- Covered Broncos for nine years for Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News
- Previously covered Steelers, Bills and Titans
- Member of Pro Football Hall of Fame Board
of Selectors since 1999
The 2020 NFL rookie class at wide receiver carried a pile of expectations into a strange, unprecedented season long before the first pass was thrown.
Despite no on-field work in the offseason due to COVID-19 restrictions, no preseason games and a slew of largely virtual-only meetings with their position coaches, the group did exactly what people in the league believed it would — have immediate, even historical, impact.
Eight rookies topped 50 receptions this past season, five topped 800 receiving yards and seven caught at least five touchdown passes. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the five rookies with at least 800 yards receiving tied for the most in a season, equalling the 2014 group — Odell Beckham Jr., Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans, Jordan Matthews and Sammy Watkins — that topped 800 yards.
The Elias Sports Bureau said the combined 12,919 yards receiving by rookies this season was the most in league history. Justin Jefferson, the Minnesota Vikings’ first-round pick, set the rookie record for receiving yards (1,400), eclipsing a record that had stood for almost two decades. Jefferson’s 88 receptions broke the Vikings’ franchise record for rookies, pushing Jefferson past none other than Hall of Famer Randy Moss. Jefferson led all the league’s rookies in targets, catches, receiving yards and receiving yards per target.
“Everything about that kid is special, he’s got special written on him,” Vikings running back Dalvin Cook said. “The first time I met him, he came in and just the way he carried himself. … Just to come in and make plays, be him, and I haven’t seen him shy away from any big moment. I love being around him, that’s my brother. I think he’s just scratching the surface if you ask me.”
Thirty-five receivers were chosen in last year’s NFL draft, including six in the first round, seven in the second round and three in the third round. By season’s end, 33 of those receivers had seen game action.
Last March ESPN polled scouts, pro personnel executives, coaches and general managers — and rolled the tape — about this receiver class and then put the prospects into tiers. Eleven months later, we visited with many of those same people to ask how they felt about players after a full regular season. Here’s a look at the best of the 2020 wide receiver rookie class.
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