Justin Jefferson rewrote the rookie receiving record books in 2020 with his 88 receptions, 1,400 yards receiving and seven touchdowns in his first campaign. CeeDee Lamb flashed big time in his rookie season, and the football world is salivating at what Lamb could produce with a year of experience under his belt and a healthy Dak Prescott under center for the Dallas Cowboys. Other rookie wide receivers such as Tee Higgins and Chase Claypool also impressed the league early on.
Prior to the 2020 draft, most considered Jerry Jeudy to be the draft's best wide receiver prospect. He was taken 15th overall, making him the second receiver off the board behind Henry Ruggs. Coming out of Alabama, the expectations were high for Jeudy. He had a solid, but unspectacular rookie season with the Denver Broncos.
Jeudy had 52 receptions for 856 yards and three touchdowns in 2020. While most would consider it a solid rookie season, it felt a little underwhelming compared to his rookie class. He ranked fifth amongst rookies in receiving yards. BetMGM projects a slight sophomore bump for Jeudy, with his over/under for receiving yards currently set at 925.5 yards.
A lot went wrong for Jeudy last season
Jeudy had 113 targets in his rookie season. This was the second most among all rookies behind only Jefferson. It was 20 more targets than Noah Fant, who ranked second on the Broncos in the category. It was clear Denver wanted to make Jeudy a focal point of the offense.
Unfortunately for Jeudy, he had 10 drops last season. This was the third-highest number in the league behind only Diontae Johnson and Evan Engram. While there's a negative connotation surrounding drops, it's not a predictive stat. Often times, players who struggle with drops are fine the next season and vice-versa. Davante Adams struggled with drops early in his career, and he's turned out just fine. Some of the league's best players rank among the league leaders in drops every season. Alvin Kamara, Stefon Diggs, Ezekiel Elliott and D.K. Metcalf all finished top 10 in drops for 2020.
While drops are a self-inflicted issue, there were other factors at play last season that were beyond Jeudy's control.
According to ProFootballFocus, Jeudy led the league in uncatchable targets last season. Jeudy was targeted with a throw that no receiver could be reasonably expected to catch 26 times. Twenty-four percent of his total targets and 47% of his deep-ball targets were deemed uncatchable.
Jeudy is known for his route-running prowess. Often, Jeudy cleanly beats a defensive back leaving him in the dust. Only 81% of Jeudy's "wide-open targets" were deemed catchable. This was the third-lowest percentage in the league. When Jeudy found himself wide open 19 percent of the time, Drew Lock delivered a putrid throw.
Teddy Bridgewater should benefit Jeudy
A lot of the above statistics are an indictment on the quality of quarterback play. Lock has some intriguing tools, but accuracy is not one of his calling cards. With Broncos coach Vic Fangio naming Teddy Bridgewater as his starter, it can only be viewed as a positive for Jeudy.
Bridgewater might not be the vertical risk taker that Lock is, but he's proven to be a capable distributor of the ball to his weapons. In 2020 with the Carolina Panthers, Bridgewater supported two 1,000 yard receivers in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. Curtis Samuel added 851 receiving yards. Bridgewater supported Michael Thomas during his stint with the New Orleans Saints.
Jeudy doesn't need a superstar quarterback to be effective. If Lock was even fractionally more accurate when targeting Jeudy last season, Jeudy would be mentioned in the same conversation as Jefferson and Lamb when it comes to sophomore receivers. Bridgewater might not blow you away, but he's capable and that's good enough to spark hope for a sizable improvement from Jeudy.
Last chance to buy low on Jeudy
Despite dealing with drop issues and suffering from subpar quarterback play, Jeudy still posted 856 yards last season. This is just 70 yards less than the posted over/under for his 2021 receiving yards at BetMGM.
The 2020 rookie class was dynamite when it comes to wide receivers. However, receivers often truly break out in their second seasons. They become more comfortable with the league and they learn what it takes to be successful.
The Broncos used a first-round pick on Jeudy in order for him to be the focal point of this offense. With better quarterback play expected and an additional regular-season game, Jeudy should blow past the totals he posted in his rookie season.
I have a feeling this is the last time we see Jeudy's projected season-long receiving totals posted under 1,000 yards for quite a long time. The time is now to buy on Jeudy because by this time next season, he will be a household name.
Stats from PFF.com and Pro-Football-Reference.com