Following the talent-loaded wide receiver draft class of 2020, some high picks still need to prove their worth. Several receivers already made their name known last seasons, such as Justin Jefferson, Chase Claypool, Brandon Aiyuk, and Ceedee Lamb. Others still are looking to make their mark in the league, and are looking to do it this season. The following receivers need to take that elusive “next step” in their development this season.
#1 – Henry Ruggs III
One of the most hyped receivers in last year’s draft, the electric speedster did not live up to expectations this past season. Only recording 452 yards and 2 touchdowns, Henry Ruggs was not utilized very much last season. Why not use a receiver that ran a 4.27 40 yard dash more, you may ask. I could not answer that question and you should be questioning Raiders head coach Jon Gruden.
With the departure of last season’s leading receiver Nelson Agholor, Ruggs has the opportunity to step up to the WR1 role in Las Vegas this season. The former 12th overall pick reportedly added 13 pounds this offseason, and that should aid him in his attempt to become an NFL star.
#2 – Jalen Reagor
Jalen Reagor was also a big disappointment last season. As a first-round pick, he only produced 396 yards and one touchdown in a lackluster season. This was very surprising to me, considering how weak the Eagles’ receiving group was last year. Reagor now will compete with rookie Devonta Smith for the WR1 role in Philadelphia. Having more time to train with QB Jalen Hurts will most certainly help him.
Reagor didn’t spend a lot of the time on the field in 2020, as he missed 5 games and only played 23% of the snaps according to draftsharks.com. Reagor must stay healthy to get to the next step in his game.
#3 – Jerry Jeudy
Both Alabama receivers, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III failed to live up to the hype last season. Jeudy’s biggest weakness was drops. Jeudy dropped 14 passes last season according to profootballnetwork.com, which was the second-most in the league. This can be attributed to quarterback errors, as Broncos QB Drew Lock is infamously one of the most inaccurate QBs in the NFL.
Nonetheless, Jeudy must improve on this to take the next step in his career. Besides the dropped passes, the former 15th overall pick produced a decent stat line in 2020, recording 856 yards and three touchdowns. Players often remark on Jeudy’s impeccable route running, and that has become a trademark of his game. Focusing on that should help him improve this season.
#4 – Laviska Shenault Jr.
Laviska Shenault produced a fine rookie season this past year given that he was catching passes from below-average QBs, Gardner Minshew and Jake Luton. The Colorado product recorded 600 yards and five touchdowns in a very crowded receiving group.
With the additions of new head coach Urban Meyer and #1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence, Shenault will have a much-improved quarterback and coach at his disposal. The only problem is the group of receivers in Jacksonville is still very talented. It includes D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones Jr., and Phillip Dorsett II. Shenault will have to compete for his targets this year and will have to achieve that to take the next step in the league.
#5 – Denzel Mims
Similar to Laviska Shenault, Denzel Mims faces the challenge of a crowded receiving core in New York this season. With the additions of Corey Davis and rookie Elijah Moore adding to the position of Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole, Mims must find more targets and production to flourish this year. He showed flashes of talent last season with the poor quarterback play, and rookie QB Zach Wilson will be a huge improvement compared to last season.
After recording a measly 357 yards and no touchdowns last season, Denzel Mims faces a lot of pressure to improve this year.