Joe Douglas has a crucial decision to make this month. He must address the New York Jets’ need at receiver, but which wideout fits best?
On April 1, Joe Douglas held a conference call with the media to discuss the New York Jets’ offseason plans and acquisitions. While there was mainly talk of the team’s recent signings, Gang Green’s general manager also shared an anecdote during his briefing.
Douglas claimed that when he met Sam Darnold’s parents last year, he promised them that he’d find a way to protect their son by adding offensive linemen and playmakers to his depleted roster.
When it comes to the offensive line, the general manager has stood by his word. But in terms of playmakers, Douglas hasn’t fulfilled the promise just yet.
While he failed to provide his franchise quarterback with a top wide receiver in free agency, Douglas will have one more opportunity — the draft.
With the No. 11 overall pick, the Jets will have plenty of options. Douglas could look to shore up Darnold’s blindside by selecting one of the highly-regarded tackles, or he could add the No. 1 wideout that his ascending signal-caller so desperately needs.
This draft class is stacked with quality receivers, headlined by the trio at the top of everyone’s list: Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, and Henry Ruggs III. The Jets would be wise to nab one of these three studs to serve as their lead wideout of the future.
But which one of these individuals makes the most sense for Douglas?
Here’s my take on all three.
While there isn’t much separation between this trio of terrific wideouts, many have identified Jerry Jeudy as the top talent of the group. At 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, the University of Alabama product is not the biggest or strongest pass-catcher. In fact, Jeudy’s size and strength are arguably the biggest red flag that teams will find when scouting him.
But outside of his small stature and the occasional dropped pass, there’s plenty to like about the 20-year-old.
Jeudy’s best asset is his route-running ability. He’s truly elite in that department, which will undoubtedly help him find success in the NFL. While he isn’t a pure speedster, the Florida native is still quick. He ultimately ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in 4.45 seconds. When Jeudy finds open space, which he often does thanks to his precise routes, there’s no catching up to him.
Jeudy has previously had some issues catching the football though. Dropping seven passes last season, there’s been plenty of questions regarding the reliability of his hands. Nevertheless, I believe those concerns have been overblown. He’s proven his ability to make tough, contested catches. Jeudy’s hands aren’t a lingering issue, yet they’re also not the main reason he’s such a special talent.
When deciding on which of these receivers to draft, it will all come down to what teams are looking for, as all three receivers possess unique gifts. Jeudy is the route-runner of the group, but CeeDee Lamb is a different type of receiver. At 6-foot-2, 198 pounds, the 2019 consensus All-American is a big, physical target with top-notch ball skills.
Some of Lamb’s greatest strengths are his physicality, strong hands, impressive tracking ability, and size. The latter-most trait allows him to consistently make contested catches.
The 21-year-old is a polished prospect who’s ready to step in and make an immediate impact in the NFL. Simply speaking, he has all the makings of a true No. 1 wide receiver.
Lamb’s talent with the ball in his hands is also worth noting. He’s terrific at picking up yards after the catch. Although he’s far from a burner, he contains enough speed. His 40-yard dash time of 4.50 seconds at the NFL Combine was slightly disappointing, but what he lacks in speed, he makes up for in quickness and elusiveness. Lamb’s rare combination of size and agility makes him very difficult to tackle.
Henry Ruggs III
It doesn’t take long to realize that Henry Ruggs’ best asset is his speed. The soon-to-be pro ran the 40-yard dash in a remarkable 4.27 seconds. As a result of his uncanny explosiveness, Ruggs has been viewed by many as the second coming of Tyreek Hill.
But Ruggs is more than just a vertical threat. The 21-year-old Alabama native has displayed improving ball skills and has focused on diversifying his route tree. In spite of his slight 5-foot-11, 188-pound build, Ruggs is often able to win jump balls thanks to his hands and explosiveness.
Speed can’t be taught, and Ruggs certainly has it. For that reason, he carries arguably the highest ceiling of any of these receivers. At the same time, it may take him a couple of years to truly reach his potential. Ruggs has the tools, and if he can put it all together, he’ll be an even bigger threat to opposing defenses.
At the end of the day, if the Jets have to choose between these three future stars, I believe that CeeDee Lamb makes the most sense.
Lamb would instantly become Darnold’s go-to-guy, as he has the ability to come in and be a major contributor from the start. His size and physicality would help add another dimension to Gang Green’s passing attack and would fit nicely alongside the speed of Breshad Perriman.
Only time will tell if he’s the actual selection. But one thing’s for sure: Any of these wide receivers would give New York’s stagnant offense some much-needed life.