Welcome to the Wild-Card NFL Mailbag, which includes a countdown of the top 5 rookie receivers of 2020! Here are your best questions from Twitter, also featuring how should the Bills attack the offseason and whether a running back will go in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Top 5 Rookie Receivers of 2020: Wild-Card NFL Mailbag
Rank the top 5 rookie wide receivers from the 2020 NFL Draft.
5. Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh SteelersClaypool had a fascinating season for the Steelers as he scored ten touchdowns in the first ten games of the season. But from Week 12 on, his production dropped off in a big way as the Steelers’ offense went into a slump. Still, Claypool’s combination of size and athleticism make him a great fit in Pittsburgh’s offense. If the Steelers can eventually find a young quarterback to pair him with that can stretch the field vertically, there is no telling just how good he can be in the NFL.
4. Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ersAiyuk played in just 12 games this season, but he had a significant impact when he was on the field. Despite playing with several different quarterbacks and battling through multiple lower-body injuries, Aiyuk finished the season with 825 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns. He’s already the most polished receiver on the 49ers’ roster and with a full season now under his belt, the sky is the limit for the former Arizona State star.
3. Tee Higgins, Cincinnati BengalsBefore the NFL Combine and Clemson’s Pro Day, Higgins was considered a lock to be a first-round pick and potentially one of the first receivers drafted. Coming off a junior season in the ACC where he caught 59 passes for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns, Higgins appeared to have everything you would want from a Round 1 wide receiver. But questions about his long speed scared some teams off and he fell to the second round. That appears to be a mistake as Higgins was fantastic as a rookie. Despite playing with three different quarterbacks, Higgins managed to total 936 yards and six touchdowns. From Weeks 6-16, he averaged 69.4 yards per game and 13.6 yards per reception. Once Joe Burrow returns to the field, Higgins will be a yearly lock to go over 1,000 yards, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he quickly established himself as one of the best receivers in the NFL.
2. CeeDee Lamb, Dallas CowboysBefore Dak Prescott was injured, Lamb was on a 1,400-yard pace as a rookie. His production dropped significantly after playing with three other quarterbacks, including Andy Dalton and Garrett Gilbert. Still, he was able to total 1,017 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie. He’s the perfect slot receiver in today’s NFL: He can win with quickness or his size and physicality down the middle of the field. Assuming Prescott returns to the lineup in 2021, Lamb should be a lock to get to 1,200 yards and close to double-digit touchdowns.
1. Justin Jefferson, Minnesota VikingsComing out of LSU, Jefferson was a highly athletic receiver who could play in the slot and on the outside. And in his final season in the SEC, he caught 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. Maybe, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that a great college receiver coming from a historically great team would be good in the NFL. Jefferson is already one of the league’s best route-runners, and with his speed and quickness, you can make a strong case that he’s already one of the top five players at his position. (Question submitted by @ajamu9)
What is the Buffalo Bills’ biggest need this offseason?
The typical answer here will likely be defense, specifically edge rusher. While that certainly could be the correct answer, Buffalo needs to improve their offensive line. With Josh Allen playing at this level, the team needs to do everything in its power to protect him. His mobility and legs make him such a dynamic player, but improving the interior of their offensive line will allow him to win from the pocket at a higher rate. If the Bills can find a way to better protect Allen, there is no cap to just how good this offense can be in time. Protecting your most important player should be priority No. 1 for the Bills this offseason. After that, look for the Bills to upgrade defensive end. Jerry Hughes remains a solid player, but the Mario Addison addition hasn’t paid off as well as they had hoped. They need more speed and explosiveness at the position and should be able to find it in free agency in a few months.
Who will be the starting quarterback for the Washington Football Team in 2021?
The truth is that it will likely be Alex Smith, but let’s speculate for a minute. Washington appears to be one of these teams that could really benefit by adding a young, proven quarterback, and there could be a ton of options this offseason. What about Matthew Stafford, from whom the Lions may be ready to move on? Could Washington bring someone in like him to help get this team to the next stage of their rebuild? Or what if they want to go younger? Sam Darnold is likely to be moved this offseason, and a change of scenery could greatly benefit him. Would he and Alex Smith be a good enough quarterback pairing for this team going forward? Who knows, but look for this franchise to be aggressive in the quarterback market this offseason. (Question submitted by @ChaseYoungMVP)
Is there a first-round running back in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Yes. Travis Etienne from Clemson should find his way into the bottom half of the first round; he might just be the best running back prospect to enter the NFL over the last few seasons. We rarely see a running back enter the NFL with a ton of experience as a receiver. But that happens to be the case with Etienne; he caught 102 passes for 1,155 yards and eight touchdowns during his career at Clemson. And, oh yeah, he also rushed for 4,972 yards and 70 touchdowns. Despite 686 career carries, he still managed to average 7.2 yards per rush. Etienne’s combination of size, speed and quickness are reminiscent of Alvin Kamara, and he can do similar things for an offense in the NFL. Don’t be surprised if teams at the bottom of the first round, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, gamble on him with their first pick. He’s a great prospect and should quickly become one of the best running backs in the NFL by the end of his rookie season. (Question submitted by @Dolfandave)