Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb at forefront of talented wide receiver class

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Former Liberty wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden, from Paulding County, talks about his path to the NFL at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. (Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

Here’s the sixth story of our position-by-position 2020 NFL draft series. Today we’ll look at the top wide receivers.  

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb are considered the top two wide receivers in the coming NFL draft, which will be held April 23-25.

Jeudy and Lamb are at the head of a talented class of receivers that includes Alabama’s Henry Ruggs, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds at the scouting combine.

“Everybody’s talked about who will be the first receiver taken, is it going to be Jeudy or is it going to be CeeDee Lamb,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “I firmly believe Henry Ruggs is in that discussion. I think it’s a three-man race to be the first receiver.”

Jeudy averaged 19 yards a catch over three seasons.

“Jeudy in the slot is very tough to deal with,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “Obviously, because of (his) route-running ability, he’s very effective there. His hands, he had a couple of drops, but overall he’s very consistent. Great attitude. Great approach.”

Lamb also was a big playmaker for the Sooners.

» MORE: Receivers from Georgia high schools a big part of NFL prospects

“CeeDee Lamb, 50 percent of his yards came in the slot,” Kiper said. “Fifty percent of his yards came outside. He ran a 4.51.”

Ruggs’ speed is intriguing.

“He’s the closest thing to Tyreek Hill that I’ve seen since Tyreek Hill entered the league,” Jeremiah said. “And just looked like he’s been on a different speed than everybody else. This kid does the same thing. He’s so sudden off the line of scrimmage. It’s instant death for corners.”

Teams can use him on jet sweeps, kickoff returns and on coverage units.

“I love watching him as a gunner on punt,” Jeremiah said. “(It) shows just how tough he is.”

Those teams that prefer a speed merchant, will go with Ruggs. Kiper thinks that receivers need more than speed.

“You knew Lamb wasn’t going to be a speed burner, but speed for wide receivers is very overrated,” Kiper said. “It’s how you apply it on the field. He does. He’s got a tremendous stiff-arm. He’s got run-after-the-catch ability, which is his strength.

“He’s a powerhouse with the ball in his hands. He runs hard. He’s quick. He’s explosive.”

Once you get past the top three wide receivers, LSU’s Justin Jefferson is in the next group. He had 111 catches in the Tigers’ run to the national championship.

“I think Justin Jefferson has got a chance to be a high, high volume slot receiver. A lot like Keenan Allen, (he) can fill that role, can work in traffic,” said Jeremiah, who was formerly a scout with the Ravens. “He’s really good down in the red zone.”

Jefferson leads the entire wide receiver class in touchdowns in the red zone, with 12.

“He’s a point producer,” Jeremiah said.

Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk also could be selected in the first round.

“I think he’s a stud,” Jeremiah said. “He’s tough, competitive, run-after-catch guy. Needs a little polish, but can return as well.”

Clemson’s Tee Higgins and Baylor’s Denzel Mims are bigger receivers, at 6-foot-4 and 6-3, respectively.

“He is really tall, long and rangy,” Jeremiah said of Higgins. “You hope you’re drafting A.J. Green. I don’t think he’s on that level, but that’s the style with which he plays. There’s a little bit of concern with him just getting off press.

“Some of the better competition they played later in the year, he struggled a little bit with that.”

Another prospect turning heads is Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool. He’s 6-4 and 238 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds. That’s really moving for a big guy.

“Claypool is another one of these receivers that is just so big and strong and physical,” Jeremiah said.

Notre Dame’s quarterback play was a bit shaky, and the Fighting Irish couldn’t fully utilize Claypool’s talents.

“He’s very tough, very aggressive, can really, really wall guys off in the red zone,” Jeremiah said. “He’s a threat down there.”

The Canada native still has some things to improve on.

“He’s just not a full route-tree player,” Jeremiah said. “In other words, he’s not going to be efficient running every route that you would have in your playbook. And that’s going to take a little bit more time for him to develop.”

Claypool and USC’s Michael Pittman were outplayed by Liberty’s Antonio Gandy-Golden (East Paulding High) at the Senior Bowl.

“Pittman got hurt and, ironically, the receiver I didn’t have quite in that class was Antonio Gandy-Golden from Liberty,” Jeremiah said. “And I thought he outplayed both of those guys during the week at the Senior Bowl -- a big athletic receiver from Liberty.

“It just speaks of the depth of this class that a guy like Chase Claypool has a chance to be there potentially in the fourth round. No fault of his own; it’s just an incredible group.”

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Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.

Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.

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Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb.

AJC’s 2020 POSITION BY POSITION DRAFT SERIES

Quarterbacks: Joe Burrow leads classTop 10 QBs
Running backs: Cam Akers' life lessonTop 10 RBs
Part 3: Harrison Bryant top prospect Top 10 
Part 4: Solomon Kindley a late-rounderTop 10 

Part 5: Austin Jackson 's life lesson  | Top 10 
Part 6: Wide receivers
Part 7: Defensive tackle
Part 8: Defensive end
Part 9: Linebackers
Part 10: Safeties
Part 11: Special Teams
Part 12: Cornerbacks

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