We are inching closer and closer to the end of the calendar year, which means one thing -- there are some fanbases who have come to the reality that their team isn't making the playoffs, while some others are still in the hunt. Moving closer to December also marks the eve of the NFL Draft season. January officially marks the start of the pre-draft process and there are already many wide spread beliefs.
One of them being the strength of the 2020 wide receiver class. Many have already come out and said that it could potentially be the best ever, while others have mentioned that it could rival the 2014 crop as far as the type of instant impact that most could have.
As I stated in my previous article with pro comparisons to prospects, it can be a slippery slope, but you must understand that it's a comparison of playing styles and not projected career outcome down the road.
With that being said, here are my NFL comparisons for some of the top wide receivers of the 2020 group:
1. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (6-1, 192, Jr.)
NFL Comparison: Chad Johnson
"Slow feet don't eat" -- It's the famous phrase coined by one of the most entertaining players on and off of the field in NFL history. From strictly a playing style perspective, Chad Johnson or "OchoCinco" describes the Alabama star receiver to a T. The Crimson Tide wideout does most of his damage from the slot, but he's known for his insane levels of twitch, sure hands, ability to slam on brakes in an instant, and video game-like jukes that leave defenders looking silly in the open field. The same could be said for Johnson during his glory days with the Bengals. With a nearly identical build and a similar type of upside, Jeudy's incredible feet, stop-start ability, and unique releases off of the line, he could go on to be just as entertaining as the former Bengals standout was for over a decade.
2. CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (6-2, 195, Jr.)
NFL Comparison: DeAndre Hopkins
This comparison almost has become universal across the board because it's so easy to see. Like Hopkins, Lamb isn't necessarily a burner in a straight-line, but rather he's known for his consistent routes and highly consistent and wide catch radius. The best parts of their games though is the ability to put their body in uncomfortable situations and contort it to make nearly impossible catches look routine. Neither will wow you with their speed overall, but they play much stronger than their body structures indicate. It enables them to create lots of yards after the catch opportunities. 53% percent of Lamb's 983 receiving yards this season (521) have come after the catch. Despite sitting out last week against Baylor with an undisclosed injury, the Sooners star is still on pace to have a career season and the current front-runner for the Biletnikoff Award.
3. Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (6-0, 190, Jr.)
NFL Comparison: Tyreek Hill
Some humans just operate at a different tempo than their surroundings. That's often the case with both Hill and Ruggs III. What makes them so comparable though is the explosive dynamic that they both bring to the table. Neither are the traditional "one trick pony" that have a feast-or-famine style on strictly deep vertical patterns, but rather they can take underneath and intermediate routes the distance in a split second as well. His career-high 19.4 yards per catch average this season is a direct reflection of that. There's a bit of a boom-or-bust to factor associated with Ruggs III and his future projection, but that boom could be as loud as dynamite if he turns into what many think he could be in the future. He is that dynamic before and after catch similar to how Hill currently is for the Chiefs offense.
4. Laviska Shenault, Colorado (6-2, 220, Jr.)
NFL Comparison: JuJu Smith-Schuster
This may be one of the harder ones to understand, but you must think of Smith-Schuster the prospect and not the one that is in his present state with the Steelers. Two of the biggest knocks on him coming out of USC were hip sinkage in his routes and consistency against press coverage. Those are similar concerns that we presently have with Shenault as a prospect, but where both win is their play strength in multiple areas of their game and how they turn into running backs after the catch.
After possessing the ball, Shenault is able to flip a switch and have the feeling as if he can score every time the ball is in his hands. Playing a bit out of position in 2018 resulted in not really seeing what he was capable of on the perimete, but the opposite has been the case so far this season.
5. Jalen Reagor, TCU (5-11, 195, Jr.)
NFL Comparison: Curtis Samuel
Lightning in a bottle. That's the best way to describe Reagor and how explosive he has been for the TCU offense. He's a Lamborghini that can go from 0-100 mph in a split second, but stay in control in between the lines on the highway. The vertical element to his game is what makes him so appealing and even though he's primarily used on quick screens and manufactured touches of sorts, he's capable of extending the branches on his route tree into more patterns than what's consistently asked of him. Where he compares favorably to Samuel is that neither are natural hands catchers, but you're willing to sacrifice some of those catch battles for what could result in explosive plays on those reps in between because of their athleticism. Reagor is a true cushion eater that gobbles up allowed space from cornerbacks in a hurry.
6. Tee Higgins, Clemson (6-4, 215, Jr.)
NFL Comparison: Chris Henry
A throwback name and one that many have unfortunately forgotten about after a tragic death. Henry was the final piece of a fantastic trio that included Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmanzedah. The third piece, but the definition of smooth. The former third-round pick in 2005 out of West Virginia had a very slender build, but was effective with getting in and out of his breaks. Similar to Higgins, both didn't run a wide array of routes, but for the ones that were in their wheelhouse, they dominated on. This is the case with the Clemson pass catcher as, outside of redzone slant routes on run-pass options, he isn't asked to run many routes nor attack the middle of the field frequently in the open field. He's mastered the repertoire that's been asked of him in the Tigers offense though. Because of his frame and vertical athleticism, he's able to attack the ball by entering levels that defenders have no chance at even attempting.
7. Tyler Johnson, Minnesota (6-2, 205, Sr.)
NFL Comparison: Davante Adams
As I navigate through my summer notes and track who some of my favorite prospects are after watching them during that time period, Johnson was one of those players. He's followed up his historic first three seasons by capping it off with a strong conclusion as a senior. His route savvy, versatility, and field vision are a few of his many strong suits, but his strongest asset is his ability to separate and get open no matter the severity of the coverage. Drops were a frequent problem, as he had 17 entering the 2019 season, but he has quieted those concerns somewhat, and is now making the tough catches that you want to see a high-end receiver prospect make. His release packages off of the line of scrimmage are a thing of beauty and another element that makes the Adams comparison an easy one.