
10. Justin Jefferson, WR, MIN
11. Joe Burrow, QB, CIN
12. Tee Higgins, WR, CIN
13. Michael Pittman, WR, IND
14. Laviska Shenault, WR, JAC
15. Denzel Mims, WR, NYJ
16. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, TB
17. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, SF
18. A.J. Dillon, RB, GB
19. Bryan Edwards, WR, LV
20. Zack Moss, RB, BUF
21. Chase Claypool, WR, PIT
22. Tua Tagovailoa, QB, MIA
23. Antonio Gibson, RB, WAS
24. Anthony McFarland, RB, PIT
25. Van Jefferson, WR, LAR
26. Adam Trautman, TE, NO
27. Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, WAS
28. Cole Kmet, TE, CHI
29. Justin Herbert, QB, LAC
30. Darrynton Evans, RB, TEN
31. Tyler Johnson, WR, TB
32. Devin Duvernay, WR, BAL
33. K.J. Hamler, WR, DEN
33. Lynn Bowden, RB, LV
34. Joshua Kelley, RB, LAC
35. Jordan Love, QB, GB
36. Devin Asiasi, TE, NE
37. Jalen Hurts, QB, PHI
38. Gabriel Davis, WR, BUF
39. Lamical Perine, RB, NYJ
40. Eno Benjamin, RB, ARI
41. DeeJay Dallas, RB, SEA
42. Joe Reed, WR, LAC
43. John Hightower, WR, PHI
44. Quintez Cephus, WR, DET
45. Quez Watkins, WR, PHI
46. Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, DEN
47. Raymond Calais, RB, TB
48. Jacob Eason, QB, IND
49. K.J. Hill, WR, LAC
50. James Proche, WR, BAL
So what Fantasy football sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which WR1 candidate can you wait on until late? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that was all over Derrick Henry's huge season, and find out.