2021 NFL Draft – WR Preview

First Round Talent

Ja’Marr Chase – LSU, JR

Chase had a wonderful 2019 season where he finished with 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, as well as the Biletnikoff trophy awarded to the country’s best receiver. Chase is the best WR prospect I have ever evaluated and ranks well above recent prospects Jerry Jeudy and A.J. Brown at this stage in the season. Chase opted out of the 2020 season, so we won’t get a chance to watch him this season, but it likely won’t make much of a difference unless one of the other top prospects really convinces us differently. His polished route running ability along with his gifted physical traits and insane production combine to make one of the scariest prospects we may ever see. Chase is a first round lock, and likely will go in the top 7 picks.

Rashod Bateman – Minnesota, JR

Bateman was part of one of the most prolific offenses last year, as he combined with Tyler Johnson for 2,500 yards and 24 touchdowns. The 6’2” 210 lb wideout is one of the most well-rounded prospects and ranks near the top in route running, catching and physical abilities. Bateman boasts his big play ability averaging over 20 YPC in 2019, which is due to his strong and diverse skillset. Through his tape there is no single glaring reason why he had so many huge plays, it was due to an assortment of skills. One long touchdown he would leave a defender in the dust and create a 7-yard cushion, the next he would take a 7-yard slant to the house after breaking free from three tackles. He is truly a do-it-all receiver who is destined to become a WR1 in the NFL. If the 2019 Big Ten WR of the Year has another strong season he will stay near the top of the class and ensure that he will be picked in the first two rounds.

Terrance Marshall – LSU, JR

Marshall was slept on in the 2019 season, primarily due to being buried behind two great future NFL WRs (Jefferson and Chase), but still managed to score 13 touchdowns off of 46 receptions. This season he has already added another 7 to that total and is averaging over 20 yards per catch. He has the perfect frame at 6’3” 200 lbs and is the only bright spot for LSU in this disaster of a season. He has a great combination of finesse and speed, which reminds me a lot of former LSU star DJ Chark. Watch Marshall’s stock rise as we could see two LSU WRs get drafted in the first round.

DeVonta Smith – Alabama, SR

Smith is another fast Alabama WR whose biggest con is his size. He is only 170 pounds and will need to beef up a bit before the combine to be considered a first rounder. He is a great route runner and has had no issues producing, but GMs may cringe at his weight after seeing recent first rounders with similar size (Hollywood Brown, Henry Ruggs) struggle with injuries. Smith is most talented on in routes coming across the middle of the field, which should silence any concern that he is afraid of getting hit. He has great hands that rank towards the top of the class, but will also need to work on his breaking routes and separation as speed alone wont free you up much in the NFL. His production alone should be enough to deter many of the concerns regarding his size, but he remains a fringe 1st-3rd round prospect.

Rondale Moore – Purdue, JR

Moore is a small, but compact wide receiver. He is a future PPR machine and currently sits on the first-round/second-round bubble. He has proven his durability through his career and has had no issues producing. Moore faced a hamstring injury in 2019 and sat out the final 8 games, which is not uncommon for a high speed WR. If he can come close to his 2018 production in 2020 (114 receptions, 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns) and stay healthy, he will be widely regarded as a first round pick. Moore is guaranteed to be used as a gadget receiver who will return kicks, catch passes, and take hand offs and end arounds. He is basically a running back when the ball is in his hands, which makes the possibilities of getting him the ball endless.    

Sage Surratt – Wake Forrest, JR

Surratt is another guy who has flown a bit under the radar due to playing on a program that rarely ranks in the top 25. This season won’t help him promote himself much as Surratt has opted out, which is probably the smart option after Jamie Newman left the program. Surratt is another very well-rounded receiver whose specialty comes on 50/50 balls primarily in the red zone. He is also a great run after catch receiver who refuses to go down after initial contact, something that NFL Scouts will love. Surratt is a fringe guy in the 1st to 3rd round category.

Jaylen Waddell – Alabama, JR

Waddle has always been the most athletic player on the field, but now he has a chance to prove that he is the top wide receiver on the field. Waddle lacks ideal size (only 5’10”, 180) but he certainly makes up for it with his speed as he could possibly run in the low 4.3’s for the 40-yard dash. He could get drafted early to a team that is looking for a do-it-all gadget receiver who will also return punts and kicks to begin his career. His route tree was limited for the start of his career, but certainly is playing a much bigger role in 2020 that will elevate his limited film. There is also a small concern in his route running that he may not be able to control his blazing speed with as much timing and finesse as former receivers in the Alabama offense. His athletic ability alone should push him into first round contention.  

Next Tier

Seth Williams – Auburn, JR

Williams is my dark horse WR, but his production is severely limited by Bo Nix and Auburn’s run heavy offense. An example of this is how Williams started the season week 1 with 6 receptions for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns, followed up with a week 2 blunder only recording 3 receptions for 34 yards. Week 3 he had another quiet, but respectable day taking his 3 receptions 70 yards. Darius Slayton faced this same issue, which pushed him into the late rounds, but now is a promising young WR in the NFL. Williams is a bit more of a prototypical WR and should be on the first to third round bubble, as he is one of the best red zone receivers in the league.

Justyn Ross – Clemson, JR

Ross won’t play this season due to a neck injury, but that doesn’t take away much from his success in the past, especially in the 2018 national championship game. Ross is a slippery WR who could fall due to long term health concerns but could prove to be worth the gamble.

Chris Olave – Ohio State, JR

It wouldn’t be an NFL Draft without at least one Ohio State receiver in the mix. Olave is an extremely athletic receiver who plays with tremendous IQ. His route running has improved during his time at Ohio State, but he also benefits from having one of the best quarterbacks in the country. Olave will plug into any spot on the field with ease, as he is always a threat to score from anywhere. As of now, Olave could go anywhere in the top 4 rounds, but another strong season could push his stock higher.

Sleepers

Reggie Roberson Jr. – SMU, SR

Roberson emerged as Shane Buechele’s top receiving target and quietly has amassed 400+ yards and 5 TDs to start the season. Unfortunately, Roberson suffered a season ending knee injury last week. Losing out on most of his senior season means he will also most likely miss any chances to play in front of scouts come early 2021.This means that his game tape will be even more important than most, but don’t count him out as a later round pick who carves himself an NFL Role.

Jaelon Darden – North Texas, SR

The 5’9” 175 lb Senior is off to a hot start to the 2020 season and has hit his groove, catching 13 passes in each of his last two games for a combined 350 yards and 4 touchdowns. His season totals rank second in yards (485) and catches (36), and first in touchdowns (9), while averaging a respectable 13.5 yards per reception. Darden is an explosive slot receiver who runs crisp routes, and despite his small frame is an incredible ball carrier after the catch. Darden will also boost his stock due to his versatile ability in special teams. He will not be a first rounder on anyone’s draft board, but certainly will be a guy who catches a lot of scout’s eyes.

Jonathan Adams Jr. – Arkansas State, SR

Adams is another do-it-all receiver off to a great start in his senior season. Through 5 games he has taken 41 receptions for 539 yards and 7 touchdowns. The big-bodied receiver has dominated 50/50 balls but has also been playing against much inferior talent in the Sun Belt. Adams will need to continue to put up huge numbers and also have a great showing at the Senior Bowl in order to boost his stock into the early rounds.

Dazz Newsome – UNC, SR Newsome is off to a low start, but seems to have found his spark as he recorded 7 receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown against #19 Virginia Tech. Both Newsome and fellow receive Dyami Brown now will have a chance on the national stage as the #5 ranked Tar Heels will start to get more media coverage as the chase for the goal of upsetting #1 Clemson.

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