The 2020 rookie class of wide receivers in the NFL are performing quite well. Justin Jefferson is closing in on a 1,000-yard campaign while Tee Higgins has instantly become a factor in Cincinnati. CeeDee Lamb keeps making dazzling plays while Chase Claypool has already scored 10 total touchdowns in 11 games. You can’t overlook the potential Jerry Jeudy and Brandon Aiyuk have shown, while Laviska Shenault Jr., Henry Ruggs III, and Michael Pittman Jr. have shown flashes of dynamic playmaking ability as well. Even Day 3 picks in Darnell Mooney and Gabriel Davis have had standout moments as rookies.
After a delayed start to the season dealing with a hamstring injury, the forgotten rookie wide receiver in the 2020 class is Denzel Mims of the New York Jets. Not making his debut until Week 7, Mims has 17 receptions for 284 yards in his first five NFL games. Since Week 7, Mims has the fourth-most receiving yards among NFL rookies, which is even more impressive when considering the circumstances Mims has faced to start his career.
Prior to making his NFL debut against the Buffalo Bills in Week 7, Mims hadn’t spent much time on the practice field, and comparing his production under those circumstances to his contemporaries that enjoyed a full onboarding period of training camp and regular-season experience should lead to a greater appreciation for what Mims has already been able to accomplish. The dynamics of the Jets being an 0-11 football team with starting quarterback Sam Darnold dealing with injuries that forced him to miss games, in an offense that has been decimated with injuries as a whole, under a head coach that has struggled to produce any consistent offensive output speaks volumes to what Mims is already accomplishing on the field.
Despite outstanding production across his final three seasons at Baylor, a 6-foot-3 and 207-pound frame, and blowing up the NFL Scouting Combine with tests in the 90th percentile among receivers since 2011 in the 40-yard dash, broad jump, and three-cone drill, Mims was the 13th receiver drafted in April. His name wasn’t called until No. 59 overall and general manager Joe Douglas’ strategy to secure a franchise left tackle in Mekhi Becton with his first-round selection and take advantage of a deep crop of receivers looks brilliant. At No. 11 overall, Douglas had his pick of the litter should he have opted to select a receiver but he prioritized the Jets’ needs and the value of the draft board perfectly and came away with quality answers at two critical areas of need.
While Mims has plenty of development ahead to reach his ceiling, he has the makings of a bonafide No. 1 wide receiver that can be the focal point of an NFL passing game, something that has been missing in New York for a while. The Jets have not produced a 1,000-yard receiver since 2015 when both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker logged more than 1,000 receiving yards. When Marshall and Decker topped the 1,000-yard mark, it was the first for the Jets since Jericho Cotchery tallied 1,130 receiving yards in 2007.
Many of the exciting elements to watching Mims at Baylor are already showing up in the NFL. He’s making contested catches, competing for yards after the catch, and executing the types of blocks that made many believe he was the best blocking receiver in last year’s class. He competes like an alpha in everything that he does. He has showcased his vertical receiving ability with three catches on passes targeted at least 20 yards down the field, while 12 of his 17 receptions have resulted in first downs for his offense. Mims is also proving to be a versatile weapon by taking snaps from both the slot and out wide.
While there are no guarantees when it comes to the Jets earning the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and selecting Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, New York is firmly in the driver’s seat for that to happen. When thinking about the receivers that have been productive with Lawrence at Clemson, Mims has similar traits to Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross but is a far more explosive athlete. The Lawrence-to-Mims connection has the potential to make sure 1,000-yard receiving seasons are a much more common occurrence for the Jets.