The NFL has become so geared towards high power passing offenses that quarterbacks and wide receivers are getting selected high in each NFL draft. There were plenty of high caliber wide receivers that were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. The next NFL draft will feature another talented slate of NFL caliber wideouts. There are various receivers who are potential first-round picks when the 2021 NFL Draft commences. Below is an analysis of the 2020 and 2021 wide receiver classes.
NFL Draft Wide Receiver Breakdown for 2020 and 2021
2020 NFL Draft Overview
The 2020 NFL Draft was a huge success for NFL teams acquiring valuable NFL caliber wide receivers. There were 37 wide receivers drafted overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. This year’s draft was highlighted by three elite quarterbacks, four top offensive tackles, and several first-round caliber wide receivers. CBS Sports had six wide receivers that were ranked from #10 to #35 in the overall prospect rankings. ESPN’s Jeff Legwold had six wide receivers ranked within the top 32 prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. Jerry Jeudy ranked sixth overall, followed by CeeDee Lamb at 13th overall, Henry Ruggs III at 15th overall, Justin Jefferson at 17th overall, Tee Higgins at 24th overall, and Brandon Aiyuk at 31st overall.
Wide Receivers Dominated the First Two Rounds
This year’s wide receiver class was one of the most talented and distinctive receiver classes in recent memory. There were six wide receivers taken in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. This was tied with offensive tackles and linebackers for most players in a position group taken in the first round. In a surprising move, the Las Vegas Raiders selected speedster slot receiver in Ruggs III with the 12th overall pick. The Denver Broncos were looking to make a trade for one of the top receivers in the Draft at 15th overall. But they did not need to move from the 15th overall pick due to other teams selecting offensive tackles and filling defensive needs. Denver got a steal in Jeudy, while the Dallas Cowboys also got value when they took Lamb with the 17th overall pick.
The Philadelphia Eagles made an urgent pick by selecting wide receiver Jalen Reagor with the 21st pick. The Minnesota Vikings were able to find a replacement for Stefon Diggs when they took Justin Jefferson at 22nd overall. The San Francisco 49ers made a trade to pick up Aiyuk at 25th, in an effort to replace their departing receivers. It was a huge surprise to see Tee Higgins slip out of the first round and into the second round. Right out of the gate, the Cincinnati Bengals picked up their receiver for Joe Burrow by taking Higgins with the 33rd overall pick. With the next pick, the Indianapolis Colts selected Michael Pittman Jr. and they hope he’ll prove to be a threat along side T.Y. Hilton. Overall, there were 13 wide receivers selected within the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.
2021 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Preview
The 2021 NFL Draft looks to be another highly anticipated event that is highlighted by Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence and another deep wide receiver class. USA Today has six wide receivers currently ranked within the top 32 prospects for the 2021 draft. Athlon Sports has seven wide receivers that are currently ranked within the top 32 prospects. Among some of the top receivers to watch for in the 2020 college football season is LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Clemson’s Justyn Ross, Alabama’s Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle, and Purdue’s Rondale Moore. There are also wide receivers with distinctive abilities and play styles that will push them into the first round, like Auburn’s Seth Williams, Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, and USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown.
Two Consecutive Years of Alabama Wide Receivers Potentially Drafted in the First Round
The Alabama Crimson Tide has been a program that develops wide receivers capable of being high draft picks. These are wide receivers who possess elite attributes that allow them to account for a high amount of production in the league. Alabama has produced Julio Jones (2011 draft), Amari Cooper (2015 draft), and Calvin Ridley (2018 draft) as first-round picks. The Tide was able to have two wide receivers selected in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. That could happen yet again in the 2021 NFL Draft with Smith and Waddle. Smith is a dangerous outside receiver that can beat defensive backs with breakout speed and great reliability. Waddle is a talented receiver with great hands and speed and he can line up at various spots and run multiple routes. Waddle is also a dangerous return specialist.
Only time will tell how all of these receivers do at the NFL level, but as long as the league continues to be more of a passing league, teams will keep taking wideouts early and often in the draft each year.