As the NFL grows more and more pass-heavy, it's becoming increasingly important for teams to have a dangerous cadre of pass-catchers. As great as Patrick Mahomes is, the Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV in no small part because of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce.
It's thus no surprise that the top half of the first round of the 2020 NFL draft is littered with teams that might add a wideout with their first selection.
The New York Giants have some young talent at the position but need a true No. 1. The New York Jets need one even more, especially if Robby Anderson leaves in free agency. The Washington Redskins need a running mate for Terry McLaurin.
The Jacksonville Jaguars. The Detroit Lions. The Miami Dolphins. The Arizona Cardinals. The Las Vegas Raiders. The list goes on and on.
The Redskins likely won't take a wide receiver at No. 2 overall. But one of these teams will make a top receiving prospect the first player selected at his position. And all of them will hope to find the best of the bunch.
With their collegiate careers completed and the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine in the books, the race to be the king of this year's receiver class appears to have come down to two players, both of whom boast impressive resumes, skill sets and claims to the throne.
After watching Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb steal the show in on-field drills at the combine, ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit went further than just calling the 6'2", 198-pounder the best wide receiver in the 2020 draft.
Herbstreit said he might be the best player in the draft.
Lamb spent the last few years being one of the most dangerous wide receivers in college football. Catching passes from Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts at Oklahoma, he racked up 173 catches for 3,292 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Lamb topped 1,000 yards each of the last two seasons, including 62 receptions for 1,327 yards (21.4 yards per catch, tops in the nation among receivers with 40-plus grabs) and 14 scores. Per Jake Arthur of the Colts' website, Lamb is the Sooners' all-time leader in yards per catch among players with 130 or more receptions, catches of 40-plus yards (24) and games with 160-plus receiving yards (six).
As Kyle Crabbs of the Draft Network noted, Lamb had no issue with hauling in contested catches in college:
"CeeDee Lamb projects as an alpha WR in the NFL. No, he doesn't have elite top-end speed, but Lamb checks damn near every other possible box. He's smooth with his feet, possesses elite body control, vacuum hands and is a dynamic, angry runner after the catch. Experienced in manufactured touches, boundary and slot work, Lamb should step into an offense and be comfortable filling any possible role than a coach could give him. A top-shelf WR prospect and impact starter early on."
Lamb's ability to high-point the football and hurt teams after the catch has drawn comparisons to a number of NFL superstars. But Lamb told reporters at the combine (via Arthur) that he's eager to show he's his own man.
"I get a lot of comparisons, honestly, but I just want to go out there and compete," Lamb said.
When asked about which pro comparisons he's heard: "DeAndre Hopkins. I've also seen Davante Adams. Like I said, those are great receivers; I'm honored."
Lamb isn't a flawless prospect. His frame is on the slight side, and his 4.50-second 40 time in Indianapolis wasn't jaw-dropping. But Lamb's hands and agility are off the charts, and he's a terror if you can get the ball to him in space.
He's a better prospect than former teammate Marquise Brown, whom the Baltimore Ravens selected 25th overall last year. And Dede Westbrook (No. 110 overall in 2017). And Sterling Shepard (No. 40 overall) the year before that. And every other Sooners wideout that has entered the NFL in the 21st century.
But as dangerous as Lamb is, he isn't willing to call himself the best wide receiver in the class of 2020.
"I said it yesterday with Jerry (Jeudy), there are a lot of great receivers in this class," Lamb said, via the Pro Football Writers of America transcript of his combine presser. "To say that we're the headliners of this receiving group, it's a huge honor. I'm grateful for the opportunity and I thank God every morning. I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing."
If someone's going to beat Lamb off the board, Jeudy is probably the guy.
The University of Alabama has been known to produce big-time NFL receivers. Just since 2011, Julio Jones, Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley have gone from stars in Tuscaloosa to stars in the pros. There's no guarantee that Jeudy will follow that same path, but the 6'1", 193-pounder had the first part down.
Two years ago, Jeudy caught 68 passes for 1,315 yards, averaging over 19 yards per catch. He backed that breakout season up in 2019, averaging fewer yards per catch but hauling in more passes (77) for 1,163 yards. Over the last two seasons, he found the end zone 25 times.
When watching tape of Jeudy, Jacob Infante of Draft Wire saw not only the most dangerous wide receiver in this class, but perhaps the best wideout prospect to enter the pros in several years.
"Simply put, Jeudy might just be the most talented wide receiver to enter the NFL draft in quite some time. His athleticism is off the charts. A quick-twitch athlete with top-notch burst, agility and straight-line speed, Jeudy is a challenge for anyone to cover based off of his raw athleticism alone. When he gets the ball in his hands, he is a threat to break free on nearly every play. He has stellar lateral agility in the open field, and his vision as a ball-carrier allows him to exploit open running lanes in space."
Jeudy said all of the right things at the combine about potentially being the top wide receiver in this class—including that he doesn't care whether he's the first player off the board at the position.
"It's very humbling really, being named one of the top receivers in the class, among all these great receivers," Jeudy said, via a PFWA transcript. "I don't really care where I get chosen, where I get picked. I just know wherever I go at, they're going to get the best out of me. I'm going to come out and compete, work hard each and every day to show them why I'm the best."
Jeudy may have fared well in interviews and on-field drills at the combine, but the athletic testing was another matter. Jeudy ran an OK 4.45 40-yard dash and wound up in the 22nd percentile of the SPARQ metric. According to freelance writer Peter Bukowski, NFL teams are more skeptical about Jeudy than the draft community.
But the tape does not lie—even if it's a hype type.
In many ways, Lamb and Jeudy are mirror images of one another. Both are excellent at beating teams over the top and going after the ball. Both are also terrific in the open field. They are similarly built and similarly fleet of foot on tape, 40 times aside.
This isn't to say there aren't differences...and flaws. Jeudy runs cleaner short and intermediate routes than Lamb. Lamb's hands are a bit better than Jeudy's, who struggled occasionally with drops. And neither was regularly tested in college by the type of talent they will face in coverage in the NFL.
If teams don't fall in love with Lamb or Jeudy, they'll have plenty of other options. This year's wide receiver class is deep.
Jeudy's teammate, Henry Ruggs III, was the combine's fastest man, peeling off a 4.27-second 40 time. LSU's Justin Jefferson caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards in 2019 and had a great showing in drills in Indianapolis. Tee Higgins of Clemson didn't participate at the combine, but there's plenty of tape of the 6'4", 216-pounder making defenses look silly.
It's a good year to need wide receiver help. Potential difference-makers abound.
But when the dust settles on April 23, either Lamb or Jeudy will likely be the first wideout drafted in 2020.
The best part? NFL teams can't go wrong either way.