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2021 NFL Draft Rankings – Wide Receivers

There were six wide receivers taken in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft and we expect at least five to be chosen on Day One in 2021. The thought of seeing 10 receivers in the first two rounds seems to be a very realistic number.

What complicates matters just a bit is that Ja'Marr Chase seems to be the prize of the bunch even though he opted out this past season and you have to dig through old videotape to find him. The Alabama duo of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith come next. Smith won the Heisman Trophy after an injury to Jaylen Waddle made him the top target for Mac Jones for nearly all of the season.

This is a deep field as the line between being a third-round selection and a sixth-round selection is paper-thin. Players like Rondale Moore of Purdue, Tutu Atwell of Louisville and D'Wayne Eskridge from Western Michigan may go a little higher than anticipated due to being slot receiving specialists. Let's take a final look at the pre-draft rookie rankings at wide receiver before landing spots are known.

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2021 NFL Draft Rankings – Wide Receiver

1. Ja'Marr Chase LSU- LSU (6-1, 200)
2. Jaylen Waddle - Alabama (5-10, 185)
3. DeVonta Smith - Alabama (6-0, 175)
4. Rashod Bateman - Minnesota (6-0, 195)
5. Rondale Moore - Purdue (5-9, 180)
6. Tylan Wallace - Oklahoma State (5-11, 190)
7. Terrace Marshall Jr. - LSU (6-3, 205)
8. Kadarius Toney - Florida (6-0, 190)
9. Amon-Ra St. Brown - USC (6-0, 195)
10. Tamorrion Terry - Florida State (6-3, 205)
11. Elijah Moore - Mississippi (5-10, 180)
12. Sage Surratt - Wake Forest (6-2, 210)
13. Dyami Brown - North Carolina (6-1, 190)
14. Damonte Coxie - Memphis (6-2, 200)
15. Tutu Atwell - Louisville (5-9, 160)
16. Seth Williams - Auburn (6-3, 215)
17. Nico Collins - Michigan (6-4, 220)
18. D'Wayne Eskridge - Western Michigan (5-9, 190)
19. Amari Rodgers - Clemson (5-9, 210)
20. Dazz Newsome - North Carolina (5-11, 185)
21. T.J. Vasher - Texas Tech (6-6, 210)
22. Austin Watkins Jr. - UAB (6-3, 205)
23. Dez Fitzpatrick - Louisville (6-2, 210)
24. Marquez Stevenson - Houston (6-0, 195)
25. Cade Johnson -South Dakota State (5-9, 185)

 

The Top 10 Wide Receivers

Ja'Marr Chase is widely regarded as being the first wide receiver who will come off the board. Chase will fall a bit as teams have been making trades to presumably draft a quarterback at the top of the board. Chase will still go in the top 10 and the top 5 is still a possibility if Cincinnati tries to reunite him with his old college quarterback Joe Burrow.

Chase may have sat out 2020 but during the LSU championship run of 2019 Chase turned in 84-1720-20 numbers. Those numbers are just a tick under what DeVonta Smith won this year's Heisman Trophy with at 117-1856-23. Chase did this with Justin Jefferson starting as the other wide receiver. Jefferson made the Pro Bowl and led all rookie wide receivers with 1,400 yards as a rookie with the Vikings.

Chase just looks like a natural athlete. Watching him on film he just seems to glide down the field and move in and out of his breaks with ease. Chase takes the football at its highest point and shields his body away from defenders. Chase also has the vertical speed you want to be a deep threat. His body looks NFL ready and he can get plenty of separation where YAC will be a favorable area for him. Chase is a little inconsistent with his footing along the sideline, something that he will be working on at the next level.

Tylan Wallace looked like he was ready to be a first-round pick after a 2018 campaign that saw him post 86-1491-12 numbers. 2019 was supposed to cement Wallace's status as a first-rounder and he wound up tearing his ACL. Wallace returned in 2020 for 59-922-8 as he emerged as one of the better big-play receivers who has a history for making plays at crunch time.

How has the injury affected Wallace? Many have wondered how far it would cause his stock to drop because Wallace has never been known as a speedster, even before the injury. The strongest part to Wallace's game is quick cuts and winning aerial battles down the football field. Wallace "sells" plays quite well. Often he will raise his hands at the last minute or disguise to defenders that he is indeed the target, waiting until the last possible point to show where the play is directed. Oklahoma State played in a spread offense that featured a number of sweeps and runs along the edge. Wallace is a capable blocker who uses his hands and balance well in the open field.

The precision of Wallace and his route running should eliminate any questions about his speed at the NFL level. Wallace looks like a solid option that should hear his name called in the late stages of round 2 through the middle stages of round 3.

 

The Rest of the Running Wide Receivers

A couple of wide receivers I have outside the top-10 that should make a mark in the right situation:

Sage Surratt, like Ja'Marr Chase, opted out for the 2020 season. Surratt was coming off a season where he posted 1,001 yards and 11 touchdowns in only 9 games. Surratt suffered a shoulder injury which caused him to miss the last four games of the season.

Surratt was also losing Jamie Newman at quarterback. Newman was set to use his status as an early graduate to leave the Demon Deacons and go to Georgia (he also opted out for the 2020 season and never took a snap for the Bulldogs). Has Surratt shown enough to warrant a selection within the first three rounds? Absolutely, just not being a first-round selection, something he and others felt was a possibility when he made the move to opt-out.

Surratt has great size and is a sure-handed receiver. Surratt shows an impressive catch radius and would thrive in a quick pass offense that allows him space in the open field. Not a speed demon but someone who is quick and moves well laterally knows where the sideline is at all times.

I've seen Surratt get bullied at the line a bit so playing physical corners will necessitate the need for more upper body strength. This and the lack of open field speed seem to be the biggest detriments to his game.

T.J. Vasher is a wide receiver that would be easy for you to overlook if you just look at statistics. Vasher's top production came in 2018 with 54-687-7. Those are good numbers but hardly breathtaking and they don't scream being a top prospect or even being drafted for that matter.

There is a possibility Vasher doesn't get drafted. He was benched this season as a senior and posted just 19 receptions. His 54-catch campaign as a sophomore included the last seven games of the season where he caught at least five passes in every game. Vasher scored four touchdowns in that span with three coming against the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. The junior campaign showed promise as well but the consistency has never been there. There are off-field concerns about his work ethic and dedication to the game. The word "lazy" is thrown around often.

Why would anybody take Vasher then? The potential is limitless. While he doesn't possess top-end speed, he is 6-6 and can leap. Vasher is a red-zone threat waiting to happen, even if teams would use him as a decoy his physical acumen would be enough to cause a disruption. It only takes one team to believe in Vasher and if he gets with the right coaching staff and is able to concentrate on football he could be a gigantic steal for the team putting forth the risk.



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