The Paradox of Jalen Reagor and the Problem of WR Speed: A 2020 NFL Draft Prospect Profile
Image Credit: Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Jalen Reagor.

The 2020 wide receiver class is famous for its glut of elite prospects, with seven different receivers expected to be first rounders, according to Grinding the Mocks. One of those outside the first round is Jalen Reagor. Yet many aspects of Reagor’s profile make him look like he deserves to be at the top of the rankings. Is it possible to be sleeping on a player who will probably garner a top-40 pick? Should the red flags in Reagor’s profile push his draft stock down further?

Jalen Reagor Is Both the Most and the Least Productive Top WR

By some accounts, Reagor’s production profile puts him in a class by himself. He’s the only player expected to have early draft capital who both declared early and sports a career dominator rating above 0.30. He’s one of only two players who declared after his true junior season and broke out before age 20. His 0.42 dominator rating in his true sophomore season is elite.

But there are some reasons for caution. Reagor has never had 1,000 total receiving yards in a season. He has never had more than eight touchdowns — in his final season, he managed only five. He has the lowest career catch rate of the top receivers in the class, despite only a middling career yards-per-reception average of 15.1.1

Jalen Reagor Is Both More and Less Athletic Than We Hoped

Many expected Reagor to be among the fastest WRs at the combine. Betting markets even gave him halfway decent odds to top Henry Ruggs as the fastest player at the combine. What transpired was among the most incongruent combines we’ve ever seen. After being hyped with 4.3 or even 4.2 speed, Reagor ran a pedestrian 4.47 forty. He followed that up with an insane 42-inch vertical (97th percentile) and an even more insane 138-inch broad jump (99th percentile), proving that the explosiveness scouts praised in his film was real. Reagor finished his day with a 7.31 three-cone (19th percentile) and a 4.46 short shuttle (18th percentile), leaving draftniks scratching their heads.

The explosiveness is enough to move D.J. Moore to a top spot among Reagor’s athletic comps. But athleticism is not the thing we care about most at the WR position. The reason for this apathy is not that athleticism isn’t useful for WRs; it’s that athleticism isn’t as useful as NFL teams seem to think it is.2 Reagor’s comps from the Box Score Scout make this point perfectly.

Is Reagor’s Disappointing Forty a Benefit?

If we give Reagor an early Round 2 draft position and also assume the blazing speed everyone was hoping for, his comps are an interesting mix of NFL deep ball specialists and overdrafted speedsters. Bona fide star Chris Godwin, star-in-the-making Christian Kirk, and the original bad Mike Thomas round out the top 10.

However, if we keep Reagor’s draft position the same and give him his actual forty time of 4.47, his comps get noticeably better.

Kirk rises to the top. Robert Woods and A.J. Brown join the top 10. The original bad Mike Thomas drops out and the current good Michael Thomas takes his place. So what’s going on here? Why are Reagor’s comps so much better when he has a slower forty? Isn’t it better to be fast?

The problem is that NFL teams overdraft athleticism, especially speed. If Reagor has early Round 2 draft capital without elite speed, that suggests his draft position is a signal of talent beyond pure athleticism. If Reagor has early Round 2 draft capital with elite speed, that suggests his draft position could be largely the result of athleticism that lacks receiving talent.

Is Reagor a Value in Rookie Drafts?

We’ll have to see where Reagor falls in the NFL Draft. His disappointing forty time doesn’t appear to have done much to affect his projected draft position. If elite speed was part of the calculus for early Round 2 draft capital, scouts might be thinking the combine was a fluke. If that’s the case, Reagor could end up like so many of his overdrafted comps with elite speed. Still, his actual comps are undeniable.

In early MFL rookie drafts, Reagor is the third WR off the board with an ADP of 8.2.3

If the early reality draft capital comes with early opportunity, Reagor could be worth the price of a top-eight rookie pick. But given how many WRs should go ahead of him in the NFL draft, perhaps fantasy owners are not taking all the risks into account.4

  1. Yards per reception isn’t a perfect measure of depth of target, but in the NFL there’s about a 0.49 correlation between the two stats, so it’s a useful proxy.  (back)
  2. Or, at the very least, it’s not as useful for fantasy teams as it is for NFL teams.  (back)
  3. He was off the board by the ninth pick in each of the Dynasty Command Center Rookie Guide mocks, even in superflex.  (back)
  4. And I say this as someone who traded away Kyler Murray in a superflex league in order to get a package that included Jalen Reagor. It was before the DeAndre Hopkins deal at least, but still maybe not something I would generally advise anyone to do.  (back)

Blair Andrews

Managing Editor, Author of The Wrong Read, Occasional Fantasy Football League Winner. All opinions are someone else's.
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