How's it goin', sports fans?
Really cool concept for Would You Rather this week -- Joe Marino was the one who got the ball rolling for me. Funnily enough, it started with a mistake: he though Jaylen Waddle was a redshirt sophomore; not a true sophomore. Had he been -- and subsequently eligible for the 2020 draft -- Alabama would have had FOUR great wide receivers potentially coming out in this year's class.
And Joe was wondering how they stacked up against the fearsome Clemson foursome we saw selected last year -- not the wide receivers, but the defensive line: Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Clelin Ferrell, and Austin Bryant.
I decided to put the players from these two elite units in head-to-head situations at the picks at which the Clemson players were already selected, seeing if I'd rather take the Bama WR corps at value of the the Clemson defensive line.
Jerry Jeudy v. Clelin Ferrell: 4th Overall
This is harder than it seems, though it's still Jerry Jeudy. If it were Christian Wilkins here at 4, it might get even trickier. I liked Ferrell a lot, but I didn't like him this much.
EDGE is a more worthy pick at 4 than WR, when you consider relative contract worth, early impact (rookie WRs rarely do much), and general position value -- but Jeudy clearly brings some elite talent to the position he plays, whereas Ferrell doesn't have that blue-chip ability. Put another way: where is Ferrell's ceiling among NFL EDGEs? Top-32 is in range -- but for Jeudy, Top-15 is possible. There's a better chance of getting a game-changing player on a weekly basis.
I'd rather take Jeudy accordingly, but it is easier to disparage the Ferrell pick because we know the alternatives: Josh Allen, Brian Burns, et cetera. When Jeudy is the preseason WR1, it's easy to justify him at 4 -- but what about when he ends up WR2? Or even WR3? This isn't as cut and dry as it feels.
Henry Ruggs III v. Christian Wilkins: 13th Overall
Remember when I said Jeudy might not be WR1? One of those players that might cut him off is Ruggs, his teammate. Explosive, physical, and oozing with natural talent, Ruggs' ceiling isn't within sight, it's so high. He drew a toucher match that Jeudy did, with Wilkins as an appropriate value pick at 13th overall. Have we seen enough from Ruggs to justify that he warrants the 13th overall selection?
I'm not there yet, though I'd love to be and will be the first to claim that I was always on this train if he takes the WR1 crown. Wilkins is a consummate pro, with every tool necessary to become a highly disruptive defender on the interior. Ruggs is yet unknown, not just because he hasn't been drafted, but because there's still so much room for growth with him -- I'd rather grab Wilkins, who is as high-floor a prospect as you can find.
Devonta Smith v. Dexter Lawrence: 17th Overall
Is Devonta Smith underrated? This is where we might be, right now -- when you're the 3rd best receiver on your team, it's hard to believe you're also a Top-10 receiver in the country. DaMarkus Lodge couldn't pull it off last year; Devonta Smith might be able to this year.
Smith is a snappy route runner, strong hands across the middle, and is effective after the catch. He isn't nearly a first-round receiver yet; but Dexter Lawrence isn't nearly a first-round value, either. A squatty two-gapper built for a different era of football, Lawrence doesn't have the pass-rush upside to justify this pick, whereas with Smith I can at least imagine a world in which 17th overall is worth his play.
Lawrence was a bad pick, and Smith wins by default.
Jaylen Waddle v. Austin Bryant: 117th Overall
Unfortunate loss for Clemson here, as they catch the ineligible but potentially elite sophomore Jaylen Waddle. I'm not gonna tell you he's a future first-rounder -- there has to be a limit in terms of potential first-round players, even for Alabama. But Waddle's film, even from a peripheral viewing, is clearly that of a top flight NFL prospect for the 2021 draft -- Byrant doesn't hold a candle to that.
The final score is Alabama 3 - Clemson 1. Great players abound, but the Bama WR corps has that "look-back-on-it-in-20-years-and-wonder-if-it-will-ever-be-matched" vibe. God tier.