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The 2020 WR class: Examining the  2017 pass rusher class

We’ve already heard ad nauseum about the potential upside of the 2020 wide receiver class, with some touting it as the best since 2014. So how will this impact the rest of the 2020 NFL draft?

Through statistical analysis and research, Fanspeak tried to answer that question.

Below is Fanspeak’s series on the 2020 WR class. Part 2 examines how it compares to the 2017 class of pass rushers.

From the moment Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb took the field as freshmen – and dominated – fans and teams alike have eagerly anticipated the 2020 wide receiver class.

It’s not just the great quality that excites; it’s the sheer depth of talent that has people thinking they can fix their receiver woes next season.

However, it’s important to note the difference between a draft that’s stocked with talent at a position and a draft that’s top-heavy at a position. Basically, it’s a question of quality vs. quantity. If the top underclassmen declare, the 2020 receiver class could pull off the rare double: it has both quality and quantity.

That’s why there are so many comparisons to the ’14 WR class.

Where those two receiver classes differ, though, is in how this class is already perceived. Evaluators were high on the class of 2014 receivers, but few viewed it as having the potential to be an all-time great class.

A mixed bag

The 2017 class of pass rushers may be a better indicator of how this group of receivers could make its mark.

That draft was thought to be loaded with quality and quantity at a position that’s traditionally hard to find talent. Like the 2020 class of receivers, many evaluators at the time said the ’17 class of pass rushers had the chance to be historically deep with quality and quantity.

Sure enough, eight pass rushers were drafted in the first round that year, with Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett going No. 1 overall and Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt going No. 30.

Then, the faucet was turned off, with only a dribble of pass rushers remaining.

The next edge defender drafted that year was Florida State’s DeMarcus Walker, who went No. 51 overall. He was followed by Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon, who was drafted with pick No. 59. Those were the only two edge defenders taken in the second round.

Thus far, Kpassagnon has six starts and 6 sacks in three seasons, while Walker has one start and 6 sacks.

Then came the next wave, or “tier” of pass rushers. Eight more were selected in the third round.

Again, there were a lot of misses.

Of those eight, only two are current starters (Trey Hendricks with New Orleans and Chris Wormley with Baltimore), while another is a regular contributor (Dawuane Smoot of Jacksonville). Out the remaining five, four have been cut at least once, while the other has barely played because of injuries.

As for the 2017 first-rounders, it’s been a mixed bag:

  • Myles Garrett, Texas A&M (No. 1 to Cleveland): 30.5 career sacks, suspended for rest of ’19 season
  • Solomon Thomas (No. 3 to San Francisco): Backup, 6 career sacks
  • Derek Barnett, Tennessee (No. 14 to Philadelphia): 12 career sacks, 0 starts in ’19
  • Jonathan Allen, Alabama (No. 17 to Washington): 14 career sacks, injuries have limited him to five starts in ’19
  • Charles Harris, Missouri (No. 22 to Miami): Eight career starts, 3.5 career sacks
  • Takkarist McKinley, UCLA (No. 26 to Atlanta): 20 career starts, 16.5 sacks
  • Taco Charlton, Michigan (No. 28 to Dallas): Cut from team in ‘19
  • T.J. Watt, Wisconsin (No. 30 to Pittsburgh): 32.5 sacks, missed only 3 games in career so far after falling in the draft in part because of injury concerns.

Comparing 2017 to 2020

Where the 2017 pass rusher and the 2020 wide receiver classes could differ is in how the talent is dispersed and its actual quality.

There were 18 defensive ends or pass-rushing linebackers selected in the first three rounds in 2017, but 16 out of 18 of them were either taken in the first or third rounds.

The 2020 class, meanwhile, could have five to six receivers selected in each of the first three rounds (and maybe beyond).

Although numbers alone show that the ’17 pass rusher class was, indeed, deep, the actual “quality” of that class is debatable, as about 60 percent of those picks could be considered busts.

And that’s where evaluators hope the similarities end between the two classes.

Coming tomorrow: Why teams still miss on picks despite quality at a position.

Part I: A look back at the historic 2019 DL class



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