According to reports coming out of training camps around the NFL, the whole league is about to be made up entirely of exciting young wide receivers.
Among 2020 first rounders, Henry Ruggs is turning heads in Las Vegas, CeeDee Lamb is “worth the hype” in Dallas, Jerry Jeudy is mentoring veterans in Denver, Jalen Reagor is beating Darius Slay as a 1 in Philadelphia, and prior to his hamstring injury, the 49ers sounded more than ready to have Brandon Aiyuk as their top receiver.
Perhaps the only first round receiver falling behind in camp reports is Justin Jefferson of the Vikings, but it’s normally not breaking news when a rookie receiver isn’t ready to replace Stefon Diggs and start opposite of Adam Thielen. Jefferson could still end up getting a lot of snaps in his first year but if not, Minnesota is pumping up the play of Alexander Hollins, an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Illinois in 2019.
Another seven receivers were drafted in the second round and given the premise of the article, you know that means they too won’t be listed among all the names you’re about to read.
The Bengals are over the moon for Tee Higgins and the only thing that could stop them is their moon proximity with regards to Auden Tate, who apparently is also having a breakout August in Cincinnati — not that they’re moving on from A.J. Green or Tyler Boyd either. Michael Pittman looks to start for the Colts only a year after they drafted another second round receiver in Parris Campbell; Laviska Shenault is apparently going to force his way into a lineup that already has D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and Keelan Cole (and he’s not the only Jaguars rookie WR making noise); KJ Hamler was making camp highlights for the Broncos prior to a hamstring injury; Chase Claypool is “generating more buzz than the 10 players drafted above him” according to Mike Florio*; Van Jefferson could be too good already for Sean McVay to keep off the field in Week 1; and while Denzel Mims has missed too much of Jets training camp due to a hamstring injury to evaluate, he’s expected to be a significant contributor immediately.
*Florio should read this article
All I’ve done so far is list the wide receivers selected in the top 60 of this year’s draft and yet look at how long that took. Look at how much praise there is already.
Besides not hitting on the premise of the article yet — the receivers and other rookies picked after round two (or not picked) — I also haven’t mentioned the other examples of camp reports like that of Auden Tate. One reason that Jefferson won’t start for Minnesota is that they’re so pleased with how 2019 seventh rounder Olabisi Johnson has played. The Steelers may not need to rely heavily on Claypool when they’ve got not only 2018 second rounder James Washington and 2019 third rounder Diontae Johnson, but even JuJu Smith-Schuster is still younger than some rookies, including Van Jefferson.
Last year’s rookie class included immediate stars and contributors like A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf**, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin, Diontae Johnson, Marquise Brown, Mecole Hardman, Darius Slayton and Hunter Renfrow. Even rookie disappointments like JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Andy Isabella have gotten much more positive reports this year. Probably some others too, but at some point I need to stop doing research and get to the rookies.
**DeMarkus Lodge, the number three WR at Ole Miss behind Brown and Metcalf, is getting nice reviews with the Bengals as well and could make the team.
After all, I still have at least 13 more rookie wide receivers who are not the top 13 receivers selected, who have drawn notable praise in training camp already. I can’t tell you the cause of this but I’ll add some potential explanations;
- This happens every year but I haven’t done this exercise every year, so I wouldn’t know yet. In the near future, I may need to re-evaluate August reports in the last few years.
- It’s simply true that there are a lot of great young receiving talents. We know that the 2019 class was exceptionally productive and that the 2020 and 2021 receiver classes have been called two of the best ever by draft experts. Is it possible that many high school talents simply chose to play receiver over playing corner or running back? It would make sense, especially over playing running back.
- Receivers make exciting plays, it’s literally part of their job description: if you can’t make a one-handed diving grab while dragging two feet, are you cut out to play this position in the modern league?
- The modern league = more passing = more opportunities for receivers and naturally we are noticing that.
- It’s “over-hype season.”
Maybe it is the last one and we’ll find out three to four weeks into the season that rookies actually are well behind the development curve because of the unusual offseason. That’s entirely possible and we can’t put it past the media to drive narratives that only exist when beneficial to them. Without preseason games and with limited access to what’s actually happening in practice, who knows how much useful information could actually be slipping from the mouths of executives, coaches, players, scouts and content creators.
So I will leave out speculation as to how the 2020 season will play out for these rookies and instead focus on what I do know, which is that these reports exist. If you believe these reports, then the unusual offseason did nothing to slow down the progress of players entering the league for the first time.
- This list is not complete, but it is long. If you know of a name that’s getting a lot of praise that I missed, then please put it in the comments and I’ll add to the list.
- This list does not mean that the same prospect couldn’t have a contradictory report or that this couldn’t have been based on a single good day of practice. If you have contradictory reports and want to share those, that’s welcome.
- This list is long enough that it doesn’t need any more commentary from me. I’ll leave the commentary to you and I’m happy to have a discussion about any of the names below. I know that TST has a lot of people who are heavily invested in the draft and who I presumed would want to know updates about some of the players the Rams didn’t select.
- The order is the same as the order they were drafted in.
- Nearly every team is represented here. Nearly every team.
Jets - S Ashtyn Davis, 3rd round
It’s insane how casual Ashtyn Davis makes this look pic.twitter.com/WSaAbA111F— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) August 17, 2020
Gotten many questions about #Seahawks' remade offensive line. So far:— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) August 25, 2020
1. Damien Lewis starting RG from day 1, game 1. Not even close to a competition
2. B.J. Finney is a mystery
3. Brandon Shell a quicker, more athletic RT than Ifedi
4. OL big issues picking up/blocking blitzes
Ravens - DT Justin Madubuike, 3rd round
It'll be fun to track third-round pick Justin Madubuike's progress this camp. He looks smooth and powerful going through drills, and he had back-to-back disruptive plays in the first 11-on-11 session.— Jonas Shaffer (@jonas_shaffer) August 18, 2020
Could've heard "Yeah, 92!" from Baltimore.
Raiders - WR Bryan Edwards. 3rd round
Rams - LB Terrell Lewis, 3rd round
Vikings - CB Cameron Dantzler, 3rd round
#Vikings CB Cameron Dantzler got some first-team work.— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) August 16, 2020
Texans - DE Jonathan Greenard, 3rd round
Bill O'Brien on the rookie class: 'I mean (Ross) Blacklock looks like he’s picking it up. (Jonathan) Greenard had a couple of good plays today. John Reid’s a smart guy'— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) August 14, 2020
Ravens - WR Devin Duvernay, 3rd round
Devin Duvernay stood out, too. He beat Anthony Averett on one double move and hauled in a deep ball.— Aaron Kasinitz (@AaronKazreports) August 18, 2020
“Jackson’s best throw of the day was a perfectly placed deep ball down the far sideline to rookie Devin Duvernay, who beat Peters to make the catch. Duvernay has made several plays with Peters in coverage during training camp.” https://t.co/zo9Yqn2Ata— NFL Beat Writers (@32BeatWriters) August 25, 2020
Rookie Jacob Phillips with a nice breakup of a pass intended for Hooper. Phillips is big and fast so I’d assume the plan is to get him ready to play in 2-LB sets.— Zac Jackson (@AkronJackson) August 25, 2020
Adam Trautman: Impressing teammates - https://t.co/sf3JRct8A8— RotoWire (@RotoWireNFL) August 19, 2020
Darnay Holmes went up and over Golden Tate for a diving interception of Daniel Jones to end the third series. A wow play from the rookie. #NYG— Art Stapleton (@art_stapleton) August 21, 2020
Dolphins - G Solomon Kindley, 4th round
Former Georgia OG, Solomon Kindley is turning heads already down in Miami.— Dawgs Daily on SI (@DawgsDailySI) August 18, 2020
He’s running with the starting group. https://t.co/pde6NpvyPN
Broncos - TE Albert Okwuegbunam, 4th round
Albert Okwuegbunam red zone rep splitting Alijah Holder and Josey Jewell, look at the catch radius, natural hands, smooth movements in one quick clip here. Really like the potential of a high rec/TD ratio for Albert Ochocinco in 2020. pic.twitter.com/DXvHkoyQR6— Sayre Bedinger (@SayreBedinger) August 19, 2020
As President of the Mykal Walker fan club, I’m trying to keep things in perspective but it’s hard not to get excited about how camp has gone so far for Walker. Buy stock now. pic.twitter.com/VRN5Il2KzK— Matt Karoly (@mattkaroly) August 23, 2020
Colts - QB Jacob Eason, 4th round
Jacob Eason's arm strength has been real evident here in this team period. He throws it very well to the outside— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAErickson) August 24, 2020
Cards - DE Rashard Lawrence, 4th round
Jordan Phillips calls rookie Rashard Lawrence ‘best D-lineman I’ve seen in a long time’ https://t.co/D7T8885osq— TheCardsWire (@Cards_Wire) August 23, 2020
Jaguars - CB Josiah Scott, 4th round
#Jaguars rookie CB Josiah Scott continues to impress. This time getting at least one PBU and an interception during WR/CB one on ones.— Demetrius Harvey (@Demetrius82) August 24, 2020
Texans - CB John Reid, 4th round
Seahawks - RB DeeJay Dallas, 4th round
#Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) on RB Deejay Dallas (@DallasDeejay) through camp. High praise from one of the best leaders in the NFL. “My favorite rookie is Deejay Dallas”. #Footballville pic.twitter.com/JU3lAUxZUZ— Footballville Nation (@Footballville) August 23, 2020
Seahawks -DE Alton Robinson, 5th round
Carroll backs up what I've been saying since 1st days: rookie 5th-rd pick Alton Robinson has been eye-opening at rush end. Positioning himself for role far greater than usual debuting 5th-rounders#Seahawks have had a, uh, bit of success in rd 5. Richard Sherman. Kam Chancellor.— Gregg Bell (@gbellseattle) August 24, 2020
Anthony Lynn on if it's a tough ask for a rookie like Joe Reed to play multiple roles: "Depends on who the rookie is. So far Joe has shown me that he can handle that." #Chargers— Gilbert Manzano (@GManzano24) August 25, 2020
Jaguars - S Daniel Thomas, 5th round
Jaguars - WR Collin Johnson, 5th round
This isn’t even fail!— Jamal St. Cyr (@JStCyrTV) August 21, 2020
Collin Johnson goes up and gets another 1 handed grab over Luq Barco pic.twitter.com/grnHV2tKlK
Lions - WR Quintez Cephus, 5th round
Eagles - WR John Hightower, 5th round
John Hightower vs. Darius Slay pic.twitter.com/FC5aVhP42h— Jimmy Kempski (@JimmyKempski) August 20, 2020
Bears - WR Darnell Mooney, 5th round
Rookie Larrell Murchison made of good plays. He stood Isaiah Wilson up forcing the RB to bounce his run inside then beat Wilson inside to track down a run going away from him. https://t.co/SwnR5etfWB— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) August 20, 2020
Packers - LB Kamal Martin, 5th round
Kamal Martin has a “high ceiling.” LaFleur says. He’s been as impressive as any rookie on the roster.— Bill Huber (@BillHuberSI) August 23, 2020
Lined up with Hitch— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) August 21, 2020
Also, Mike Danna?
Also, Rodney Clemons? https://t.co/hjh4KxKOdj
Cowboys - DE Bradlee Anae, 5th round
BRADLEE ANAE NATION STAND UP https://t.co/fa44x8cKiE— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) August 23, 2020
Rams - S Jordan Fuller, 6th round
Rams rookie S Jordan Fuller made the 2 biggest plays so far in this morning practice. Picked up a fumble, and also made a perfectly timed breakup of a nice long pass by John Wolford. His teammates loved it.— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) August 21, 2020
Eagles - WR Quez Watkins, 6th round
The Eagles may have something special in Quez Watkins https://t.co/5JgyagDOyy— PhillySportsNetwork (@PhiladelphiaSN) August 17, 2020
Bills - WR Isaiah Hodgins, 6th round
#Bills fans what do you know about Isaiah Hodgins and Gabriel Davis?— Jeff Haseley (@JeffHaseley) August 23, 2020
"Those two rookies are the two best I've seen so far since I've been in the league. Those guys know the playbook better than the veterans right now"
- John Brown
Bengals - LB Markus Bailey, 7th round
rookie markus bailey on the field with presumably the first team defense with william jackson and vonn bell https://t.co/tutwwMhvXM— john sheeran (@John__Sheeran) August 16, 2020
Chargers - WR K.J. Hill, 7th round
Chargers starting WR’s:— Chargers⚡️Union (@ChargersUnion) August 25, 2020
1. Keenan Allen
Something tells me that KJ Hill might have a big year. Tyrod is going to have to depend on Hunter Henry & Ekeler a lot more
Also important to remember that by this time we usually have 4-5 key injuries instead of just one https://t.co/Ta6mXAekqv
Football - DE James Smith-Williams, 7th round
We’re back out here in Ashburn early, it’s raining but that didn’t stop James Smith-Williams from being the first player out of the building ... again— Mitchell Tischler (@Mitch_Tischler) August 22, 2020
He’s quickly turned into the odds on favorite, I don’t know that I’d bet against him at this point #WFT
Broncos - WR Tyrie Cleveland, 7th round
Tyrie Cleveland mixing in with the #Broncos first-team offense— Sayre Bedinger (@SayreBedinger) August 24, 2020
Giants - LB Tae Crowder, 7th round (“Mr. Irrelevant”)
Another LB that has been standing out at #Giants training camp is Tae Crowder. "Mr. Irrelevant" was the last pick in the draft, but he is a former RB at Georgia with plus athleticism. Kevin Sherrer (Giants' LB coach) says he has a different skill set than many of the other LBs. pic.twitter.com/JR5YK1fpqE— David Solow (@GiantsAlliance) August 25, 2020
Rookies showing up ⬇️— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) August 24, 2020
* Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene each had four grabs in competitive periods
* Myles Bryant picked off Cam Newton
* Josh Uche got into the backfield on a couple of occasions, once to snuff out a Newton run
* Scoota Harris forced a Gunner Olszewski fumble
Raiders - LB Javin White, UDFA
49ers - RB JaMycal Hasty, UDFA
The #49ers announced they've signed TE Erik Swoope and waived RB Salvon Ahmed, who, as we noted below, has looked fine in camp but has not been as visible as fellow undrafted RB JaMycal Hasty ...https://t.co/jzQF8PgjXu— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 25, 2020
Panthers - WR Omar Bayless, UDFA
Saints - P Blake Gillikin, UDFA
Rookie punter Blake Gillikin has a real role at Saints training camphttps://t.co/vhlEN96Gwz— TheSaintsWire (@TheSaintsWire) August 21, 2020
Steelers - CB James Pierre, UDFA
6'2" CB James Pierre is receiving a high number of reps for an UDFA rookie. Pierre did a good job in coverage of James Washington during the red zone period. On the final rep between the two, Pierre ran Washington's route for him but dropped an interception thrown into his gut. https://t.co/rAI0W4eprM— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) August 24, 2020
Eagles - CB Michael Jacquet, UDFA
Also CB Michael Jacquet, an undrafted FA. https://t.co/VghkvuwKwS— Martin Frank (@Mfranknfl) August 20, 2020
Bucs - CB Parnell Motley, UDFA
Y’all...undrafted free agent cornerback Parnell Motley just picked Tom Brady off AGAIN. His second pick off Brady in camp. He also had a really nice PBU working against Mike Evans yesterday in the end zone.— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) August 24, 2020
Bucs - DT Benning Potoa’e, UDFA
Tampa Bay Rookie No. 91 Benning Potoa'e (Lakes C/O 2015) looks straight up slippery inside. He would have had a sack on Gabbert after flushing him out of the pocket and chasing him down in the blitz period.https://t.co/FfNohRpZVP pic.twitter.com/lW4rN2DrvU— Lakes Lancers (@LakesLancers) August 21, 2020
Football - WR Isaiah Wright, UDFA
Rivera named Isaiah Wright as a guy who has caught some people's attention during camp. He also listed AGG and Trey Quinn as two players who have done some good things in the last three days.— Zach Selby (@ZachDSelby) August 20, 2020