NFL Draft Betting: Who Will Be the First Wide Receiver Selected?
As deep as this class is -- and it is extremely deep -- it's also quite top-heavy. NFLMockDraftDatabase, which combines numerous big boards into one consensus big board, has SEVEN receivers just inside the top 32. That means that, according to the consensus, 22 percent of "first-round" prospects are wideouts.
The cream of the crop, if you will, are Alabama's Jerry Jeudy (-115) and Henry Ruggs III (+500), along with Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb (+135). In NFLMockDraftDatabase's consensus mock draft, the three are separated by a whole eight picks. Without a clear leader at the top, there is potential for value to be had with this play.
At -115, Alabama's Jerry Jeudy is the Sportsbook's favorite to be the first wideout off the board. Here's a look at his measurables.
(With each of these charts, keep in mind that the variables might be different and that they can be somewhat misleading without context)
Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb comes in next at +135, though his line was at +120 just yesterday. Here's what his measurables look like.
The only other receiver with odds smaller than 30/1 is Alabama's Henry Ruggs III, who checks in at 5/1. His odds were 6/1 as of Tuesday afternoon. His measurables are quite intriguing.
Now, unless your name is Al Davis, measurables shouldn't be all that matters when evaluating players. But they are important in the sense that some teams have tendencies to become enamored with them, which can lead to players -- some with notable question marks -- going earlier than they should. More on that later.
Here's a look at how the three stacked up statistically in their collegiate careers.
|Henry Ruggs III||40||98||148||1716||17.51||24|
Just like with measurables, collegiate statistics need to be taken with a hefty grain of salt. Corey Davis posted 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in his final season at Western Michigan -- and he's managed just 1,867 yards and 6 touchdowns in his first three seasons with the Tennessee Titans. Corey Coleman put up 1,363 yards and 20 touchdowns for Baylor as a Junior, and he was traded for a seventh-round pick after just two NFL seasons. On the other spectrum, Odell Beckham posted more yardage and scores in his rookie season than he did at any point in his LSU career. Similarly, Michael Thomas had more yards in the 2019 season (1,725) than he did in three years with Ohio State (1,602). There a quite a few more examples like that, but you should have gotten the point by now.
With all that in mind, let's look at the case for each player.
Jerry Jeudy comes in 12th and 13th in NFLMockDraftDatabase's consensus mock draft and big board, respectively. Amongst many others, NFL.Com's Charles Casserly, ESPN's Todd McShay, and CBS.com's Will Brinson and Pete Prisco, all have Jeudy as the first receiver off the board.
It's easy to understand why all these evaluators hold the 20-year-old in such high regard. His elite game speed and quickness should bode well at the next level. His tape also shows a polished receiver and route-runner, especially for his age. At the same time, it's fair to question whether his ceiling is as high as some of the other receivers in this class. That question can be what prevents Jeudy from becoming the first receiver to be taken in the 2020 draft.
At -115, Jeudy wouldn't be the bet I'd pursue here, especially considering the value of the next two players in this piece.
The "Value" Pick
Though he was behind Jeudy in both NFLMockDraftDatabase's consensus mock draft and big board just a couple of days ago, CeeDee Lamb (8th and 12th) is now ahead in both. ESPN's Mel Kiper, Rotoworld's Josh Norris, and NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, Charles Davis, and Cynthia Frelund are a few of a hoard of experts that now project Lamb to be the first wideout taken.
Lamb's combine results were mostly average, but the after the catch ability he displays on tape should make teams salivate. In my evaluation, the 20-year-old has the best combination of floor and ceiling of any receiver in this class. He's not as polished as Jeudy, especially as a route-runner, but what he can do with the ball in his hands could be what separates the two.
Despite Jeudy being the favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook, if I had to make an outright bet as to who would be the first receiver off the board, I'd wager on Lamb. Getting him at +135 could fatten your wallets.
The "Long Shot"
NFL.com Daniel Jeremiah -- who, in my opinion, is one of the media's best talent evaluators -- tweeted this out on Tuesday afternoon.
I wouldn’t be shocked at all if Henry Ruggs ends up being the 1st WR drafted.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 24, 2020
At least some oddsmakers seem to agree, as Ruggs' line went from 6/1 to 5/1 in just one day.
While Ruggs' tape reveals a speedster who can struggle against press coverage, his measurables are impossible to ignore. Among wideout prospects, the 21-year-old's 4.27-second 40-yard-dash is in the 100th percentile (that's #good). According to Playerprofiler.com, even when adjusted for size, the 5'11'', 188-pound Ruggs is in the 90th and 98th percentile in both speed and burst score, respectively (that's also #good).
There is precedent for receivers with similar profiles going extremely early, and, in some cases, first at the position. Like Ruggs, John Ross (5'11" 188 Ibs) was in the 100th, 96th, and 87th percentile in the three categories, respectively -- he was the ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft. Corey Coleman (5'11'', 194 Ibs) was in the 89th percentile in the 40-yard-dash and 94th percentile in burst score -- he was the first wideout off the board in the 2016 draft. Though with a slightly more built stature, D.J. Moore was in the 89th, 88th, and 94th percentile in the three respective categories -- he was the first wideout off the board in 2018.
Though some notable differences between the aforementioned players, each of them had question marks, elite measurables, and similar profiles -- and each of them was drafted quite early.
At slots 11 and 12, the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders are two teams with holes at wide receiver who could fall in love with the guy that ran a 4.27. New York's first-time general manager Joe Douglas mentioned the need for "game-changing playmakers", and Ruggs could fit that bill. Oakland's Mike Mayock had Josh Ross ranked second at receiver in his pre-draft positional rankings, ahead of Corey Davis, who went fifth overall.
At 5/1 odds, I'd certainly take a flyer on Ruggs.