2020 Senior Bowl | Wide Receiver Standouts from Day 1


It’s well known that the 2020 NFL Draft wide receiver class has the potential to be a special one. With so much talent and depth at the position in the class, separating the prospects will be a difficult process that NFL teams must undertake.

The value of all-star games such as the Reese’s Senior Bowl is the opportunity to compare these wide receiver prospects while they’re competing on the same field and against the same opposition. During the first day of practices at the Senior Bowl, there were a few standouts among the fourteen wide receivers who have set themselves up for a potential climb up draft boards.

South Team Practice

The South Team featured two late additions in Ohio State’s Austin Mack and Florida’s Tyrie Cleveland. Mack struggled to get going, while Cleveland flashed some downfield playmaking ability but was mostly inconsistent.

There were two wide receivers that really showed out with their performances during the South Team practices: Florida’s Van Jefferson and Collin Johnson from Texas.

Despite Jefferson’s advanced age (will be 24 by the start of the NFL regular season), he has shown so much ability as a route runner that NFL teams can’t help but become intrigued. Jefferson is a technical savant, with the fluidity out of his breaks to separate from opposing defensive backs. He was eating all day in the curl window, finding voids in zone coverage or decelerating so quickly that defensive backs failed to stick close to him.

During the wide receiver versus defensive back one-on-one and seven-on-seven periods of practice, Jefferson got loose for multiple receptions in the intermediate portion of the field. This bodes well for his projection as a high-end possession receiver who will keep offenses on schedule.

The Senior Bowl is a chance for Johnson to prove that he’s fully healthy after a season that found him a bit banged up, and the first practice was an indication that he’s back up to speed. On top of that, Johnson’s game appears to be developing right before our eyes.

Early in his collegiate career, Johnson struggled with his stem work and at the top of the route. While he’s developed nuance in his stem to limit contact and change the angles of defensive backs, his route breaks remained mediocre on tape this season. During the one-on-one period, Johnson was able to separate from defensive backs at the route break a few times. On one particular rep, he turned the defensive back (Dane Jackson, Pittsburgh) around with his stem before snapping off his route with acceleration through the break.

North Team Practice

During the second practice of the day, a similar trend occurred where two wide receivers stood out above the rest of the group: Ohio State’s KJ Hill and Baylor’s Denzel Mims.

Hill started to dominate the group of cornerbacks attempting to cover him one-on-one, creating easy wins on three consecutive reps. Hill showed a successful plan of attack on multiple reps facing press coverage, both in drills and in one-on-ones — an encouraging sign for a receiver who generally lined up in the slot while at Ohio State.

Denzel Mims was another wide receiver who won three consecutive one-on-one reps, creating space away from the defensive back on each rep. Mims is clearly a next-level athlete and he’s shown positive progression with his route running technique during his time at Baylor.

Mims has improved his pad-level throughout his stems and that’s made for easier route transitions. He continued to showcase this during the seven-on-seven and team periods.

Looking ahead at the rest of the week, all of the other wide receivers will have their chances to impress evaluators. However, through the first practice by each team, Jefferson, Johnson, Hill and Mims already have a leg up in separating themselves as prospects from the rest of the wide receiver pack.