News & Analysis

Pre-Combine wide receiver rookie fantasy football rankings

Our pre-Combine rookie fantasy football rankings conclude today with a look at wide receiver. This year’s crop is a fascinating bunch with some slam dunks at the top and a ton of potential long-term fantasy depth.

Wide receiver can take a little time to develop in the NFL, but often we do see their best production come within roughly the first five years of their career. Keep that in mind and try to stay young at the position on your dynasty rosters.

This is only an initial list to get us set for the combine. Things will change over the next two months as we learn more about these players — and then again after the NFL Draft. However, it’s important to a baseline of how these players stack up against each other before the draft.

Check out Jeff’s pre-Combine quarterback rookie fantasy football rankings, pre-Combine running back rookie fantasy football rankings, pre-Combine tight end rookie fantasy football rankings and all of our fantasy football rankings.

1. Jerry Jeudy, Alabama

It’s a tight race at the top this year between Jeudy and Lamb, and we really could rank them 1 and 1A. Jeudy had no problem filling the stats sheet, averaging 17.2 yards per catch and 7.3 yards after catch in his three seasons at Alabama. During that span, he found the end zone 26 times and converted a solid 52% of his contested targets for catches. He isn’t necessarily a generational fantasy prospect, but he’s a good bet for future long-term fantasy success.

2. Ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma

Oct 12, 2019; Dallas, TX, USA; Oklahoma Sooners receiver CeeDee Lamb (2) runs after a reception against the Texas Longhorns at Cotton Bowl. Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Lamb has an appealing combination of size, speed and playmaking ability. He ranked fourth in the nation in yards per route run (3.99) this past season and finished his career north of 3.0 at 3.01. Like Jeudy, Lamb topped 1,000 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons, racking up 25 touchdowns over that span. He has a game tailor made for fantasy production.

3. Tee Higgins, Clemson

A bigger receiver than the top two players on this list, Higgins showed the ability to get downfield this past season. His 15 catches of 20-plus yards tied for fifth-most in the nation. Over the course of his career, he saw an average depth of target of 16.11, which is one of the highest in this year’s class. He also posted an extremely efficient 3.29 yards per route run. There really isn’t much of a gap between Higgins and the top two on this list.

4. Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado

Shenault exploded on the scene in 2018 when he notched 86 catches for 1,011 yards and six scores. His numbers dropped off last season, but Shenault showed good hands with just three drops on 80 targets in 2019. While his career 3.25 yards per route run is very similar to Higgins, it’s important to note that Shenault was targeted an average of just 9.5 yards from the line of scrimmage over his career. That means he likely offers less upside than the top three options.

5. Henry Ruggs III, Alabama

Upside isn’t an issue with Ruggs, as he scored a touchdown on 24 of his 98 career catches at Alabama. While he’s arguably the fastest wideout in this year’s class, Ruggs wasn’t used heavily downfield for Alabama. He finished his career with an average depth of target of 11.4, which is more than a yard-and-a-half shorter than Jerry Jeudy’s. Regardless, Ruggs’ gamebreaking ability makes him one of the most appealing wideouts in this year’s class.

6. Justin Jefferson, LSU

Like pretty much everyone at LSU, Jefferson posted monster numbers this season. He caught 82.8% of his targets and finished tied for the most catches in the nation with 111. He also found the end zone a whopping 18 times. Jefferson’s surge in production is certainly in part due to Joe Burrow, but it’s also important to note that he moved into the slot after playing primarily on the outside earlier in his career. He may not have the highest ceiling of this bunch, but Jefferson’s efficiency should allow him to surface as a solid fantasy option in the NFL.

7. Tyler Johnson, Minnesota

He's not necessarily a household name just yet, but Tyler Johnson is someone to know for fantasy purposes. He found the end zone in 10 of Minnesota’s 13 games this past season, posting 13 total scores. That’s back-to-back years with double-digit scores and 1,000-plus yards. Johnson excelled on contested balls, with 39 catches on 76 career contested targets. If there’s a sleeper who has the chance to outperform the top options in this class at the pro level, it’s Johnson.

8. Michael Pittman Jr., USC

After getting off to a slow start with just 70 receptions over his first three seasons with the Trojans, Pittman exploded with 101 catches in 2019. Perhaps more importantly, he caught nearly everything thrown at him, with just five drops in his college career. He isn’t going to win with speed, but those ball skills bode well for future fantasy success.

9. Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty

Extremely productive at the college level, Gandy-Golden found the end zone 10 times in each of the last two years and posted a combined 149 receptions over that span. Last season, he ranked third in the nation with 37 deep-ball targets (balls traveling at least 20 yards in the air). Gandy-Golden is far from the most polished product in this year’s class, but his size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) and production at the college level make him one of the more appealing rookie sleepers in 2020.

10. Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State

A speedy receiver who worked his way up from the JUCO level. Aiyuck wasn’t much of a factor in 2018 with just 33 catches on 47 targets, but he took a huge step forward with N’Keal Harry out of the mix last season. Aiyuk finished the year with 65 catches for 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns. He saw just 19 deep-ball targets but posted 384 yards on those targets (which ranked 38th in the nation). Aiyuk's explosive big-play ability is appealing, but our team’s comp to Cordarelle Patterson doesn’t necessary bode well for his fantasy outlook.

11. KJ Hamler, Penn State

Oct 12, 2019; Iowa City, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KJ Hamler (1) runs for a 22 yard touchdown reception during the second quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

An explosive player maker who is very different from some of the recent Penn State wideouts we’ve seen enter the NFL (Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin). Hamler is slightly built (5-foot-9, 176 pounds) and can flat out fly. His career 2.23 yards per route run doesn’t really stand out, and he also dropped a massive 12 balls on 92 targets last season. That being said, his big play upside is extremely appealing if he lands in the right spot.

12. Bryan Edwards, South Carolina

A four-year starter for the Gamecocks, Edwards racked up 234 receptions in his college career. While that certainly sounds good, Edwards really wasn’t able to take a statistical step forward in his senior year even with Deebo Samuels out of the way. However, he has size you can’t teach at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. That at least gives him a shot at surfacing as a fantasy option at the pro level.

13. Jalen Reagor, TCU

A dynamic playmaker, Raegor scored 22 touchdowns and averaged 15.2 yards per catch in three years at TCU. Drops were an issue, as he had seven on 50 catchable targets in 2019. Then again, he didn’t have the best quarterback situation last season. Reagor’s testing numbers at the Combine will be especially interesting to track.

14. Denzel Mims, Baylor

Extremely productive over the last three years, Mims posted two 1,000-yard seasons and scored 28 touchdowns over that span. Targeted a healthy 14.8 yards downfield on average, Mims showed the ability to make spectacular plays at the college level. Still, he’s far from a polished prospect who may be limited to a boom-or-bust fantasy profile.

15. K.J. Hill, Ohio State

A slot receiver for the Buckeyes over the last three seasons, Hill racked up 183 catches over that span. Don’t expect him to see much work downfield, as Hill’s career average depth of target comes in at just 8.03. However, he’s going to catch pretty much everything thrown his way, as Hill dropped just nine balls in his college career. He has the makings of a high-floor, low-ceiling PPR option if he’s able to carve out a starting role with an NFL team.

16. Omar Bayless, Arkansas State

This past season was a banner year for Bayless. He ranked second in the nation in receiving yards with 1,654, caught 93 balls and scored 17 receiving touchdowns. All three of those numbers were more than he posted in each category over the previous three seasons combined. One-year wonders don’t always translate to the NFL, but it’s worth keeping an eye on Bayless through the pre-draft process.

17. Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State

Hodgins comes from a football family, as his father played fullback in the NFL. The younger Hodgins may not be a lead blocker, but he did excel in contested situations with 32 catches on 53 career contested targets. He also showed the ability to put up big numbers with 86 catches for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2019.

18. Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky

Arguably the most versatile player on this list, Bowden did a bit of everything for Kentucky, including playing quarterback. Bowden scored 13 times as a runner and six as a receiver in his college career. He may not be Taysom Hill, but his all-purpose skill set should get him on the field as a slot receiver at the pro level.

19. Devin Duvernay, Texas

After posting just 50 combined catches in 2017 and 2019, Duvernay exploded in 2019 with 105 catches on 129 targets for 1,392 yards and nine scores. In the process, he flashed major short-area quickness with 23 forced missed tackles. He projects as one of the better slot wideouts in this year’s class.

20. Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan

Michigan recruited Peoples-Jones as one of the top receivers in the country, but he never lived up to that billing. That being said, he has size you can’t teach (6-foot-2, 208 pounds). Still, his career 1.76 yards per route run doesn’t paint the most flattering picture.

21. Gabriel Davis, UCF

Aug 29, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; UCF Knights wide receiver Gabriel Davis (13) makes a reception and runs the ball in for a touchdown as Florida A&M Rattlers defensive back Troy Hilton (30) and defensive back Markquese Bell (5) defend during the first half at Spectrum Stadium. Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Davis has NFL size (6-foot-3, 212 pounds) and is coming off a 2019 campaign where he posted an impressive 72 catches for 1,241 yards and 12 touchdowns. His size and downfield ability (he posted a career aDOT of 15.46) are appealing.

22. Antonio Gibson, Memphis

A hybrid one-year wonder, Gibson touched the ball 38 times as a receiver and 33 as a runner last season. And on those 71 touches, he found the end zone a jaw-dropping 12 times. His explosive playmaking ability makes him a name to watch through the pre-draft process.

23. Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin

After missing all of 2018, Cephus returned to the field last season and posted career bests in receptions (59), yards (901) and touchdowns (seven). He especially excelled in contested situations, catching 22-of-38 contested targets over his college career.

24. Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

A big-bodied wide receiver (6-foot-4, 229 pounds) who looks more like a tight end at times. Found the end zone 13 times in 2019, but his career yards per route run of 1.79 is a tad on the low side.

25. James Proche, SMU

He isn’t the most impressive receiver in this year’s class from an athletic standpoint, but Proche is one of the most productive. He caught 301 balls for 3,949 yards and 39 scores while dropping just nine balls over the last four years.

26. Quartney Davis, Texas A&M

A two-year starter for the Aggies, Davis ran 78.4% of his routes out of the slot this past season. He has decent size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) but only managed to covert 11-of-41 contested targets (26.8%) for catches in his college career.

27. John Hightower, Boise State

Lean (6-foot-2, 172 pounds) but fast, Hightower showed the ability to make plays downfield with an average depth of target of 17.7 yards. He also averaged a solid 2.73 yards per route run in two seasons at Boise State.

28. Van Jefferson, Florida

Despite being a starter for the last four seasons (the first two with Ole Miss), Jefferson never put up numbers that stood out at the college level. He maxed out with 49 catches during his freshman and senior seasons and posted a career-high of 657 yards last season.

29. Collin Johnson, Texas

Size isn’t an issue for Johnson, who checks in at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. He notched 68 catches for 985 yards in 2018 but battled injuries last season. Johnson isn’t the most efficient player at the position. His career 1.85 yards per route run is on the low side.

30. Jauan Jennings, Tennessee

Oct 26, 2019; Knoxville, TN, USA; Tennessee Volunteers wide receiver Jauan Jennings (15) runs the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker Ernest Jones (53) and defensive back Israel Mukuamu (24) during the first half at Neyland Stadium. Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

A converted dual-threat quarterback, Jennings is a big slot type who checks in at 6-foot-3 and 208 pounds. He really seemed to finally take to wideout this past season, as he racked up 59 catches for 969 yards and led all wide receivers with 30 forced missed tackles. Over his career, he averaged a solid 6.93 YAC.

31. Kalija Lipscomb, Vanderbilt

Dynamic after the catch, Lipscomb posted 18 forced missed tackles on 45 catches this past season. He also showed the ability to make contested plays at the college level, catching 37-of-72 contested targets. That being said, he only caught 10 balls that traveled at least 10 yards in the air last year.

32. Cody White, Michigan State

A big-bodied wideout who is coming off a career-best 922 receiving yards on 66 catches last season. His career 1.85 yards per route run leaves something to be desired.

33. Aaron Fuller, Washington

Fuller caught a combined 117 balls over the last two seasons, but he struggled in contested situations with just 14 catches on 43 career contested targets.

34. Marquez Callaway, Tennessee

A nine-route deep threat, Callaway was targeted a massive 17.15 yards downfield on average in college.

35. Darrell Stewart Jr., Michigan State

Despite starting in each of the last three seasons for the Spartans, Stewart failed to take a step forward. He finished his career with just 1.65 yards per route run and an aDOT of 9.69.

36. Binjimen Victor, Ohio State

Victor posted 18 touchdowns on just 83 career catches but was also well under 2.00 yards per route run at 1.72.

37. Aaron Paker, Rhode Island

The better of the two Rhode Island prospects (the other is his cousin Isaiah Coulter), Paker put up 3,460 yards and 30 touchdowns in his college career. He’s raw, but his size is appealing (6-foot-3, 208 pounds).

38. Joe Reed, Virginia

A slot receiver who posted a solid 7.18 YAC in college but also managed a lackluster 1.53 yards per route run.

39. Stephen Guidry, Mississippi State

A big-bodied receiver at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Guidry saw an average depth of target of 17.51 but managed just 1.55 yards per route run in college.

40. Isaiah Coulter, Rhode Island

Small-schooler who put up 72 catches for 1,039 yards and eight scores last season. His measurables are enticing, but Coulter is a raw prospect.

41. Austin Mack, Ohio State

Was targeted an average of 13.52 yards downfield but managed just 1.56 yards per route run in his college career.

42. Quez Watkins, Mississippi State

Productive over the last two seasons with a combined 136 catches in Conference USA. Thin for his height at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds but did catch a respectable 26-of-58 contested targets in college.

43. Darnell Mooney, Tulane

Oct 5, 2019; West Point, NY, USA; Tulane Green Wave wide receiver Darnell Mooney (3) runs after a catch against Army Black Knights defensive back Jabari Moore (28) during the second half at Michie Stadium. Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Mooney lacks size (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) but was productive at Tulane with 2.2 yards per route run and 16.6 yards per reception.

44. Malcolm Perry, Navy

A quarterback for the Midshipmen, Perry will  test as a wideout. He’s undersized (5-foot-9, 190 pounds) but athletic. Has an outside shot at a Taysom Hill role.

45. Kendrick Rogers, Texas A&M

Another big-bodied wideout who struggled to put up numbers. Rogers checks in at 6-foot-4, 204 pounds but managed just 1.15 yards per route run.

46. Juwan Johnson, Oregon

Built like a tight end, Johnson transferred to Oregon from Penn State last season. He posted 30 catches for 467 yards and a career-best four touchdowns in 2019.

47. K.J. Osborn, Miami

A slot receiver at Buffalo, Osborn’s efficiency numbers took a hit last season after he transferred to Miami, going from 16.8 yards per catch in 2018 to just 10.9 in 2019.

48. Lawrence Cager, Georgia

He was targeted an average of 15.32 yards down field but managed a disappointing 1.83 yards per route run at Georgia.

49. Tyrie Cleveland, Florida

He has NFL size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds) but was unable to make his mark at Florida with just 79 catches over the last four years.

50. Trishton Jackson, Syracuse

Jackson struggled in contested situations with just 11 catches on 34 career contested targets.

51. Jeff Thomas, Miami

Thomas finished his college career south of 2.00 yards per route run (1.79) and caught just 26% of his contested targets.

52. Chris Finke, Notre Dame

Undersized slot receiver who managed just 1.42 yards per route run at Notre Dame.

53. Dezmon Patmon, Washington State

A two-year starter who really doesn’t stand out in any one area. Patmon averaged 1.84 yards per route run and had an aDOT of 10.45.

54. Freddie Swain, Florida

Swain averaged just 1.52 yards per route run and caught just 2-of-19 contested targets in his college career.

55. Tony Brown, Colorado

One of the least-efficient wideouts in this year’s class, Brown managed just 1.18 yards per route run in his college career.

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