Projecting the production of rookies is a challenging task. Adjusting from college to the NFL is different for each player. Add to the fact that COVID-19 eliminated all offseason activities that help rookies get acclimated before the season, and it can be even more difficult for a rookie to produce right away. If there's one player who can still step in right away and succeed, it's Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy.
The Broncos have made it a point to surround Drew Lock with as much talent as possible to give him every chance of success. Revamping the offense into one that can compete with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West will not happen overnight, though. Given the number of young weapons on offense and a new offensive coordinator with Pat Shurmur this offseason, it's possible that the offense could take some time till it's firing on all cylinders. Especially without any preseason games.
Courtland Sutton has already proven to be an ascending weapon who could be one of the top receivers in the NFL if he continues to improve. Last year's first-round pick Noah Fant provides a mismatch weapon over the middle.
The backfield added former Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon to pair with Phillip Lindsay. In the 2020 NFL Draft, Denver spent their first and second-round picks on wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and Penn State receiver KJ Hamler.
While the offense looks fantastic on paper, there is still plenty of unknown. A new scheme, unknowns of what Lock will improve in year two, and playmakers that have yet to take an NFL snap, there's plenty of reason to hold reservations on jumping on the Broncos bandwagon for the 2020 season.
Luckily, Jeudy is ahead of the game than most rookie wide receivers and should have no problem becoming a viable weapon in year one.
What gives Jerry Jeudy an edge over most rookie wide receivers?
Coming out of Alabama, Jeudy is one of the most polished route runners to come through the draft in a long time. His extensive route tree, understanding of defensive coverages, and how to attack leverage, mixed with his route manipulation and athleticism to create separation is special. He ran multiple styles of offense for the Crimson Tide, proving that he is not restricted by one specific scheme. Add his ability to turn any play into a housecall, and it's a recipe for early success.
It all starts at the line of scrimmage, where Jeudy uses his knowledge of leverage and foot quickness to beat press coverage. His quick-twitch athleticism immediately puts cornerbacks on their heels.
As he progresses into the stem of his route, he attacks the leverage of cornerbacks to set up his breakpoints at the top of the route. The ability to drop his hips and accelerate out of breaks gives him his next advantage to finish off his opponent and provide open windows for his quarterback to throw the ball.
Whether lining up against man coverage or zone, Jeudy possesses the savvy route running and intelligence to get open. He understands when to adjust his route and speed to sit between zones. It doesn't matter where Jeudy is lined up or what level of the field he is working; he is a threat.
Working over the middle of the field through traffic is not an issue as he eliminates the noise around him to make the catch. He displayed a good catch radius and consistently caught the ball away from his frame to not allow it to get into his chest. Once the ball is in his hands, his ability to stop on a dime and accelerate the other direction will have defenders grasping at air.
Unlike most rookie wide receivers entering the NFL, Jeudy doesn't need to be schemed open to get the ball. His advanced knowledge of release packages, route running, and leverage provide him with the necessary traits to excel early. Playing in the SEC put him up against future NFL cornerbacks consistently, so it's not like he was beating a bunch of division two cornerbacks.
Pairing him with Drew Lock, a second-year quarterback who is still developing himself, his ability to gain separation will earn him plenty of targets. Don't be surprised if Jeudy becomes one of Lock's go-to guys as he continues to adapt to the NFL.
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2020 Expectations for Jerry Jeudy
As defenses put most of their attention on Sutton as the proven weapon in the Broncos offense, Jeudy has the advantage over the rest of the playmakers to earn considerable targets. Defenses will confuse Lock with a variety of looks before and after the snap, which could result in him needing a quick option to dump the ball off. Before a receiver can have a shot at catching a ball, he has to generate separation.
Whether we see the Drew Lock that we saw at Missouri who loved to push the ball downfield or the version of Lock we saw in the last few games of his rookie season where he became hesitant, Jeudy can create separation anywhere on the field.
His ability to separate and his dangerous playmaking ability after the catch will make him a high volume target right out of the gate. It would not be surprising to see Denver elect to get Jeudy involved regularly in quick screens and jet sweeps and provide additional opportunities in the open field.
Courtland Sutton primarily remains on one of the boundaries. Jeudy can play both as a boundary receiver or move into the slot position. New offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has proven in the past to utilize his slot receivers heavily. Hamler projects to find most of his work from the slot, forcing Jeudy to play outside more. However, Hamler is not nearly as pro-ready as a do it all type of weapon and will require development limiting his snaps.
Jeudy found ways to get the ball despite the Alabama offense’s surrounding talent, so there's no reason to think that he will get lost in the crowd. Expect for the rookie wide receiver to put up over 1,000 yards and likely double-digit touchdowns as the Broncos attempt to finally generate an explosive offense for the first time since Peyton Manning was under center.
If you look for depth at the wide receiver position with a high ceiling in both 2020 and beyond, Jeudy is a great value. While a new offense and limited time to prepare could be a challenge, he's got the traits to become an impact still early in the season. Most defenses will be focusing on Sutton, allowing for more one-on-one opportunities for Jeudy wherever he lines up.
With the lack of time to prepare for the season, Jeudy ranks as a top-two receiver prospect for the 2020 class to perform right away. Currently ranked 51st in wide receiver ECR, Jeudy is a low risk, high reward grab towards the end of the draft.