NFL franchise teams plucked for a combined 37 wide receivers during the 2020 NFL Draft, making up roughly 15% of the total number of players taken off the board.
The top 13 of which, drafted in the first two rounds, were as follows:
Receivers drafted in 1st round
- Henry Ruggs, Las Vegas Raiders
- Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
- CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
- Jalen Reagor, Philadelphia Eagles
- Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
- Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
Receivers drafted in 2nd round
- Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
- Michael Pittman, Indianapolis Colts
- Laviska Shenault, Jacksonville Jaguars
- K.J. Hamler, Denver Broncos
- Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers
- Van Jefferson, Los Angeles Rams
- Denzel Mims, New York Jets
Several talents who came off the board in the later rounds also went on to enjoy success in the NFL in 2020, namely: Antonio Gibson (Washington): the dual-threat now RB posted over 1,000-yards from scrimmage and 11 TDs in his rookie year -- an outstanding return; Tyler Johnson (Buccaneers): made some clutch plays for Tom Brady en route to the Bucs Super Bowl win, and Darnell Mooney (Chicago Bears): a wideout who showed plenty of athletic promise in Matt Nagy's underwhelming Bears offense.
Also read: Who Is Tom Brady's Wife, Gisele Bündchen?
Which NFL wide receiver, drafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, is in the best situation for 2021?
I'll preempt this next part by just stating that, though Washington RB Antonio Gibson is without a doubt primed for continued success in 2021, he's not a receiver anymore and, as a consequence of that, is omitted from the list.
In descending order:
3. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
By far the best rookie WR in the NFL last season, Justin Jefferson hauled in 70% of his 125 targets for 1,400-yards and 11 TDs. His safe hands and ability to make clutch plays kept a below-par Vikings team competitive.
There are two reasons that Jefferson isn't ranked first on this list:
First ranked 26th in the NFL per PFF stats, the Vikings offensive line needs a major overhaul in time for the new season. It seems likely that head coach Mike Zimmer and co. will look to add more OL talent during the draft, as they have done in each of the last three seasons. The problem is that the Vikings keep either a) making the wrong choices, or b) something is going wrong with the coaching. Either way, despite surrendering key picks, fans in Minnesota are beginning to grow worried about the lack of progress in this area.
Secondly, failure to fix the OL is likely to pile more pressure on QB Kirk Cousins, which may in turn lead to fewer receiving yards for Justin Jefferson. Not only that: Cousins struggled to dominate key parts of the football game last season, posting a large percentage of his passing yards and TDs once games had already slipped from the Vikings' clutches.
It's not that Jefferson will regress; the former LSU star just isn't in the best situation with that OL and a QB who is starting to come under a bit of pressure.
2. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas Cowboys
CeeDee Lamb had a fine rookie year for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, racking up 935-yards and 5 TDs.
He's ahead of the aforementioned Jefferson on this list because, after spending most of 2020 on IR with an ankle fracture/dislocation, QB Dak Prescott will be back under center come autumn and he and Lamb are likely to tear it up when they get back out there together.
Dallas has Tyron Smith and La'el Collins returning to the OL ahead of Prescott. Like the QB they're sworn to protect, the big linemen spent large portions of 2020 on IR, a big reason why PFF ranked the Cowboys OL 27th in the league.
A superior QB playing behind a refortified OL should lead to more yardage and scores for last year's No.17 overall pick, CeeDee Lamb.
1. Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
Brandon Aiyuk showed off his NFL metal last year. Operating in a massively depleted 49ers offense, the physical rookie-wideout drafted out of Arizona State barely batted an eyelid, tallying 748-yards and 5 TDs for Kyle Shanahan's team.
The 49ers have the No.3 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Most analysts expect them to take a QB off the board and whether this a) spurs current QB, the fit-again Jimmy Garoppolo back into action, or b) leads to Aiyuk catching deep balls from Mac Jones, or Zach Wilson, for my money, Aiyuk takes big strides.
The 49ers had so many players out due to injury last year that it's impossible to grade their season. Once Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert, George Kittle, "Jimmy G," et al are back to full fitness, the only way is up for Aiyuk.
Playing wideout as part of a fully-fit 49ers offense -- with a couple of new additions -- the all-action Aiyuk and his team are capable of going deep into the playoffs; perhaps even all the way to the Super Bowl.
Also check out: Complete 2021 NFL Draft Order by Round