As I transition from 2019 NFL Draft analysis to previewing the 2020 version, an initial observation of many evaluators is the upside of the wide receiver class. While it’s impossible to know which prospects will eventually declare for the draft, there are some early impressions on the current draft-eligible crop.
The upcoming class has the promise to be better and deeper than previous years. While that can be said about most years, this particular crop has been highly touted since their days as recruits. Speaking of their time as recruits, a number of these prospects were also stars on the track during their high school careers.
One of the ways that I look to identify athleticism before the long-awaited NFL Scouting Combine is to search for track and field numbers. In this particular crop, a number of those athletes stand out like few have before them.
TCU’s Jalen Reagor was named 2nd team All-Big 12 as a true sophomore in 2018, two years after being the #6 wide receiver prospect in the country (ESPN). The son of 9-year NFL veteran Montae Reagor, Jalen jumped 26’0 feet in the long jump as a senior in high school in 2017. How good is 26’0 in the long jump, that mark was good for the best jump in the United States that year… by 7 inches.
Reagor predictably won the Texas State Championship in the long jump that year, where fellow stud wide receiver prospect Tylan Wallace would finish second in the triple jump. Wallace was selected as an All-American and Biletnikoff award finalist last season.
Over in Alabama that year, Henry Ruggs III was putting up similarly absurd marks. His second time running the 100 meters, he posted the mark of 10.42s. Ruggs III would win the state championship in that event (duh), while setting the Alabama 7A state record. Ruggs is apart of the most dominant trio of wide receivers currently in college football at Alabama, and he posted 11 touchdowns last season. The former #1 ranked wide receiver recruit in the country (247 sports) has true burners.
Back in Texas in 2016, future A&M wide receiver Kendrick Rogers was posting a 21.88s 200 meter dash, good for 4th at the state meet. This was even more impressive when you take into account Rogers physique of 6’4 and 195 pounds. That kind of frame, speed and endurance isn’t natural.
Similarly, Baylor’s Denzel Mims won the Texas state championship in the 200 meter with a time of 21.30s. Mims is built the same as Rogers, and his explosiveness and burst shows up all over his film. Mims has 1,881 yards and 16 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Dude is a ultra-athlete.
That same year, Michigan’s Donovan Peoples-Jones was winning the Detroit public school league championship 100 meter race. Just a junior at the time, the future 5-star recruit ran a personal record 10.93s.
Back in 2015, current Georgia Bulldog and former Miami Hurricane wide receiver Lawrence Cager was dominating the high jump scene in Maryland. The high school All-American won both the indoor and outdoor state championships with a personal record of 6’9, Cager shows his leaping ability every time he’s tested at the high point. Throw the ball up and let him go get it.
While the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days will eventually give evaluators quantifiable athleticism in the same drills, track and field numbers gives an early look at which prospects could be superior athletes. While there were other standouts on the track and likely some that I have yet to come across in my research, make sure to keep an eye on the athleticism of these prospects each time they take the field next season.