2021 NFL Draft- Wide Receivers
The receiving group is so deep in this draft that I was not able to include everyone. However, here are some of the most intriguing prospects this year.
Ja'Marr Chase, JR, LSU
Chase is (to me) the top receiver in this class by far. He doesn't measure as big as he was listed on the LSU roster, but when you watch him play, he is an absolute monster, He's athletic as hell and can go get the football. His year off during the pandemic has drawn some criticism, but too many have forgotten just how good he is and how entertaining he is to watch.
DeVonta Smith, SR, Alabama
The Heisman Trophy winner is likely to be picked in the top-20 of the draft with an outside chance of going in the top-10. His speed and route running are his calling card and easily make him one of the most talented in this draft. The biggest key will be how he survives as a smaller player, but his upside is tremendous.
Jaylen Waddle, SR, Alabama
Waddle can affect the game from many dimensions. You can use him to run jet sweeps, screen passes, pop-passes, etc behind the line of scrimmage, he can return kicks, and he is great for taking the top off of a defense. Waddle should be able to fit with anyone who needs a receiver, but his game perfectly fits with teams that like to lull defenses with underneath stuff then go for the jugular. He does everything well, and the biggest question mark will be his recovery from recent injuries.
Terrace Marshall, SR, LSU
Marshall is the most overlooked of the LSU receiving trio from 2019. He has first round skill but didn't get as many chances as the others, With Chase opting out for the year, Marshall quickly became the top wideout in the Tigers' offense. Although he opted out part way through the season, Marshall still made a good case to be selected early in the draft.
Amari Rodgers, SR, Clemson
Rodgers overcame some injuries to have a big senior season for the Tigers. Over his first few seasons, he was a speed receiver who mostly impacted the games as a returner. With all the injuries and departures Clemson had entering this season, Rodgers quickly became the most experienced returning player. He used that to fuel an All-ACC season and become a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist. He almost double his best offensive output in 2020 and leaves 12th all-time in receiving yards and 14th in touchdowns in Clemson history. Rodgers runs routes well and has gam-changing speed. He's a prototypical slot receiver and should have some guidance through the process from his dad, former Tennessee QB Tee Martin. Some team will draft Rodgers on Day 2.
Tylan Wallace, SR, Oklahoma State
Wallace has been one of my favorite college receivers for years, I love how he plays and the different ways OK State used him. He reminds me a lot of Golden Tate-- a smaller receiver who can play in the slot or outside, runs good routes, and can make defenders miss. In a normal year, he'd be an easy first rounder, but this class may force him into Day 2.
Rondale Moore. JR, Purdue
Moore is all about speed. That is what was immediately noticeable about him as soon as his freshman season and quickly made him the Boliermakers' go-to guy on offense. He's built to be a punt returner and a slot guy but will absolutely gash defenses with the ball in his hands, possibly in the mold of a poor man's Tyreek Hill. His abilities make him a candidate for selection in the first round.
Rashod Bateman, SR, Minnesota
Bateman has been the top receiver at Minnesota and was a projected first-rounder a year ago. However, he opted out of the 2020 season, then opted back in, then opted out again. That all contributed to a bit of a let-down season. Still, Bateman has shown dominance in one of the best conferences in football. He's not a speed receiver but will make a great choice for a team looking for that big-bodied guy.
Nico Collins, SR, Michigan
Collins is overlooked because his college production wasn't as good as it could have been. He has elite size, speed, and other athletic measurables, but his career stats don't exactly reflect that. That might cause teams to have some pause drafting him early, but he does have early-round talent. Because of that, I think he will have a better NFL career than college.
Tutu Atwell, SR, Louisville
Atwell is another speed guy. He can absolutely run with the best of them and burn a defense deep. What I think holds him back a bit from the other speed guys is his route running and his hands. He can get away with running past guys, but crisper routes could lead to more production. He also tends to drop some easy passes. Fixing those should be pretty easy for an NFL staff, and Atwell is solid value in the middle rounds.
Dez Fitzpatrick, SR, Louisville
Fitzpatrick gets overshadowed by his speedier teammate but is definitely an NFL-caliber receiver in his own right. He's just a different mold- not the fastest but goes about his work the right way and can make plays. You're probably looking at a 4th-6th round outside receiver who can certainly make a team and a career in the league.
Dyami Brown, SR, North Carolina
Brown was thought to be the No.2 WR at Carolina but had a more productive year than his teammate, Dazz Newsome. His emergence gave UNC another viable playmaker and down field threat and opened up the offense. I think he can do a similar job in the NFL, just to a slightly lesser extent. I'm comfortable saying he's along the lines of a low-end WR2/high-end WR3, possibly with a top-tier No.2 ceiling.
Dazz Newsome, SR, North Carolina
Newsome's best season was his junior year with over 1,000 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, clearly establishing himself as the No.1 in the Tar Heels offense. His 2020 started off slowly and allowed Brown to step up. From then on Newsome didn't have to do as much. He's fast and runs good routes. Probably best suited for the slot in the pros and will likely be selected on Day 3.
Elijah Moore, JR, Ole Miss
I'll admit I don't know much about Moore. However, he was clearly the Rebels' top receiver and is thought of as a potential late first-round pick. He's one of those small, fast guys people like to have in their arsenal and makes some incredible catches. Other than that, I'm looking forward to learning more about his game and following his career.
Whop Philyor, JR, Indiana
Philyor did most of his damage for the Hoosiers out of the slot. He doesn't exactly wow you with anything, but he's a solid player with an ability to make plays. He was the go-to player for much of his career at Indiana and could be a solid WR3 at the next level.
Brennan Eagles, JR, Texas
Eagles is intriguing because of his unique abilities at his size. He's practically a tight end with top receiver speed. The concerns come with his college productivity not quite matching his ability and some bad drops or untimely drops. He'll need to improve some of his awareness on the field, but Eagles is another player who could be a better pro than college player.
Damonte Coxie, SR, Memphis
Coxie was one of my favorite players to watch at Memphis, but he sat out the 2020 when COVID appeared. He was the No.1 receiver for the Tigers, and his absence was felt this season. He's a bigger player but has deceptive speed. His best tool is probably his route running, and he has a knack for getting behind defenses.
Sage Surratt, SR, Wake Forest
Surratt is a big, athletic receiver--built like a smaller linebacker or a safety. He seems best fit as a big slot receiver or red-zone threat that can make plays over the middle of the field and can be tough for defenses to take down. He's got good talent and plenty for teams to like. I'd put him in the 3rd-4th round.
Frank Darby, SR, Arizona State
Darby isn't a high-profile guy but had a productive career for the Sun Devils. In 2020, he had to take over the No. 1 receiver spot from Brandon Aiyuk and still had a solid seven game season. He's raw but has some potential as a player at the next level. He may be one player whose stock was too negatively affected by COVID because ASU didn't play many games this year, so he'll likely be a valuable Day 3 pick.
Kadarius Toney, SR, Florida
Toney may be the fastest player in this class. Like some other players, he'll have to answer questions about his size, but he fits well in any NFL offense. You could use him in the slot or even out of the backfield. He has great footwork, balance, and an uncanny ability to fool defenders. He's now risen to a first round prospect to most and would be an absolutely steal if taken any later.
Trevon Grimes, SR, Florida
Grimes is a big target at 6'4" 218 lbs and is coming off of his best collegiate season. He ranked third on the team with 589 receiving yards and caught nine touchdown passes. His career numbers don't jump off the page, but he has the size NFL teams want and was once a highly-recruited player. He could have a solid career if a staff can unlock that potential.
Dwayne Eskridge, SR, Western Michigan
Eskridge is the top small school receiver. He's one of the fastest players in this year's class and MAC/WMU stats. He's small, quick, and has a very similar game as Toney. He's been gaining traction and may be selected rather early. I would take him around the 4th round but he could make his way into the 2nd because of the speed he can provide.
Jonathan Adams, SR, Arkansas State
Adams was consistently one of the best wideouts in the Sun Belt conference. During his final two seasons, he was touchdown-machine with 17. He also had over 1,000 receiving yards in 2020. At 6'3" 220, Adams has just about perfect size for an outside receiver that can threaten defenses in the redzone. He may have to further polish his route-running, but Adams can make plays with the best of them. I can see him lasting until Day 3, but he could go even earlier.
Seth Williams, JR, Auburn
Williams had an inconsistent college career but flashed pro potential at times. He has appealing size at 6'3" and has made some tremendous catches. If he had more big games for Auburn, he would probably be more highly-thought-of. He also has some off-the-field concerns. Nonetheless, his profile may warrant a late selection from a team that thinks they can develop him.
Anthony Schwartz, SR, Auburn
Schwartz had a more consistent career than his teammate. He was held back by a somewhat limited role in the offense. Schwartz showed reliability when called upon, and his offseason has increased his stock a little bit. He's an intriguing Day 3 speed option for teams the miss on Toney, Eskridge, Wallace, and Atwell.
Jacob Harris, SR, UCF
Harris has been flying up boards, according to many reports. He also doesn't have a ton of college production and would be a project for teams. Reports have said that teams like his size at 6'5" and may want him to gain weight and become a tight end. Intriguing situation for sure. We'll see what happens.
Eli Stove, SR, Auburn
Stove ranks 5th in career receptions at Auburn and 24th in receiving yards. The Tigers also used him as a runner (543 yds, 10 TD) and as a kick returner. Playing alongside Schwartz and Williams, he sort of became the forgotten member for the media (at least from the lack of mentioning from announcers when I watched). Now is his chance to step out of the shadows and show what he can do. I think he can be a solid No. 3 WR with special teams value at the next level. His projections are still raw, so he probably will have to wait to hear his name, but he certainly has upside.
Cade Johnson, SR, South Dakota State
Johnson is this year's FCS sleeper slot receiver. With these prospects, you want to see them absolutely dominate their playing competition, and that is exactly what Johnson did in his career. When moving up a level, you want to see them at a minimum hold their own against FBS players, which Johnson was able to do at the Senior Bowl. I would have him as a Day 3 player but won't be too surprised if someone reaches for him in the 3rd round.
Dax Milne, SR, BYU
Milne was one of the top targets for start QB prospect Zach Wilson at BYU. He topped 1,100 receiving yards and had 8 touchdowns in 2020 and has decent size at 6'1" 190. The questions with him will be about having only one productive college season and his speed and route-running. I can see him as a late round pick or priority free agent.
Shi Smith, SR, South Carolina
Smith is another slot receiver who impressed during the season and at the Senior Bowl. He's not a complete burner, but he runs routes well and is hard to bring down. He was the Gamecocks' leading receiver this year and may just be scratching the surface of what he can be. Teams will be tempted by that thought, and we should see him off the board by the end of Round 4.
Antonio Nunn, SR, Buffalo
Nunn has been the Bulls' top receiver for two seasons. He isn't big but has a knack for making plays and out-jumping people. He's built similar to a Deebo Samuel-type player and is hard to bring down, just doesn't have the same speed. I'd take a chance on him in the 5th round or later. You might find something.