Pro comparisons for NFL Draft prospects can be a tricky topic. For some, comparisons are meant to be a way to better describe the skill-set of a prospect using only current players. Personally, I pride myself in being as detailed as possible with any player comparison, which potentially means using retired players.
When it comes to wide receivers, I look at a bunch of details before making a player comparison. First, I thinks its a disservice to compare a prospect to an NFL player whose career it is unrealistic for the prospect to replicate. Therefore, a career outlook and potential production is the first hurdle. Additionally, my player comparisons needs to align from a size, athleticism and skill-set perspective.
I generally try to stay away from add-ons with player comparisons, such as “a faster Anquan Boldin” (that player has never existed). However, for some prospects with a particular skill-set, sometimes I need to invoke traits from multiple professional players.
While being that detailed, it can be difficult to nail down a comparison for every prospect in a class, which means some wide receiver prospects will ultimately go without a pro comparison in their scouting reports. This season, some of those notable prospects are Isaiah Hodgins, Bryan Edwards, Brandon Aiyuk, Gabriel Davis, Quintez Cephus, Quartney Davis and Antonio Gandy-Golden.
Henry Ruggs III, Alabama – Santana Moss
Expected to check in just under 6-0 and around 190 pounds, Ruggs is built similarly to Moss (5-10, 181 pounds), the former consensus All-American and 16th overall pick. On top of the body type, Ruggs should be right around the 4.31 40-yard dash mark and 42-inch vertical jump that Moss posted at the 2001 NFL Scouting Combine.
Both former track athletes, Ruggs brings similar special teams potential that Moss showed during his college and NFL career (three punt return touchdowns). During Moss’ eight-year prime from 2003 to 2010, he produced 561 receptions, 8,085 yards and 48 receiving touchdowns. He had four 1,000-yard seasons and was named an All-Pro in 2005. Health pending, I see Ruggs having similar career numbers.
CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma – Torry Holt
I generally dislike comparing draft prospects to potential hall of famers, but this particular one feels right. Lamb (6-2, 195 pounds) has incredible ball skills and is downright special with the ball in his hands. His ability to sprint through the catch point puts him in rare air as a prospect, up there will an all-time great such as Holt.
Holt (6-0, 200 pounds), was known for running through the catch and breaking past contact, allowing him to turn elementary slant routes into big plays. While he was a touch shorter than Lamb, Holt made up for it with his stride length and long arms. His explosiveness (37-inch vertical) allowed him to climb the ladder when necessary. Holt was drafted sixth overall back in 1999, a portion of the draft that Lamb could find himself selected during.
2⃣0⃣ years ago today, ACC Player of the Year Torry Holt put up video game numbers vs #Clemson!
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) October 31, 2018
Jerry Jeudy, Alabama – Terry Glenn
Here’s a statistic for you: In the seven NFL seasons that Glenn played in at least 14 games, he averaged 68 receptions and 999 receiving yards. Those seasons include his rookie year and two years in his early 30’s after career injuries that included a broken collarbone, torn hamstring, broken ankle, sprained MCL and sprained foot as well as having a host of off-field problems that included suspensions for failed drug tests. Needless to say, this is strictly a comparison of on-field talents.
Glenn (5-11, 195 pounds) was just about as naturally gifted of a wide receiver as we’ve seen in the NFL. After winning the Biletnikoff Award at Ohio State, Glenn was an immediate impact player in the NFL, posting 90 receptions for 1,132 yards and six touchdowns as a rookie. That’s the type of impact I expect to see out of Jeudy (6-0, 192 pounds) early on in his career.
Glenn was a fluid route runner who could separate from both inside and outside, as well as make plays out of structure and down the field. With how Jeudy is able to accelerate and stop on a dime, he’ll quickly become a premier route runner and double-move specialist in the NFL.
Remembering Terry Glenn: His game against Pitt with 9 catches, 253 yards, 4 TD’s! RIP Buckeye Legend. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/glyPbHcEaV
— Buckeye Videos+ (@BuckeyeVideos) November 21, 2017
Justin Jefferson, LSU – Tyler Boyd (Jimmy Smith ceiling)
Part of the reason that LSU had the best offense in college football history was the development of junior receiver Jefferson (6-3, 192 pounds). Playing mostly in the slot or in bunch sets, Jefferson’s route breaks create huge lengths of separation. Whether it’s the use of a rocker step to beat man coverage or how naturally he’s able to swift through zones, Jefferson is one of those receivers who is seemingly always open. On top of that, he’s strong with the ball in his hands, as he rarely goes down if not contacted through his thighs.
Those traits make a comparison to Bengals wide receiver Boyd a natural one. Boyd (6-1, 197 pounds) has produced consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, mostly due to his separation as a route runner despite average athleticism.
Jefferson has a higher ceiling than Boyd, as he should test out as a slightly better athlete. If he’s able to continue developing his play strength, his ceiling reminds me of former Jaguars wide receiver Smith. Smith (6-1, 213 pounds) would consistently win over the middle of the field on his way to nine 1,000-yard seasons between ages 27 and 36 years old.
— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) February 3, 2020
Jalen Reagor, TCU – Santonio Holmes
Another undersized speedster, Reagor should check in at the NFL Scouting Combine right around the 5-11 and 188 pounds that Holmes did back in 2006. Holmes was a dynamic vertical threat with his 4.35 speed, posting 3,835 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns on 16.3 yards per reception during his four years with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite the downfield and yards after catch production, Holmes was never quite the top option of any receiver core, deferring to Hines Ward in Pittsburgh and failing to beat out Braylon Edwards or Plaxico Burress with the New York Jets. That dynamic and productive WR2 is the type of role that I envision Reagor fitting into upon entering the NFL.
Week 17, 2006: The @steelers weren’t going to the playoffs.
— NFL Throwback (@nflthrowback) December 29, 2018
Denzel Mims, Baylor – Javon Walker
There were only a few wide receiver prospects in the early 2000s who had the same raw tools and physical ability as Walker (6-3, 210 pounds, 4.38), who would be drafted 20th overall by Green Bay in 2002. While he was a bit of a project, Walker would eventually post 89 receptions for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns in his lone Pro Bowl season of 2004. Injuries slowed him down from there, but Walker would still salvage his physical tools for another 1,000-yard receiving season in Denver.
I see a lot of those gifted traits in Baylor wide receiver Mims (6’2 ¾, 206 pounds), who was once the Texas state champion in the 200-meter dash. Mims is a natural boundary receiver who thrives on the vertical plane, and can accelerate through route breaks despite the occasional technique issue. His ability to adjust to off-target passes will make him an accuracy-fixer receiver at the next level. He has pro bowl potential in the NFL.
The arm bar by Denzel Mims to hold Troy Pride Jr. away from the catchpoint was one of the most advanced WR techniques we’ve seen in Mobile this week pic.twitter.com/7brMzdZDiQ
— Brad Kelly (@CoachBKelly) January 23, 2020
Tee Higgins, Clemson – Braylon Edwards
Higgins (6-4, 215 pounds) entered the NFL Draft producing 25 receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons. His ability stands out along the boundary, and his size is a weapon in the redzone. He’s especially flexible and fluid for a taller receiver, and plays high above the rim when necessary. That agility and utilization of his size reminds me of Edwards (6-3, 210 pounds) during his time with the Cleveland Browns.
Edwards went off for 16 receiving touchdowns back in 2007, fully utilizing his frame to win in tight spaces. While Higgins doesn’t yet have Edwards’ play strength, he still does an excellent job of finishing through contact. Higgins has similar Pro Bowl potential to what Edwards showed early on in his pro career.