Deep WR draft class creates excessive stakes for NFC contenders

Alabama targets Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III can be off the board by the center of Spherical 1, as will Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb. Jeudy and Lamb are one of the best bets to be top-10 picks and, thus, unavailable to the NFC contender group with no commerce. Quick-rising LSU playmaker Justin Jefferson seems to have climbed into the mid-first-round image too.

However the draft’s second tier is in depth. It contains size-speed prospects Tee Higgins (Clemson) and Denzel Mims (Baylor), diminutive however explosive playmakers Jalen Reagor (TCU) and Okay.J. Hamler (Penn State) and first- or second-round Pac-12 abilities Brandon Aiyuk (Arizona State) and Michael Pittman Jr. (USC). The race to safe top- and second-level prospects amongst this group can be heated.

This expertise flood comes at an ideal time for the receiver-needy NFC groups, who both erred in earlier investments or walked away from starters to depart gaping holes. Amongst them, the Eagles, Packers, Vikings and 49ers maintain six first-round picks.

For the 49ers, the lack of Emmanuel Sanders to the Saints stings, because it weakens their depth chart and strengthens maybe their high adversary. And for the needs of the 2020 draft, they gave the Broncos third- and fourth-round picks for 3 months of Sanders. The 49ers have shied away from free-agent pass-catchers since whiffing on Pierre Garcon and noticed, by way of Deebo Samuel’s versatile contributions, the impression a appropriately scouted early-round wideout can have.

Over in Philadelphia, achieved GM Howie Roseman misfired on extensions for Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson. Each Eagles 30-somethings enter 2020 with damage points and unmovable contracts that comprise greater than $24 million of the Eagles’ cap. Carson Wentz’s backloaded deal turns into a full-on franchise-quarterback accord in 2021, along with his cap quantity spiking from $18.7M in 2020 to $34.7M in ’21. So the Eagles should assist Wentz now — after final season ended with Philadelphia utilizing one of many thinnest receiver teams ever in a playoff sport — and add a cost-controlled wage for the long run.

The 2019 Packers signify a main instance of the price of ready too lengthy so as to add receiver expertise. After letting Randall Cobb stroll final yr in free company, the Packers noticed only one pass-catcher eclipse 500 yards. Apart from in 1982’s strike-shortened season, that had not occurred in Inexperienced Bay since 1977. Past Davante Adams, the Packers saddled Aaron Rodgers with declining tight finish Jimmy Graham, inconsistent 2018 fifth-round decide Marquez Valdes-Scantling and ex-UDFA Allen Lazard.

The Packers have been linked to early-round quarterbacks Jordan Love (Utah State) and Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma). Given their Rodgers-dependent Tremendous Bowl window, they can’t afford a luxurious decide. Signed by way of 2023, the 36-year-old famous person wants not less than one pass-catcher — perhaps two — early on this draft.

Just like the 49ers, the Vikings maintain two first-rounders. With Stefon Diggs in Buffalo and Adam Thielen lacking a piece of final season on account of damage, Minnesota possesses an apparent want. A rookie-contract receiver can be a refreshing change for a perennially cap-strapped group that prolonged QB Kirk Cousins, has Thielen signed at $16.2M per yr and has begun extension discussions with contract-year operating again Dalvin Cook dinner. After all, drafting a wideout and coaxing manufacturing from mentioned participant are completely different issues. The identical Vikings entrance workplace whiffed badly on 2016 first-rounder Laquon Treadwell.

Whereas the 2015 and ’16 first rounds reveal largely wideout errors, contenders benefited significantly from early-round receivers in recent times. The Saints don’t attain their late-2010s heights with out Michael Thomas (Spherical 2, 2016). The 2017 Steelers (JuJu Smith-Schuster, Spherical 2) and Rams (Cooper Kupp, Spherical 3) landed rapid matches who’re 2020 extension candidates. The 49ers, Seahawks and Titans actually benefited from second-round hits on Samuel, D.Okay. Metcalf and A.J. Brown, respectively, final yr. 

It’s not a coincidence that well-built NFCers left noticeable vacancies of their projected beginning lineups. The techniques these franchises — and the others eyeing this historic expertise pool — make use of will make for a important draft storyline. If this class is as marketed, it won’t solely have an effect on 2020 betting odds however may also assist inform the story of the NFL’s subsequent a number of years.

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