The 2020 Rookie Wide Receiver Class Is Fantasy Gold

by Steve Smith · Analytics & Advanced Metrics

The 2014 draft class included several productive NFL wide receivers such as Mike Evans, Odell Beckham Jr., Davante Adams, and Allen Robinson. It’s been considered the strongest group of wide receivers in recent memory. How does the 2020 class stack up? Let’s take a deeper look, using PlayerProfiler’s advanced stats and metrics to see if the likes of Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Justin Jefferson and Jalen Reagor will live up to the hype.

Draft Capital

NFL teams only get so many draft picks. How they use them defines their success. Draft capital helps provide a picture of how NFL general managers and coaches value prospects. A total of 34 wide receivers were drafted in 2014. In comparison, 35 were drafted in 2020. To provide context, between 28 and 34 receivers have been drafted each year between 2009 and 2019. The chart below compares draft capital spent on wide receivers in 2014 and 2020. Other than Rounds 4 and 5, there isn’t much difference. Each draft class had 16 wide receivers selected in the first three rounds, with 2020 having one additional first rounder.

Draft capital spent on WRs in 2014 vs. 2020

Since 2015, teams have gone away from selecting wide receivers in the first round. Only two were picked in the first round in both 2018 and 2019, three in 2017 and four in 2016. In 2015, six receivers were first rounders, but that included the likes of Kevin White, Nelson Agholor, Breshad Perriman, and Phillip Dorsett. That stings. However, it appears that the prospect profiles of the 2020 wide receiver prospects have restored the confidence needed for NFL teams to spend that valuable draft capital. Case in point, CeeDee Lamb was too good for Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys to pass on at Pick No. 17.

Check out CeeDee Lamb’s 2020 Projection on PlayerProfiler’s “World Famous” Draft Kit:

Verdict: The 2020 rookie wide receiver class matches the 2014 class in draft capital.

Breakout Age

An early Breakout Age increases the chance that the player will have a successful NFL career. Of the wide receivers selected in 2014, 14 of them (41-percent) had a Breakout Age of 20 or younger. The 2020 class holds an edge with 18 prospects drafted (or 51-percent) meeting the same breakout threshold. Another notable trend for the 2020 class is that half of the players with early Breakout Ages were selected in Round 4 or later. In 2014, only two wide receivers selected on Day 3 of the draft had an early breakout. The 2020 class also has the highest number of early breakouts going back to 2014.

Verdict: The 2020 class had more early breakouts. Based on Breakout Age, it also looks deeper.

College Dominator Rating

Want to be good in the NFL? Dominate in college. The 2014 class holds a slight edge in College Dominator Rating, with 15 players having a mark greater than 35-percent. That’s seen as elite domination. The average Dominator for the 2014 class was an impressive 35-percent. And yes, James Wright’s 2.3-percent mark was included in the calculation. However, the 2020 class doesn’t trail by much, with an average Dominator Rating of 31.6-percent.

College Dominator Rating breakdown – 2014 vs. 2020

A 35-percent or higher Dominator indicates that a wide receiver has the potential to be a team’s No. 1 WR and/or a high caliber contributor. 20 to 35-percent indicates a mid-level talent with situational upside. A mark under 20-percent is a red flag.

Verdict: Slight edge to the 2014 class in terms of Dominator Rating, but it’s close.

Speed Score

Speed Score places a premium on 40-time, but also factors in body weight and length. The 2020 class has 17 players (49-percent) with a Speed Score of 100 or higher. A handful of rookies did not run the 40-yard dash at the 2020 Combine, so it is possible that this class has more 100-plus Speed Score WRs. Even so, this represents the highest number of receivers with a Speed Score of 100-plus drafted in a class in over 10 years. In comparison, 14 players (41-percent) met this threshold for the 2014 group.

Verdict: The Speed Score edge belongs to the 2020 group of wideouts.


The draft capital spent by NFL teams between these wide receiver classes is on par. Both groups are loaded with players having low Breakout Ages, impressive College Dominator Ratings, and high Speed Scores. In fact, in each draft class, eight wide receivers checked all three boxes – posting a Breakout Age under 20, College Dominator of at least 25-percent, and a Speed Score of over 100. This list of players includes the following:

2014: Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Odell Beckham, Brandin Cooks, Jordan Matthews, Cody Latimer, Allen Robinson, and Donte Moncrief.

2020: Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, Laviska Shenault, Denzel Mims, Gabriel Davis, Antonio Gandy-Golden, and Donovan Peoples-Jones

Note: Davante Adams, Jerry Jeudy, and CeeDee Lamb barely missed their respective cutoffs with Speed Scores in the high 90s.

Draft capital being equal, the 2020 class holds an edge in Breakout Age and Speed Score. Had 2020 rookies such as Tyler Johnson, K.J. Hamler, and Bryan Edwards post 40-yard dash times at the Combine, the comparison might further strengthen the outlook of this class. Although these rookies have yet to step onto an NFL field, the data outlines a promising future. Don’t hesitate to select multiple 2020 WRs in rookie and dynasty start-up drafts.  Stash later round receivers on taxi squads and watchlists. Similar to the price of gold, the cost of acquiring many of these players is only going up.