Top 10 WR NFL Draft Prospects 2021

  1. #1 Devonta Smith
  2. University of Alabama – 6’1”, 175 lbs.

alabama crimson tideThe first thing you notice when you watch Devonta Smith play is how easy he makes it look. He effortlessly glides past his defender and nonchalantly hauls in one-handed touchdown passes. His slender, 6’1” frame and long legs make it appear as if he’s taking twice as big of steps as everyone else. Another Alabama wide receiver expected to go in the first round, Smith has put up exceptional numbers since arriving in Tuscaloosa. Smith played in every game his freshman season, including the National Championship, where he hauled in the game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa in overtime to beat Georgia. By his sophomore year, he was starting every game. The speedy wideout amassed 693 yards on 43 catches to go with six touchdowns. His quick cuts and explosiveness off the line had NFL scouts taking note. In his junior season, Smith had the breakout he was waiting for. The wideout compiled 1,256 yards on 68 receptions and 14 touchdowns. He was named Second Team All-American and First Team All-SEC. Smith’s 14 touchdowns were the second-most ever in a single season by a Tide receiver and his 1,256 yards the third most. Devonta Smith was quickly becoming a household name, and by his senior season, the kid was virtually unstoppable. The wideout had an unbelievable 1,856 yards on 117 catches and 23 touchdowns during his senior season and led the country in each category. He broke the Alabama and SEC career receiving yards records with 3,965 and the Alabama career touchdown record with 46. Smith would go on to be one of three Heisman Trophy winners in Alabama’s history. Although there is a lot to love about wideout like Smith, if he has one weakness it’s his slender frame. At just 175 lbs., Smith might have a hard time staying on his route and difficulty battling for contested catches against the big cornerbacks at the next level. But if his skills are utilized correctly, his speed and explosiveness should mitigate and negatives that come with his size. Reminiscent of a Will Fuller or DeSean Jackson, Smith will be best used in open space and as a deep threat. His sure-hands and long strides will make him lethal in the NFL and I expect his successful football career to continue.

  1. #2 Ja’Marr Chase
  2. Louisiana State University – 6’0”, 208 lbs.

lsu tigersJa’Marr Chase opted out of the 2020 season to preserve his draft stock, so his most recent game film is his sophomore season in 2019. But just because its outdated, doesn’t mean it’s not impressive. Chase broke multiple school records on his way to leading the nation in receiving yards with 1,780 and touchdowns with 20. Credit is partially due to the man throwing him the ball, eventual first-round draft pick Joe Burrow. But the rest of the credit goes to Chase. In 2019 he was awarded the Biletnikoff Award for most outstanding receiver and named a First Team All-American. The 6’0”, 208 lb. wideout has the ideal frame to succeed as a wide receiver at the next level – not too big, not too small. He explodes off the line of scrimmage, and once he gets the ball, he is tough to bring down. Chase and Burrow made their living on the jump ball in college, which may be tougher to come by in the NFL. I expect Chase to be used heavily in the screen and the slant game. He is easily one of the top three wideouts in the draft and he will play on Sundays for a long time.

  1. #3 Jaylen Waddle
  2. University of Alabama – 5’10”, 182 lbs.

AlabamaThe first thing NFL scouts write down when they watch Jaylen Waddle play is, “speed.” The 5’10” wideout was clocked at 4.27 in the 40-yard dash, making him one of the fastest players to ever play at Alabama. In his final season in Tuscaloosa, Waddle put up 557 yards on 25 catches and four touchdowns in his first four games. His season would be cut short due to an ankle injury, but not before scouts had taken notice. Best compared to current NFL speedster Tyreek Hill, Waddle uses his quick feet and slender frame to effortlessly separate himself from the defender. Once he gets the ball, watch out. In an instant, he can light the burners and turn the corner leaving defenders in the dust. Also, his lethal speed and sure hands make him an elite punt returner, a valuable skill at the next level. Expect Waddle to line up in lots of different offensive positions and be used in a variety of ways as soon as his rookie year. His injury problems make him a bit of a wildcard, but he should see his name called in the first 15 picks of the NFL Draft.

  1. #4 Rondale Moore
  2. Purdue University – 5’9”, 175 lbs.

purdue boilermakersAt just 5’9”, Rondale Moore is one of the shortest receivers in the 2021 draft class. But don’t let his size deceive you. He is also one of the biggest playmakers in his class. With a 4.3 second 40-yard dash time, Moore has the elite speed to blow by defenders at any level of football. He is a lethal playmaker that can change the game in an instant. Whenever he has the ball in his hands, everyone puts their phone down. In his first game as a freshman at Purdue, he broke the single-game record for all-purpose yards, racking up 313 yards from scrimmage. That season he would go on to compile a total of 2,048 yards, which was second-most in school history. The next two seasons were riddled with injury for Moore, but he had already raised his draft stock into the first round. Despite his diminutive stature, the speedster from Indiana is one of the best athletes in the draft. He has gained attention recently by starring in social media videos where he can be seen posting a 42-inch vertical and squatting 600 lbs. Moore is a pure winner and his speed and athleticism should translate well to the NFL. The Boilermaker wideout is undervalued and wherever he ends up he will make an impact immediately.

  1. #5 Elijah Moore
  2. University of Mississippi – 5’9”, 185 lbs.

ole Miss logoLike most of the wideouts in his draft class, Elijah Moore is a jitterbug. His wiry 5’9”, 185 lb. frame, makes him elusive in space and hard for defenders to keep up with. Moore’s best attribute is his route running. He has become infamous among NFL scouts for his hard one-step cuts, in which the wideout slams his foot into the ground and changes direction in a fraction of a second. His great body control and solid balance allow him to bounce off would-be tacklers and rack up yards after the catch, which is a valuable skill in the NFL. In his final season as a Rebel, he led the FBS with 10.8 receptions and 149.1 receiving yards per game. That year he would break AJ Brown’s single-season reception record, hauling in 86 passes in just eight games. Moore is also the only Ole Miss receiver to ever go over 200 receiving yards in three games, all of which came in his senior season. Despite his outstanding numbers, however, Moore is arguably better known for his antics in the final game of his junior season. Scouts took note when the wideout mimicked a urinating dog in the end zone after scoring a touchdown with four seconds left against in-state rival Mississippi State. The display drew a 15-yard penalty flag resulting in a missed extra point and Ole Miss lost the game 21-20. We’ll find out on April 29th if scouts have forgotten that stunt.

  1. #6 Terrance Marshall Jr.
  2. Louisiana State University – 6’3”, 200 lbs.

lsu tigersAt 6’3”, Terrance Marshall is one of the tallest receivers in this year’s NFL draft. He has the build and strength that lots of traditional NFL scouts look for in a wideout. Marshall was buried behind big names like Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson at LSU, so he didn’t get as much attention as some of the other guys in his draft class. All the same, he had impressive numbers, compiling 46 catches for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns his sophomore season, then 783 yards on 48 catches and ten touchdowns his junior year. NFL scouts began to notice his unique speed and size combination. He is long, but still athletic, moving side-to-side with ease, and has great explosiveness. Marshall’s greatest attribute is his physicality. He does a great job of using his big frame to get separation from a defender or to break a tackle at midfield. Marshall has long strides burns grass off the line of scrimmage, which will make him tough to keep up within the NFL and could result in a long, solid career.

  1. #7 Rashod Bateman
  2. University of Minnesota – 6’2”, 210 lbs.

minnesota golden gophersAt 6’2” and 210 lbs., Rashod Bateman stands out from the rest of the deep 2021 wide receiver draft class. Unlike his classmates, he has a more traditional build and is bigger than the other speedsters. His 4.54 40-yard dash speed won’t blow by any defenders at the next level so he will have to use his size and wits to get open. You can see how his big build gives him confidence across the middle, never slowing down to make a catch and always in stride. His hands are good, with highlight-reel one-handed catches, but he did have 19 drops on 166 catchable passes, which he will have to improve on. Bateman only played five games in his final season as a Gopher after originally opting out of the 2021 season. The wideout doesn’t have any jaw-dropping traits, but he does a little bit of everything well. At 6’2” he has a great ability to play through contact, which NFL scouts like. He broke 36 tackles on just 147 catches in his college career. If he lands with the right quarterback, Bateman could find some success in his first few years in the NFL.

  1. #8 Kadarius Toney
  2. University of Florida – 6’0”, 193 lbs.

Florida Gators gator logo.svgKadarius Toney is a dynamic slot receiver that could fill a lot of roles in the NFL. He was used primarily as a wideout, but he also lined up in the backfield and returned punts, showing his valuable versatility. Thanks to his 4.44 40-yard dash speed, Toney is a scoring threat any time he touches the ball. One of his best attributes, however, is his balance. On game film, he frequently bounces off the first few would-be tacklers before finding space in the open field. His 193 lb. frame makes him hard to take down and coming from the SEC, that’s a huge compliment. Toney is a crisp route-runner and has great hands. On 123 catchable passes throughout his Florida career, Toney only had three drops. He hasn’t lined up much on the outside, which may be a concern for some NFL scouts, but with proper coaching he should be able to develop in the new role. Toney decided to come back for a fourth season with the Gators to play with future NFL draft prospects, Kyle Trask and Kyle Pitts. With his draft stock as high as the late first round, it looks like the decision paid off.

  1. #9 Tylan Wallace
  2. Oklahoma State University – 5’11” 190 lbs.

oklahoma state cowboysThe first word that comes to mind when profiling a player like Tylan Wallace is “toughness.” His greatest attribute is his contested-catch skills followed closely by his tackle-breaking and yards after the catch. NFL scouts have taken interest in his ability to create separation and the 44 contested receptions he has in his career. Although he has been plagued with injuries, Wallace still put up eye-popping stat lines to go with highlight-reel touchdown catches. His sophomore season, the wideout compiled 1,491 yards on 86 receptions and 12 touchdowns. He was named First Team All-American, All-Big 12, and a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Wallace has amassed 205 catches, 3,424 yards, and 25 touchdowns in his career, which is second only to Devonta Smith in terms of overall production. The wideout from OSU is not a burner, but his physicality, strong hands, and leaping ability could translate well to the NFL. If organizations can get past some of his injury history, I expect Wallace’s name to be called sometime on Day 3.

  1. #10 Tutu Atwell
  2. University of Louisville – 5’9”, 165 lbs.

Louisville Cardinals logo.svgAnother snappy speed demon out of this draft class of receivers, at 5’9”, 165 lbs., Tutu Atwell is no different. The former high school quarterback made the transition to wide receiver when he arrived at Louisville and never looked back. In his sophomore season, Atwell broke the school record for receiving yards with 1,292, which led the ACC and was 10th in the FBS. The following year, he played in nine games before opting out to focus on the NFL draft. Atwell’s speed and elusiveness could transition well to returning kicks at the next level, but with his diminutive size, he will struggle to adapt as a wide receiver. His frame makes him easy to knock off routes, and his limited wingspan means fewer balls caught on poorly thrown passes. Atwell’s skill set is best utilized by quickly getting him the ball in space with jet sweeps and bubble screens. In college, he used his small stature to weave through a pack of defenders and burst through the other side. With the right coaching and imagination, his talents could be applied the same way playing on Sundays.

 

 

 

  
Russ Thomas has been analyzing and betting on the NFL draft for over five years now. His attentive following of college and professional football have resulted in four out of five profitable years betting on the draft. Russ is also an avid DFS player and competes in NFL and PGA fantasy weekly.

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