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INDIANAPOLIS — Every so often for teams in the NFL Draft, a player becomes available who fits both a position of need and is among the top of the best players available.
When the Indianapolis Colts are sitting there on the clock in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, at least one such player could fit the bill for them, and could help transform their offense if selected.
Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is not only considered by many experts to be the top receiver in this year's class, but is one of the best wide receiver prospects to come out in the last several years.
The reigning back-to-back First-Team All SEC selection has drawn pro comparisons to players like Colts legends Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne as well as current stars Amari Cooper, Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr.; the latter being the comparison he seems to draw the most.
In 42 games at Alabama, Jeudy caught 159 receptions for 2,742 yards (17.2 avg.) and 26 touchdowns. He now leaves a storied Crimson Tide program ranked second in school history in receiving touchdowns and yards per catch, fourth in receiving yards and fifth in receptions.
Jeudy won the Biletnikoff Award — which recognizes the nation's best wide receiver — and was named a Consensus All-American as a sophomore in 2018. He was then a semifinalist for both the Biletnikoff and Maxwell Player of the Year awards in 2019.
He brings a blend of speed, athleticism and polish to the wide receiver position that warrants him being an early first-round pick — potentially even in the top 10 — in April.
While he's most likely to land a primary role as an outside receiver, Jeudy's speed, quickness and precise route-running abilities show he'll likely be capable of being used in either of the X, Z (outside receivers) or Y receiver (slot) spots.
Whether he's beating a cornerback while being pressed in man coverage with his lightning-quick feet or immediately erasing the cushion in zone coverage with his long-strided speed, Jeudy is hard for defensive backs to get hands on and maintain control.
How fast is Jeudy? He thinks he could be up there near the top of the 40-yard dash results.
"I ran a 4.4, (and) I'm trying go down to a 4.3, or maybe even a 4.2," Jeudy said on the Stick to Football Podcast. "We gon' see. We're workin' on it. I feel pretty good about a 4.3."
Jeudy is fast, of course, but his quickness and foot speed can be downright devastating for defenders. It sets him up to win immediately in his matchups as he makes sharp, convincing cuts in his routes.
Although Jeudy isn't the one making the catch in the clip directly below (it does look like he might be the intended target, however), watch this multi-move route on the fake-inside/out-and-up, leaving potential first-round pick Kristian Fulton on the ground.
His agility, change-of-direction and stop-start quickness is about as good as it gets in this year's class of players, and once he's got the ball in his hands, he's incredibly difficult to corral and bring down. While he's not likely to run over anybody, he totes the ball after the catch with confidence and is always looking to pick up more yardage.
In general, Jeudy has very reliable hands as well as a wide catch radius. He plucks the ball out of the air naturally, and can go up high or dip down low to get it. He also tracks the deep ball very well, adjusting his body position to the ball after he's created space with his legs.
Though Jeudy isn't a real big guy in terms of bulk, he is a very willing and effective blocker for his teammates.
There really are no major warts on Jeudy as a prospect. However, at a reported 192 pounds, his frame is somewhat slender, which could lead to hits taking more of a physical toll on his body. As a player, his primary concern is the consistency of his hands. While he typically proves to have reliable hands, he does let the ball into his body a little too often, and he is prone to the occasional "concentration drop."
FIT WITH THE COLTS
A player like Jeudy is a natural fit for any team, but especially for the Colts.
The Colts have a need at receiver to begin with, as T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell are their primary receivers under contract for 2020, and with Hilton and Campbell's 2019 seasons being largely marred by injury. The position group was so banged-up in general that by the end of the season, the group on the field looked completely different from the one that entered the season.
However, projecting everyone's health on paper to begin the 2020 season, adding Jeudy to a receiver corps that already features Hilton and Campbell — two guys who ran their pre-draft 40 times in the 4.3s — would immediately transform them into one of the most dangerous groups of receivers in the NFL. No matter what, defenses have to respect speed.
With polished, reliable veterans like Hilton and Pascal outside with a playmaker like Campbell in the slot, the Colts wouldn't need to have Jeudy contribute heavily right away. However, there's nothing to show currently that he wouldn't be able to earn a spot near the top of the depth chart by the time the season arrived.
A lot of "speed" guys take time to develop because they don't know how to do much more than outrun a defender and catch the ball. Jeudy is already a high-end route runner with outstanding foot speed who can create separation from defenders in multiple ways.
The Colts have a dominant run game, which ranked seventh in 2019. Having such a commodity allows you to exploit defenses with the play-action passing game as long as all the healthy pieces are in place. Jeudy's ability to win in all levels of the field would be a big asset in this regard, but especially in his ability to take the top off of defenses.
Guys like him are special, rare talents that find their way in the league early and stick around for awhile.