Stack Ranking Wide Receivers
Please understand that this is my stack ranking based on six criteria that I feel encompass most of what a receiver will be asked to do. It is largely subjective, so don’t trash me if I state a receiver is not what you thought. Also, I tried to take some of the subjectivity out of it by going back to both film and stats which I checked against CFBStats.com. I put all receivers into tiers, with T1 being an elite skill that I equate to being better than average NFL wideout, Tier 2 being average, and Tier 3 being below average at the NFL rank for the receiver position. The stats I measured against were both 2019 and 2018 combined, so if your receiver had an awesome 2019 season and 10 catches in 2018, I knocked him down a peg in tier level.
T1 = Excels at NFL level
T2 = Avg at NFL level
T3 = Below Average at NFL level
Route Running/defeat press– ability to get into route as quickly as possible, defeating press coverage
Tier 1: Jerry Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb, Justin Jefferson, Van Jefferson, Henry Ruggs
Tier 2: Denzel Mims, Laviska Shanult, Bryan Edwards, Michael Pittman, Jalen Reagor, Brandon Aiyuk, James Proche
Tier 3: Tee Higgins, Peoples-Jones, Gandy-Golden, KJ Hill, Chase Claypool, Quintez Cephus, Gabriel Davis, KJ Hamler
Playmaking – Defined as splash plays including plays of over 20 yards, touchdowns, 1st downs, and PI interference penalties drawn.
Tier 1: Lamb, J. Jefferson, Ruggs, Higgins, Mims, Jeudy, Aiyuk
Tier 2: KJ Hamler, Shanult, Edwards, Proche, Pittman,
Tier 3: V. Jefferson, Reagor, Peoples-Jones, Gandy-Golden, KJ Hill, Chase Claypool, Quintez Cephus, Gabriel Davis
Possession Receiving – Defined as per game receptions, 1st downs, catches vs targets
Tier 1: Lamb, Edwards, Pittman, Proche, Gandy-Golden, Claypool, Jeudy
Tier 2: J. Jefferson, Hamler, Mims, Shanault, Reagor, Aiyuk,
Tier 3: V. Jefferson, Ruggs, Higgins, Peoples-Jones, KJ Hill, Cephus, Davis
Red Zone – Defined as % plays made in red zone vs total plays made
Tier 1: Lamb, J. Jefferson, Pittman, Proche, Peoples-Jones, Claypool, KJ Hill,
Tier 2: Jeudy, V. Jefferson, Mims, Higgins, Gandy-Golden, Davis, Cephus
Tier 3: Ruggs, Hamler, Shanault, Edwards, Aiyuk, Reagor
Deep threat –Defined by in game speed, ability to get open deep. Not defined by 40.
Tier 1: J. Jefferson, Jeudy, Mims, Higgins, Cephus, Ruggs, Hamler
Tier 2: Lamb, Peoples-Jones, Pittman, Davis, Edwards, Aiyuk, Reagor
Tier 3: Proche, Claypool, KJ Hill, V. Jefferson, Gandy-Golden, Shanault,
Contested Catch/Hands – Ability to make contested catches, percentage of dropped passes
Tier 1: J. Jefferson, Jeudy, Higgins, Mims, Lamb, Pittman, Shanault, Proche
Tier 2: Ruggs, Davis, Edwards, Aiyuk, Claypool, KJ Hill, V. Jefferson, Gandy-Golden
Tier 3: Peoples-Jones, Cephus, Reagor, Hamler,
I did not use a mathematical formula to create my tiers. In general, I did the following:
Route running/Beat Press – This is all about getting open and into a route. It doesn’t matter if you beat the press, or run a great route. What separates them in talent is how easily they got open based on film.
Playmaking – Most games are defined by a number of splash plays that keep drives alive, or change field position. Looked for separation in talent level to extend scoring drives.
Possession Receiving – Percentage of passing completions by team against percentage of receptions by player. T1 was around 30% of passing receptions, T2 was ~20-25%, and anything under 20% was considered less than adequate.
Red Zone – Took number of receptions, and number of games with receptions. Number of games with reception in red zone. Number of receptions in red zone. Number of TD’s in Red zone against total number of scores. (Ex. Brandon Aiyuk caught 65 passes in 12 games. In 6 games he caught a pass in red zone. He caught a total of 6 passes in red zone for 2 of his 8 TD’s) Rated Aiyuk as a T3 red zone threat.
Deep threat – eyeball test that I based on play speed in videos of deep routes, and getting by corners and safeties. Did not base on combine 40 time.
Contested Catch/Hands – Self Explanatory.
Based on all this info in my own estimation Jerry Jeudy elite at what I’d call 5 of 6 major areas, where he is average is in the red zone. I have Ceedee Lamb rated as excelling at 5 of 6 areas, with only his ability to get deep being average as I had to knock him down a peg against Big 12 comp. Guys that surprised me were Justin Jefferson who I’d now rate as the third best receiver if you’re looking for a primary receiver. He eats up catches, makes plays, is efficient in the red zone and does everything well.
There are several second tier receivers that I think could start for the Jets and be successful. Michael Pittman strangely leads that group in my mind as he can both eat up a lot of catches from Darnold, and he catches nearly everything in the red zone where his targeting percentage has gone up. A guy like James Proche who I wrote about earlier I think would be a good second pick at receiver as he’s sneakily good at a lot of things. I was surprised at his 17 red zone catches and 10 TD’s which tells me he’s a third down Edelman type of player.
Tee Higgins who I’ve always thought of as a first rounder based on film, really isn’t a primary receiver or AJ Green comparison. His route running, and ability to beat press coverage severely diminish what he could be. To put it into perspective he caught 60 passes in 2019. He only caught a pass in the red zone in 4 of 15 games despite his 6’5 height. In those 4 games he did catch 6 TD’s on only 7 catches. I believe he’s a TD maker in the redzone with his ability to high point the ball, but he can’t get off the jam to get utilized enough to be a TD maker in the NFL. If he can fix the press coverage issue he’s an AJ Green clone. If he can’t figure it out, he’s not really useful as a primary target.
Final conclusion, even though this draft is deep in receivers I would target Ceedee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy (Possibly Justin Jefferson) early, and skip the 4 big tackle prospects. It’s harder to find playmakers than linemen, and none of the others on my list have enough collective elite skills to be an every down primary option that Darnold will need to succeed.