By Brentley Weissman
The 2020 rookie receiver class has been nothing short of sensational. Billed to be one of the best wide receiver classes to enter the NFL in quite some time, these young pass-catchers have certainly lived up to the hype. Back in April, we saw 13 receivers get drafted in the first two rounds of the draft, breaking 2014’s record of 12. Six receivers were drafted in the first round, while seven went in the second. Again, what we are seeing so far from this group has just been spectacular, and what's even more impressive is how these players are producing with little to no offseason preparation.
One of the most fun parts of being a football fan is being able to watch all these young playmakers and stack them up amongst one another. After some remarkable performances last week by some of these rookie receivers, I wanted to spend some time watching the film and ranking my top five receivers I have seen thus far this season. To reiterate, these rankings are based on what the tape has shown me so far, this is not based off pre-draft rankings, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this list continues to shuffle, that’s just how talented these players are.
1. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
(42 receptions, 762 yards, 3 TDs)
This was the easiest player to rank on this list, as Jefferson has been the best rookie receiver by a solid margin. After being drafted as the WR5, Jefferson has emerged as not only the best rookie receiver, but one of the best receivers in the entire league. He is coming off a huge performance on Monday Night Football versus the Chicago Bears where he caught eight balls for 135 yards. Jefferson is so advanced with his route-running and has this unique style that is almost reminiscent of an NBA player with how he sets up his defenders at the line and at the top of his route. Possessing elite foot and body quickness, Jefferson has been able to get separation with ease against quality NFL defensive backs. He has also proved he can play on the outside, something he did very little of at LSU, where he primarily lined up in the slot. As long as he isn’t held back by the Vikings' quarterback situation, Jefferson looks like a future perennial pro bowler.
2. Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers
(35 receptions, 500 yards, 7 TDs)
The Steelers were somehow able to nab Claypool with the 49th pick, even after he lit up the combine by running a 4.42 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds. Claypool wasn’t needed much early on in the season playing behind two stud receivers in JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson, but when the latter missed time due to injury, Claypool rose to the occasion. Claypool has proven to be more than just a physical freak and has shown to be a truly special football player. He has the speed to beat defenders down the field vertically and has the size and strength to play the ball in the air. Extremely physical and tough, the Steelers will give him the ball on end arounds just to get the ball in his hands and let him make something happen. Claypool has far and away the most upside physically in this class, and it is great to see him playing at such a high level so early on.
3. Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
(40 receptions, 603 yards, 4 TDs)
Higgins was the player I was most excited to write about when I was ranking these guys. Higgins was touted as a sure-fire top-five receiver in the 2020 class all season long, and as usual, we seemed to find every reason we could to move him down the board. As it turns out, our initial evaluations of Higgins were spot on as he has quickly emerged as a future No. 1 in this league. Playing alongside two studs in Tyler Boyd and A.J. Green, it is abundantly clear that Higgins is now Joe Burrow's favorite guy to throw to. Higgins is coming off a monster game in Week 10 versus the Steelers where he had seven receptions for 115 yards and one score. We all knew about Higgins' size and ability to win in contested situations, but what has stood out to me is how smooth and fluid he is running routes, and just how competitive he is with the ball in his hands. The sky is truly the limit here with Burrow throwing Higgins the football.
4. Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
(34 receptions, 552 yards, 2 TDs)
So, this one may surprise people, but I would just say turn on Jeudy’s tape and you’ll see why he is ranked so high. Jeudy was considered by many to be the WR1 in last year’s draft, and while he wound up going as WR2, he has proven that the Broncos made a great choice in selecting him with the 15th overall pick. Jeudy has rare acceleration and stop-start quickness that makes him a nightmare for opposing defensive backs to cover. He is so smooth in his stem and has violent change of direction movements. Jeudy’s tape has been truly remarkable when you just watch him embarrass NFL defensive backs. Jeudy’s production has definitely suffered due to the Broncos' inconsistent quarterback play, but Jeudy is starting to really come on as of late as he has had more than 65 yards receiving in three straight games and had a huge game in Week 9 versus the Atlanta Falcons, catching seven balls for 125 yards and one touchdown. I would honestly have Jeudy a little higher if he didn’t have some occasional drops.
5. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
(44 receptions, 595 yards, 3 TDs)
Lamb was my favorite receiver coming out of last year's draft. I do think that if Dak Prescott never got hurt that Lamb would be higher on this list, but I have to rank them based on what I have seen so far. Lamb has shown the playmaking ability that made him a top-20 selection in last year's draft. He has outstanding ball skills and body control, and can easily bring down inaccurate passes—which unfortunately he has to do far too often due to the Cowboys quarterback situation. A true playmaker, Lamb is so good with the ball in his hands, and if I’m the Cowboys, I make every effort possible to continue to feed No. 88.
Just missed: Brandon Aiyuk (49ers), Laviska Shenault (Jaguars), Darnell Mooney (Bears), Henry Ruggs III (Raiders), Gabriel Davis (Bills).