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50 rookies drafted after round 2 who are impressing in training camp

If the unusual offseason has slowed rookie progress, you wouldn’t know it based on league-wide reports at camp

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NFL: Los Angeles Rams Training Camp Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

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

Seahawks - G Damien Lewis, 3rd round

Ravens - DT Justin Madubuike, 3rd round

Raiders - WR Bryan Edwards. 3rd round

Rams - LB Terrell Lewis, 3rd round

Vikings - CB Cameron Dantzler, 3rd round

Texans - DE Jonathan Greenard, 3rd round

Ravens - WR Devin Duvernay, 3rd round

Browns - LB Jacob Phillips, 3rd round

Saints - TE Adam Trautman, 3rd round

Giants - CB Darnay Holmes, 4th round

Dolphins - G Solomon Kindley, 4th round

Broncos - TE Albert Okwuegbunam, 4th round

Falcons - LB Mykal Walker, 4th round

Colts - QB Jacob Eason, 4th round

Bills - WR Gabriel Davis, 4th round

Cards - DE Rashard Lawrence, 4th round

Jaguars - CB Josiah Scott, 4th round

Texans - CB John Reid, 4th round

Seahawks - RB DeeJay Dallas, 4th round

Seahawks -DE Alton Robinson, 5th round

Chargers - ATH/PR Joe Reed, 5th round

Jaguars - S Daniel Thomas, 5th round

Jaguars - WR Collin Johnson, 5th round

Lions - WR Quintez Cephus, 5th round

Eagles - WR John Hightower, 5th round

Bears - WR Darnell Mooney, 5th round

Titans - DT Larrell Murchison, 5th round

Packers - LB Kamal Martin, 5th round

Chiefs - DL Mike Danna, 5th round

Cowboys - DE Bradlee Anae, 5th round

Rams - S Jordan Fuller, 6th round

Eagles - WR Quez Watkins, 6th round

Bills - WR Isaiah Hodgins, 6th round

Bengals - LB Markus Bailey, 7th round

Chargers - WR K.J. Hill, 7th round

Panthers - DB Stantley Thomas-Oliver, 7th round

Football - DE James Smith-Williams, 7th round

Broncos - WR Tyrie Cleveland, 7th round

Giants - LB Tae Crowder, 7th round (“Mr. Irrelevant”)

Patriots - DB Myles Bryant, UDFA

Raiders - LB Javin White, UDFA

49ers - RB JaMycal Hasty, UDFA

Panthers - WR Omar Bayless, UDFA

Saints - P Blake Gillikin, UDFA

Steelers - CB James Pierre, UDFA

Eagles - CB Michael Jacquet, UDFA

Bucs - CB Parnell Motley, UDFA

Bucs - DT Benning Potoa’e, UDFA

Football - WR Isaiah Wright, UDFA