You’ve all heard about the ridiculous talent in the 2020 NFL draft’s wide receiver class, and the running back class has plenty of playmakers too. But when we are talking about ability in the open space on the field, a few prospects stand out as extremely dangerous weapons for any offense.
That brings us to my 2020 All-Satellite team, featuring a handful of elite playmakers who will be drafted on Days 1 and 2 at the end of the month. This year marks the 11th edition of the list, dating back to C.J. Spiller and the 2010 class. It has included the likes of Odell Beckham Jr., Brandin Cooks, Christian McCaffrey, Lamar Jackson and Tyler Lockett. Most recently, Marquise Brown and Kyler Murray headlined last season’s team.
Each name on this year’s list could teach us all a little something about social distancing — they find open space and turn it into chunk plays. Here is my All-Satellite team for 2020, starting with a speedy receiver out of Alabama.
Man, this was a tight race for the No. 1 spot on the list. CeeDee Lamb makes so many guys miss, but at the end of the day, I still have Ruggs atop the ranking because of that speed. We saw the wheels on tape, but he backed it up at the scouting combine with a blazing 4.27 seconds in the 40-yard dash and a 1.43-second 10-yard split, the best acceleration in the class. That 40 time was just five hundredths off John Ross III’s record of 4.22. Ruggs can flat-out move with easy speed, even hitting 23 mph at Alabama on the Catapult tracking system. That is faster than any pro player ran at any point during the 2019 NFL season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
A physical runner with the ball in his hands, Ruggs posted 10.5 yards after the catch per reception in 2019. He has good hands — with just one drop all of last season, and only four over three years — and is crisp in and out of his breaks, but he could use some improvement in his route running. If he does that, there’s a decent chance we look back at this class in a few years and say he’s the most successful receiver of the talented bunch. Ruggs is that good.
At the next level, he will certainly be a major vertical threat, but look for offenses to scheme him into jet sweeps and screens to get the ball in his hands. Once he has it, it’s off to the races.
A bonus note: The scary thing for Crimson Tide opponents is Ruggs’ teammate Jaylen Waddle might not have his speed but somehow has even more wiggle in his game. Remember that name for the 2021 draft class — and next year’s All-Satellite list.
Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III is called the fastest player in the 2020 draft class by Todd McShay, and he’s ready to bring it in the NFL.
If it weren’t for the jet-engine speed of Ruggs, Oklahoma receivers would have taken the top spot on this list in back-to-back years (Brown). And it wasn’t easy putting one over the other here. Lamb ran a solid-but-not-eye-popping 4.50 in the 40 in Indianapolis, but when you watch his tape you see plenty of speed and instant acceleration in his game. In fact, his 1.46-second 10-yard split was the second-best number behind Ruggs. But even without the stopwatches, you see that acceleration on tape. He gets up and goes off the line. His 26 catches for at least 20 yards were No. 2 in the nation last season behind only LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, another potential future member of this list.
Lamb excels in finding soft spots in zone coverage and has great hands to go make the catch. But it’s all about the YAC with Lamb. No receiver in this year’s draft class forced as many missed tackles as Lamb did. His ability to stop and start, along with good size, wheels and instincts, helped him post 11.1 yards after the catch in 2019, among the best in the nation.
Oklahoma wideout CeeDee Lamb can play both slot and outside and is considered one of the most evasive offensive players in the 2020 NFL draft.
Aiyuk matched Lamb’s 4.50 in the 40-yard dash, which again is a very solid time, but his game is more about fantastic vision and feel with the ball in his hands. In 2019, he averaged 18.3 yards per catch, 16.1 yards per punt return and 29.7 yards per kickoff return. And his average of 10.5 yards after the catch was in the top 10 in the country among wide receivers.
The Arizona State wideout can make defenders miss and break tackles after the catch. The speed is there to challenge defenses vertically, and he certainly has plenty of explosion in his game — he posted a very good 40-inch vertical jump at the combine. Aiyuk had nine catches go for at least 40 yards in 2019, tied for fifth most in the FBS.
Jayden Daniels connects with Brandon Aiyuk down the sideline for an 81-yard touchdown.
You just don’t see running backs average north of 2,000 yards rushing over three full college seasons, so it’s no surprise to see Taylor make this list. He isn’t the shiftiest of backs, but the speed is real, and the acceleration matches that of some of the elite wide receivers. Taylor’s 4.39-second time in the 40 was the best among running backs this year, and the third fastest among running backs listed at a minimum 225 pounds at the combine since 2006 (Knile Davis and Mario Fannin). And his 1.46 10-yard split was the same as Lamb’s. Taylor absolutely flies if he gets a crease.
I really like his patience, vision and burst. A sudden runner, Taylor shows the ability to make sharp cuts on the move and string together multiple dekes in tight spaces. And in the open field, it’s lights out thanks to his breakaway speed. Sure, he has fumbling issues and some concerns in pass protection, but neither matters when we are strictly talking about game-breaking ability out in the open. And Taylor has that.
Jonathan Taylor catches two touchdown passes and runs for two more as Wisconsin rolls past South Florida.
TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor is super quick, will make guys miss and can break tackles after the catch. The vertical speed is definitely there, even though he didn’t scorch in the 40 at the combine as we thought he might (4.47), and he likely will develop above-average separation ability.
KJ Hamler, a wide receiver out of Penn State, also just missed the list. He plays with great burst, and his top-end speed will make him a threat in multiple facets of the game.