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B/R's NFL 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Wide Receivers in 2020

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterJanuary 12, 2016

B/R's NFL 20 for '20: Projecting Top 20 Wide Receivers in 2020

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    We don't like to think about what the NFL will look like without Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald or even Brandon Marshall; but it will happen. And it'll happen soon. 

    My generation didn't want to think about an NFL without Jerry Rice or Cris Carter, but along came the next wave of wide receivers in the form of A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Megatron and Fitzgerald. We didn't want the game without Reggie Wayne or Marvin Harrison, but along came Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. No more Tim Brown? Here's Amari Cooper. The game moves on, and legends walk away.

    Looking ahead to the next generation, who will be the best wide receiver in the year 2020?

    That's what this signature series aims to answer—our "20 for '20" covers who the top 20 wide receivers will be five seasons from now. And if you're looking for guys like Fitzgerald or Steve Smith—who will be well over 30 years old in 2020—we have to project a few retirements and a few declines. 

Honorable Mention

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Others Receiving Strong Consideration

    • Kenny Stills, Miami Dolphins
    • Randall Cobb, Green Bay Packers
    • Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears
    • Nelson Agholor, Philadelphia Eagles
    • Golden Tate, Detroit Lions
    • JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC
    • Malachi Dupre, LSU
    • Donte Moncrief, Indianapolis Colts
    • Michael Floyd, Arizona Cardinals
    • Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers
    • Martavis Bryant, Pittsburgh Steelers
    • Keenan Allen, San Diego Chargers
    • Emmanuel Sanders, Denver Broncos

    Excluded Because of Age and Expected Regression

    • Calvin Johnson
    • Larry Fitzgerald
    • Jordy Nelson
    • Julian Edelman
    • Brandon Marshall

20. Jordan Matthews (28 Years Old)

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    22/25

    Coming out of Vanderbilt, Jordan Matthews’ speed was underrated. And then he ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine and turned heads with his 6’3”, 212-pound frame moving that quickly down the track. Matthews has speed, and it usually shows up after the catch.

    2020 Route Running

    21/25

    Matthews is a good route-runner, and five years from now he could be a very good one. The only concern is that he doesn’t always show the hip flexibility to shake off defenders in his route. That little bit of stiffness is the difference between a 25/25 and 24/25.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    The Vanderbilt tape did show times when Matthews made odd drops—usually when he was trying to get into his run before securing the ball—and that’s been an issue in the NFL too. It can be fixed, but players with that issue usually carry it throughout their careers. It won’t keep Matthews from becoming a top-20 receiver, but it will keep him from the top five.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    When weighing the upside of a player, I’m looking at injury history, the scheme he's in, the quarterback he plays with and any physical limitation like lack of height or speed. Matthews doesn’t have any injuries to worry about and he has all the athletic tools to climb into the NFL’s top 20 at receiver. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    90/100

    Matthews has found himself as the go-to-guy in Philadelphia, which should give him the reps and targets to become a top-tier receiver. Matthews isn’t a top-20 receiver yet, but by 2020 he will be.

19. Demaryius Thomas (32 Years Old)

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 32

    2020 Speed

    24/25

    You don’t expect a 4.38 40 time from someone tipping the scales at 224 pounds on a 6’3” frame, but that’s what Demaryius Thomas did in the 2010 combine. Looking ahead to 2020, he’ll probably lose a step or two but should still be running past most cornerbacks.

    2020 Route Running

    24/25

    Thomas can send Peyton Manning a thank-you note for his development as a route-runner. The big, strong, fast kid from Georgia Tech has become a technician and now combines his height/weight/speed combo with an acute understanding of timing and spacing.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    Thomas has developed into a very good receiver after a college career in which he was a very limited player and more of an athlete. He doesn’t make every catch, but Thomas does have great concentration on jump balls and the size to box out defenders on the sideline or in the end zone.

    2020 Upside Factor

    16/20

    The biggest question we’re all wanting to answer is how Thomas will perform without Manning. His skills look like they’ll carry over to any system or quarterback, but age does play into Thomas’ upside.

    2020 Overall Projection

    91/100

    Thomas has been a major beneficiary of Manning—and in turn he’s made No. 18’s job easier. But like Andre Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald, when Thomas is 32 years old we’ll be talking more about the good ol' days than his current domination.

18. A.J. Green (32 Years Old)

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 32

    2020 Speed

    23/25

    A.J. Green’s game has never been all about speed. He ran a respectable 4.5 in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine before he was drafted but has never had that great straight-line, jaw-dropping speed. That’s good, actually, as he won’t be as reliant on it as he ages.

    2020 Route Running

    25/25

    Route-runners generally see a drop-off in speed as they age, but for big guys like Green it’s more common that the receiver evolves into a great power forward on the field. Like Anquan Boldin. Green will learn to use his frame more and rely on timing and positioning over athleticism, which will keep him in the top tier of route-runners.

    2020 Hands

    28/30

    Watch Green pluck the ball out of the air on a jump ball or snag a low pass away from his body on the sideline, and you truly appreciate his strength and concentration. There may be a stray drop here and there, but Green’s hands will stand to the test of time.

    2020 Upside Factor

    15/20

    Green really doesn’t offer much in terms of upside, unless you consider that his stats may improve if the Bengals change offenses or quarterbacks. From a skills perspective, what we see in 2015 is what we’re going to get from Green—and those skills make him one of today’s best receivers.

    2020 Overall Projection

    91/100

    Green is one of the best in the game, and may even be underappreciated. But at 32 years old with his size and recent injuries, it’s fair to expect him to be at a Larry Fitzgerald level in 2020.

17. Antonio Brown (32 Years Old)

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 32

    2020 Speed

    23/25

    At 27 years old in 2015, Brown is one of the quickest players in the NFL. He has the deep speed to get past cornerbacks and safeties, but his value as a punt returner is largely due to his shiftiness and short-area burst. He’ll lose a step in the next five years—which will just make him fast instead of crazy-fast.

    2020 Route Running

    25/25

    If you can’t enjoy watching Brown run routes, you’re probably a Ravens fan. He’s special, and as he ages it’s more likely that he’ll learn a few new ways to get open than the alternative. Brown, like so many before him, should only improve with age as a route-runner.

    2020 Hands

    30/30

    During the 2015 season, Brown was thrown at 192 times and dropped just five, per Pro Football Focus. The ridiculousness of that stat is hard to put in print. When it comes to hands, Brown is special.

    2020 Upside Factor

    14/20

    Brown has been a steal for the Pittsburgh Steelers (no pun intended), greatly exceeding the expectations put on him as a sixth-round draft pick. But projecting him out five years, don’t expect to see any new tricks from the 32-year-old star.

    2020 Overall Projection

    92/100

    Brown is a statistical demon, and in 2020 he’ll probably still catch over 100 passes. But smaller receivers take a beating in the NFL, and it will be a big surprise if he (or any 31-plus receiver) is still making a top-10 impact then.

16. Julio Jones (31 Years Old)

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Speed

    24/25

    I’ll never forget watching Julio Jones borrow someone’s cleats to run at the scouting combine—and turn in a 4.39-second run at 6’3” and 220 pounds. That speed won't go away at 31 years old unless the injuries he’s sustained early in his career creep up much sooner than expected.

    2020 Route Running

    24/25

    Jones is already a dominant fade route-runner, which probably won’t change much in the next five years. Where he may see a drop-off is on the little slant routes and ghost routes that require his immediate speed. But even so, Jones is dynamic enough to still give corners problems in 2020.

    2020 Hands

    28/30

    Concentration and a fearlessness when attacking the ball have made Jones a top-tier catcher, and that’s not diminishing with age. He’ll still be making crafty, crazy catches down the sideline when he’s 31.

    2020 Upside Factor

    16/20

    What more can Jones do? Statistically, he’ll likely start to carve out a Canton-esque resume over the next five years with Matt Ryan at quarterback, but his skills aren’t likely to improve as he reaches and exceeds his prime.

    2020 Overall Projection

    92/100

    Jones is one of the NFL’s most electric players, but he’s already struggled with injuries in his career and will be 31 years old in 2020. That’s what puts him in the bottom five of this list instead of where he’d be now—in the top five.

15. Dez Bryant (31 Years Old)

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 31

    2020 Speed

    22/25

    Dez Bryant is a powerful man coming at cornerbacks and has good speed and a very physical running style. That’s working for him in 2015, but in the year 2020, it’s fair to say he’ll have lost some speed.

    2020 Route Running

    25/25

    Bryant’s ability to sell deep routes and then break back to the ball is something future generations should study. He’s deceptive, powerful and quick—and being a crafty route-runner generally only improves with time.

    2020 Hands

    29/30

    Bryant had early problems as a dropper, but his development here should be something any young player with focus drops can study. That said, five years from now, Bryant’s hands aren’t going to suddenly become worse.

    2020 Upside Factor

    16/20

    Bryant is 27 years old and recently had a second surgery on his right foot. That doesn’t bode well for his upside. The best of Bryant has probably been seen—of course, he can sustain that for a few more years—so don’t expect a giant leap forward in the next five years.

    2020 Overall Projection

    92/100

    Dez Bryant is one of the NFL’s best receivers in 2015, but looking ahead and counting how few top receivers right now are over 30 years old, it’s very unlikely he’ll still be a top-five (or top-10) receiver in 2020.

14. Dorial Green-Beckham (27 Years Old)

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    23/25

    When you are 6’5”, 237 pounds and run a 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, you’re going to be called a freak. Dorial Green-Beckham is a freak. He’s unusually explosive and sudden for a big man, making him a threat down the field or after the catch. It’s honestly not fair just how athletic he is—and he’s still growing.

    2020 Route Running

    20/25

    At Missouri, Green-Beckham ran three routes (smoke route, slant route, fade route), and while that will get him by early in the NFL, he has to develop into a complete route-runner. The talent is there, and looking to 2020, it’s likely DGB evolves into a complete complete route-runner.

    2020 Hands

    29/30

    Hand size, arm length and the ability to track the ball deep are all strengths for Green-Beckham. He will drop the rare underneath pass, but as he gains experience and grows into his frame, it’s more likely than not that he’ll be a top-tier pass-catcher.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Athletes like DGB are incredibly rare, which makes his upside special. There are extenuating circumstances, given his off-field past and the fact that he spent a year out of football, but projecting his skills forward, he looks special.

    2020 Overall Projection

    92/100

    The enigmatic DGB has the size, speed and catching ability to be the best receiver in the NFL in 2020. Whether he’s even on the list depends on his ability to stay out of trouble off the field.

13. Laquon Treadwell (25 Years Old)

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    Thomas Graning/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 25

    2020 Speed

    22/25

    Watch Ole Miss tape and look for No. 1 making plays. Laquon Treadwell is a 6’2”, 229-pound monster. And at that size, he’s not going to be exceptionally fast in a straight line, but he is estimated as a 4.45 runner by sources at Ole Miss, and that’s plenty fast for the NFL.

    2020 Route Running

    22/25

    Treadwell is in a similar athletic vein as Josh Gordon or Alshon Jeffery in that he’s a powerful route-runner and not the fastest guy on the field. Now, where he has to improve is where Alshon did in the NFL—by becoming quicker and more explosive off the line. That will allow him to become the top-tier route-runner he has the potential to be.

    2020 Hands

    28/30

    Treadwell is an exceptional receiver in traffic and can make plays down the field, too. He will drop the easy grab in space, though, and has to become more focused moving forward. But projecting him out to 2020, expect his concentration drops to be gone.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Treadwell has the frame and style to enter the NFL like a Gordon, Jeffery or Mike Evans-type player.

    2020 Overall Projection

    92/100

    How hard is it for college players to make this list? Treadwell is only one of two on it. His size, speed and sheer catching skills make him a prospect to watch in the 2016 draft.

12. T.Y. Hilton (30 Years Old)

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 30

    2020 Speed

    24/25

    T.Y. Hilton’s game is set up around his speed, and he has a lot of it. Hilton was timed at 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash leading up to the 2012 NFL draft, and at 5’10” and just 183 pounds, he’s a blur to keep up with down the seam or when he has the ball in space. That’s the kind of speed that has lasting power, too.

    2020 Route Running

    25/25

    Watching Hilton set up defenders with his quickness and then sell out on a deep route is a treat. He’s sneaky fast, and given his stop-and-start abilities, he’s able to confuse and/or outrun any type of coverage he sees.

    2020 Hands

    28/30

    There will be a drop or two from Hilton, but not consistently. He does a great job looking the ball in when he’s streaking down the field and has also been able to produce in traffic despite his lack of great size.

    2020 Upside Factor

    15/20

    Weighing the upside of Hilton is tough, and this prediction may end up off by 11 spots in the rankings, but smaller receivers don’t have a great track record of success as they near or exceed 30 years old. If anyone can do it, though, Hilton is the man.

    2020 Overall Projection

    92/100

    Hilton has been lights-out for the Colts, but as has been mentioned for other players, it’s uncommon for a player to hit 30 years old without losing a step or two.

11. Brandin Cooks (26 Years Old)

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 26

    2020 Speed

    25/25

    Quick, fast: Whatever you want to call it, Brandin Cooks has it. He’s a legit sprinter on the field and has shown himself to be a viable threat to go the distance on both underneath and deep routes. Just get him the ball, because Cooks can generate the space needed to be great.

    2020 Route Running

    22/25

    Underneath routes are what Cooks is all about right now, and in five years it’s not likely that he’ll be a truly complete route-runner. But he’ll always be good enough to beat press coverage with speed and stretch the field vertically with his straight-line quickness.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    Cooks has great concentration and great hand strength, and as he matures as a professional player, his catching ability should hold true. It’s tough to predict what will happen as the quarterback situation in New Orleans changes, but Cooks’ ability as a No. 1 receiver won’t be changing anytime soon.

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    Cooks has the speed, hands and route-running skills to translate into a very good NFL receiver. It helps that he’s also getting his reps in early with future Hall of Famer Drew Brees.

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Cooks is currently in an offense designed to get him the ball, but can he hold up as the Saints transition to life after Brees? His skills and upside make him a virtual lock to succeed, no matter the quarterback.

10. Michael Thomas (26 Years Old)

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    Andrew Weber/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 26

    2020 Speed

    21/25

    Michael Thomas isn't a burner, but he uses his size and speed well to create space as a route-runner. Turn on the film against Virginia Tech or Notre Dame and you'll see his agility and acceleration off the line of scrimmage and his ability to pull away from coverage against NFL prospects down the field.

    2020 Route Running

    25/25

    The Ohio State offense didn't fully take advantage of all the things Thomas can do as a route-runner. His stop-and-go move was the best in college football this season, and he's long enough, powerful enough and agile enough to run a complete route tree in 2020 at a high level.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    Fans may remember a dropped touchdown in the Fiesta Bowl since it's a recent play, but Thomas rarely put the ball on the ground at Ohio State. On 83 targets, Thomas dropped just four passes per Pro Football Focus and has played with a big arm (Cardale Jones) and a touch passer (J.T. Barrett) in college.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Thomas was never fully unleashed at Ohio State, but in the NFL he’ll see plenty of chances to become the go-to guy. 

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Thomas has the size, speed, and playmaking skills to wow the NFL as a deep threat and as a yards-after-catch player. 

9. Allen Robinson (27 Years Old)

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    22/25

    Allen Robinson was dinged in the NFL draft process because of a lack of elite speed, but at 220 pounds, he doesn’t have to be an elite track star. Robinson is quick on underneath routes and uses his size well to beat press coverage without having the elite burst of other players.

    2020 Route Running

    24/25

    In 2015, Robinson showed development in timing routes and those that allow him to beat coverage with leverage and positioning. Projecting him out to 2020, Robinson could be a very Alshon Jeffery-like target who dominates with size more than speed in his route tree.

    2020 Hands

    29/30

    Coming out of Penn State, Robinson scored very well in terms of the catches he could make and the way he could track the ball down the field in a pro-style offense. That’s been the case in Jacksonville, too, where Robinson continues to show the strength and focus to make traffic catches and haul in those jump balls down the field.

    2020 Upside Factor

    18/20

    Given his youth, his size and his ability as a route-runner and jump-ball receiver, Robinson has a good shot to crack the top 10 in five years. At the end of 2015, Robinson was arguably already a top-20 player at the position.

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Robinson has the physical skills and projected upside to be very good in 2020. All he has to do is stay healthy and keep improving his skills as a route-runner.

8. Jarvis Landry (27 Years Old)

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    21/25

    The biggest knock—maybe the only knock—on Jarvis Landry coming out of LSU was his lack of speed for a smaller receiver. He wasn’t impressive at the scouting combine, running in the 4.7-second range, but did improve at his pro day with a 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash. Landry isn’t track-fast, but he’s crazy quick and runs much faster when linebackers are chasing him than he did down a straightaway in Indianapolis.

    2020 Route Running

    22/25

    Dolphins’ fans may find this score harsh, but Landry isn’t a great all-around route-runner in 2015, and a lack of top-end speed will likely keep him where he is now—which is still really good. But without much size (5’11”, 205 lbs) or deep speed, he’s best served underneath.

    2020 Hands

    30/30

    Landry might already have the best hands in the NFL. That doesn’t mean he’ll make the most highlight-reel catches, but in terms of consistency and limiting drops, he’s way up there on the list. That’s not going to change.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Landry is in a great place to develop into a top-tier receiver. He’s tied to a good young quarterback and has other good young receivers around him that will allow his growth not to be stunted by receiving all of the defense’s attention.

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Landry may never be Jerry Rice, but he looks an awful lot like John Taylor with his slant-route domination and ability as a return man.

7. DeVante Parker (27 Years Old)

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    22/25

    DeVante Parker isn’t the fastest receiver you’ll ever see, but he has respectable speed (timed at 4.45 seconds), and when you add in that he’s 6’3”, it’s easy to see how his buildup speed complements his power down the field. He is fast enough to make plays with the ball in his hands and can get on top of cornerbacks who don’t respect his speed.

    2020 Route Running

    22/25

    The biggest question mark in 2015 for Parker is if he can consistently beat press coverage off the line of scrimmage without great speed. Projecting him ahead five years, that’s something he’ll get better at, but Parker will never have the agility of a great route-runner.

    2020 Hands

    30/30

    Judging Parker largely from his college tape, you won’t find many receivers with better hands or concentration. His ability to pull in jump balls over his shoulder or over the defender was legendary at Louisville. Parker is not the type to put the ball on the turf.

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    Injuries have been enough of an issue for Parker that he missed time in his senior year at Louisville and was limited before the 2015 season started. That’s keeping his upside score lower than others.

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    How well Parker jells with Ryan Tannehill will say a lot about his potential and where he’s ranked in 2020, but his skills and upside make him a no-brainer in the top 10.

6. Kevin White (28 Years Old)

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    24/25

    People who are 6’3” and 215 pounds aren’t supposed to run 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, but Kevin White did it at the scouting combine. He’s freakishly athletic, on par with the Julio Joneses of the world, and uses his speed to dominate off the line of scrimmage. Good luck finding a cornerback big enough and fast enough to cover him one-on-one.

    2020 Route Running

    22/25

    White can win with speed or power off the line of scrimmage and does a great job controlling his body through transitions. Projecting him out to 2020, look for his breaking routes to get better and the timing of his comeback routes to be on that Alshon Jeffery level.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    Concentration drops did show up in White’s game film from West Virginia, but this was an area in which he improved during his two years in Morgantown. White has the hand size, the long arms and the jumping ability to become a dominant player above the turf.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    White has unreal height, weight, speed and catching ability, but right now he’s been limited by a shin injury. As long as that’s not a persistent injury, he should shake it off and carry the same All-Pro potential he carried with him into the NFL.

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    White hasn’t seen the field in the NFL, but his predraft potential and the skill set he showed at West Virginia are enough to get him on the list for 2020.

5. Mike Evans (27 Years Old)

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    Alex Menendez/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    23/25

    At 6’5” and 231 pounds at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, Mike Evans ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds. That may not impress the casual reader, but it’s amazing. Evans has buildup speed, and with his size, he’s nearly impossible to cover down the field.

    2020 Route Running

    23/25

    Evans didn’t leave college with a wide range of polished routes in his toolbox, but he’s able to dominate on the routes that he does run—slants, fades and comebacks. He’ll never be a great transition route-runner (think breaking routes), but he’s big enough and fast enough to dominate over the top.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    The modern wide receiver is often built like a small forward with a big body, long arms and the ability to challenge defenses above the turf. That’s Evans. He has great concentration to make those jump-ball catches (often called 50-50 balls) and extend his catch radius with his length. The only knock on Evans is the occasional concentration drop, which did show up too often in 2015. Evans can make the amazing grab, but has to become more consistent with the routine catch in the future. Perhaps it's just a matter of getting used to Jameis Winston's throws, but something looked off in 2015.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    Evans is nearly unlimited in his abilities, but there have been some injury concerns early in his career. That’s the only issue potentially limiting his upside.

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Evans has the rare size-and-speed combination that could allow him to take over the league—Julio Jones style.

4. DeAndre Hopkins (28 Years Old)

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    George Bridges/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 28

    2020 Speed

    22/25

    Line up the top five receivers on this list, and DeAndre Hopkins might come in last in a race, but he has the straight-line speed and quickness to be dangerous down the field or on underneath and crossing routes. Hopkins has agility and body control to complement the fact that he’s “only” a 4.5-speed guy.

    2020 Route Running

    24/25

    The Clemson offense does a great job preparing receivers for the NFL, and Hopkins has developed into a complete route-runner. The only reason he doesn’t score at 25 points here is that his lack of sheer size can cause problems on inside routes.

    2020 Hands

    29/30

    Turn on the film of the Week 1 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs from the 2015 season, and you'll see Hopkins leaping in the end zone and coming down with the ball over Marcus Peters. That’s what he does best. Hopkins is only 6’1”, but he plays like he’s 6’4” and has great leaping skills, plus the concentration to make tough grabs.

    2020 Upside Factor

    18/20

    Hopkins is one of the older players at the top of this list (currently 23), but the only thing limiting his upside is the unfavorable quarterback situation in Houston.

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    Hopkins has just started to scratch the surface of his immense talent. In the year 2020, he’ll be a top-five receiver.

3. Sammy Watkins (27 Years Old)

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    23/25

    Put him on the white line, and Sammy Watkins will wow you with his speed and size. He’s not tall, but it's a sight to see his yoked-up 6’1”, 211-pound frame hitting low 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard-dash. Now imagine you’re a cornerback trying to guess when he’s breaking off his route.

    2020 Route Running

    24/25

    Watkins has that rare ability to explode out of his stance and get to top speed in a hurry, which makes him a devil to cover on underneath routes where he can get leverage on the defender. It also makes him tough to defend on deep routes or their counterparts, the comebacks, because he’s a big vertical threat.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    Whether you look at his college film at Clemson or his first two seasons with the Bills, Watkins has shown he has the hands to play underneath and get dirty in traffic or take the top off the coverage and stretch the field. He will drop a few, but in the year 2020, the only people worrying about his hands will be defensive coordinators.

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    Watkins doesn’t have many limitations as to how good he can be. The only reason he doesn’t score a perfect 20/20 is because of a few injuries that make his long-term sustainability a question.

    2020 Overall Projection

    93/100

    The only thing holding Watkins back might not be himself, but rather the quarterback situation in Buffalo. He has top-tier athleticism and wide receiver traits, though, and is worth betting on as a top-tier receiver in 2020.

2. Odell Beckham (27 Years Old)

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    23/25

    Odell Beckham, Jr. is one of the slipperiest wide receivers in the NFL. In terms of short-area quickness, burst and agility, he’s one of the best. If we’re talking straight-line speed, he’s good, but not in the top tier. And that’s OK when you think about his ability to make people miss underneath—which sets him up perfectly to be a deep threat with his leaping skills and body control.

    2020 Route Running

    24/25

    Beckham is a dangerous player on the move, as we’ve seen, and in the next five years he could become great. The only area that seems to be lacking now—and in the future—is his ability to play with power as a route-runner. Beckham still gets rubbed off routes and can lose positioning to stronger cornerbacks.

    2020 Hands

    30/30

    We’ve all seen the one-handed catches. Beckham has ridiculous hand strength, hand size and concentration. What I want to see moving forward five years is the confidence and consistency to use two hands when needed and secure the “gimme” catches he has to make underneath.

    2020 Upside Factor

    19/20

    Can Beckham ever outlive the hype of his rookie season? That’s the big question, and it’s the only reason he doesn’t get a 20 for upside. His talent, though, is undeniable, and five years from now we could be looking at a Marvin Harrison-type receiver.

    2020 Overall Projection

    96/100

    Beckham set the league on fire in 2014, and with a good quarterback in Eli Manning for a few more years, he has the lasting power to still be a top-tier player in five years.

1. Amari Cooper (26 Years Old)

22 of 22

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    2020 Age: 27

    2020 Speed

    25/25

    Throw out the faulty scouting combine measurement of 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash, because Amari Cooper has legit 4.35 speed. Coming off the line of scrimmage, defenders have to immediately respect Cooper’s ability to take the top off the field, and with his quick feet and body control, that makes him a dangerous player on comeback routes with big yards-after-catch potential.

    2020 Route Running

    25/25

    Cooper’s ability to throw off defenders with his footwork and hips is a sight to see. He’s fluid and so explosive that covering him through his transitions is already a tough job. Imagine where he’ll be in five years? Cooper’s route running has the potential to be Reggie Wayne-like.

    2020 Hands

    27/30

    Something the game film showed at Alabama was that Cooper would drop the occasional easy ball. That looked to be a concentration issue more than anything, but it’s definitely something that came up in his rookie season. Cooper was credited with 18 drops by Pro Football Focus. This is too many, and Cooper must adjust to the hard throwing of Derek Carr as they grow together in Oakland.

    2020 Upside Factor

    20/20

    In talking to people around the league, the belief is that Cooper can become an All-Pro very soon if the quarterback situation in Oakland is indeed settled with Derek Carr at the helm. Cooper’s upside is nearly unlimited, and if it were possible to have more than 20 points here, he’d get them.

    2020 Overall Projection

    97/100

    When Amari Cooper scored a 97 out of 100, I thought the scoring system had to be broken. But when you go back and look at his talent and his upside, it’s easy to feel good about Cooper being the NFL’s best receiver in 2020.

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