Projecting the Top 10 for the 2020 NFL Season: Slot Wide Receiversby Sam Schneider August 23, 2020 1 comment
Every year the NFL Network does its top 100 countdown based on the previous season. However, that’s the past, and we want to look forward to the future. Four of our writers have put together a 14 part series, predicting our top 10 at each position. We’ve also included the most under and overrated at each position. Today, we continue the series with our top 10 slot wide receivers. The receivers on this list are viewed as primarily slot receivers and therefore excluded from yesterday’s outside wide receiver list.
10) Devin Duvernay, Baltimore Ravens
Duvernay is the only rookie on the list because although there was massive wide receiver talent in this year’s draft, we have not yet seen any of them do it in the NFL. However, Duvernay, with his sure hands and ability to electrify after the catch, can beat out Willie Snead for the position.
9) Julian Edelman, New England Patriots
Edelman gets knocked by some, saying his production is a byproduct of who his quarterback was. However, he cannot be left off the list until that theory is proven. He will see a dip in production but could still end up being a huge security blanket for whichever quarterback is under center in Foxborough.
8) JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith-Schuster was terrible last year, and we can point to quarterback play for his woes. Ben Roethlisberger has had tremendous success in the past with his star receiver lining up in the slot. However, we need to see that last year was an outlier for JuJu and also whether Roethlisberger can stay on the field.
7) Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
In 2019, Crowder saw 122 balls hurled in his general direction, and he pulled down just under 64 percent of them. He finished fourth in the league for slot receiver rating, according to Pro Football Focus. Crowder’s ability to accelerate into the ball before it even hits his hands often puts him at full speed by the time he gathers it in. Sam Darnold is no accuracy machine, but if he can continue to hit the veteran in stride, Crowder may end up near the top again.
6) Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams
Kupp runs slants with such fluidity that it is nearly impossible for him to be picked up in the middle of the field in zone coverage. He will see a high volume once again this season, however, the combination of losing Brandin Cooks to stretch the secondary and the emergence of Tyler Higbee as a legitimate pass-catcher will likely cause some regression for Kupp’s numbers.
5) Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
He is a perfect example of how the slot position has changed over the years. Lockett runs from the slot position as though he was shot from a cannon, using his sub-4.40 speed to leave defenders trying to play catch up. After a career year in 2019, we can expect more of the same as he was aided by rookie D.K. Metcalf being on the field as well. There are rumors that Seattle might bring in another wide receiver this offseason. However, it shouldn’t be an issue as Lockett and Russell Wilson already have a rapport.
4) Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
Coming off his second straight 1,000-yard season, Boyd has a reputation for getting his hands dirty. Boyd lives over the middle, and not only will he take a big hit, but he will also dish one out if it means extra yards. He is at his best when A.J. Green is on the field so that he can always stay in the slot. With John Ross demanding downfield coverage and Green pulling double teams, Boyd will earn his paycheck in the middle of the field again with a rookie under center.
3) Jarvis Landry, Cleveland Browns
Like Boyd, Landry is not afraid to get hit. Despite that fact, he is amazingly durable. Landry has never had less than 81 catches (including twice over 100) in his career and has eclipsed 1,000 yards three times. Furthermore, he had whopping 143 targets last season. He is the guy everyone wants when the offense needs to move the sticks on third down.
2) Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In his third season, Godwin broke out for over 1,333 yards to go with nine touchdowns. Normally, one season wouldn’t be enough to move you this high up the list but with Tom Brady and his affinity for slot receivers now in town, Godwin’s stock is soaring. One of Godwin’s specialties is being able to adjust on the fly when a play breaks down, something Brady heavily relied upon from Edelman. Godwin also is three inches taller and can win a jump ball, rarely seen from a player in the slot.
1) Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Allen is a slam dunk for the top spot on this list. While a lot of NFL fans view him as only an edge threat, he continues to dominate in formations that feature him in the slot position. In the last three years (all Pro Bowl seasons) Allen has topped 100 catches twice and has quietly eclipsed 1,100 yards in each season. Above all, he has the most devastating move at the snap of any wideout in the league. With Tyrod Taylor looking at short outs for a player that can make things happen after the catch, Allen’s talent remains unmatched in 2020.
Most Underrated – Emmanuel Sanders, New Orleans Saints
After spending time on the outside in his career, the 33-year-old has continued that dominance in the slot, confounding opposing teams the last several years. Aside from one injury-laden season, Sanders has not dipped under 800 yards receiving since 2013. Sanders can stop on a dime and let a defender overrun him before taking off again. He will be a big asset for Drew Brees this season.
Most Overrated – Adam Humphries, Tennessee Titans
Coming off a career year in 2018 with the Buccaneers, Humphries signed a big free agent deal with the Titans. In his first year in Tennessee, Humphries was a massive disappointment. He can get you first downs and seems to work harder when his number has been called in the huddle. He is a solid player, but when you look at other slot receivers around the league, he isn’t anywhere near the top 10.
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