Wide Receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft - Ranking Yet Another Historic Class

Updated: Feb 17, 2021

TITLE PHOTO CREDIT: Pro Football Network

Every team picking at the top of the draft, they have some immediate needs. Some teams need wide receivers, and this is a good year to need a receiver. Once again this draft class is loaded with quality pass-catchers, just like last year. Another similarity to last year is that there are two dominant wideouts from Alabama (DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle) and a similarly skilled receiver from another school (Ja’Marr Chase from LSU). Just like 2020, this year will be a huge year for receiver-needy teams.

The Cream of the Crop

PHOTO CREDIT: Vasha Hunt / Associated Press

DeVonta Smith - Alabama

Let's start out by covering the best player in all of college football, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, DeVonta Smith. Before I mention this year's stats, last season, he posted 1,256 receiving yards, leading Alabama. Oh, and there were two first-round picks in that receiver room, Jerry Jeudy, and Henry Ruggs III, along with another likely first-rounder in Waddle. After Jeudy and Ruggs left, and Waddle got hurt, it was the Smith Show in Tuscaloosa. In his crazy season this year, Smith had 1,856 yards, on 117 grabs, and 23 TD’s, for a respectable 15.9 yards per catch! I mean, 23 touchdowns! He is 6’1”, 175 pounds and though he isn't blazing fast, as he runs a 4.49 40, he is still a deep threat because of his quickness. It makes him a lethal weapon for any team. He is a refined route runner, and as he showed in 2019 that he can get open, even with other talented players around him. Expect some team early on to pounce on him. I don’t expect him to fall the way CeeDee Lamb did last year.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 2 - Pick 15

NFL Comparison: A more explosive Davante Adams

PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Jaylen Waddle - Alabama

Let me start out by saying this. Jaylen Waddle can RUN! He runs a 4.27 40 yard dash, which is as fast as Henry Ruggs, his former teammate. He never had a 1,000-yard season at ‘Bama, but don’t let that discourage you, as he is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. Just look at his 44.5 yards per touchdown! For every TD, he averages 44.5 yards on the play! He could have had 1,000 yards in 2020, but he broke his ankle midway through the season. He had 28 catches for 591 and 4 touchdown grabs, along with a long of 90 yards. Add in his video game-like 21.1 yards-per-catch, then you’ve got yourselves a go-to-guy, with speed to finish off big gains. Don’t be surprised if Waddle goes before Smith.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 3 - Pick 20

NFL Comparison: Tyreek Hill

PHOTO CREDIT: Derick E. Hingle

Ja’Marr Chase - LSU

Ja’Marr Chase is the most intriguing wideout in this draft. In 2019 he won the Biletnikoff Award, edging his then-teammate Justin Jefferson. He won the National Championship that year with the stacked roster, along with Joe Burrow. Burrow’s Bengals currently hold the 5th overall pick, and an LSU reunion could happen. Chase is likely the best of all the receivers, but it’s so hard to tell. Why? Because he didn’t play this year. While Smith was breaking records, Chase opted-out of the season. Chase had a similar season to Smith, recording 84 grabs for 1,780 yards and 20 TD’s. Add in the 21.1 yards per catch, then you’ve got a very similar season to Smith. Chase is a bit faster, as he runs a 4.40 40, and a bit bigger at 6 feet even, and 207 pounds. Because of Burrow and the Bengals, I think Chase will be the first wide receiver off the board.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 3 - Pick 10

NFL Comparison: Stefon Diggs

The Second Tier

PHOTO CREDIT: John Raoux / Associated Press

Kadarius Toney - Florida

Toney wasn’t Kyle Trask’s top target this season, because of freak TE Kyle Pitts, but he had 70 receptions, for 984 yards, and 10 TD grabs, to go with a 14.1 average. He is a reach as this was his only productive season, as in the last 3 years, he totaled 50 catches for 606 yards and only two touchdowns. He is extremely elusive, and could be a nice go-to-guy for teams in a year, or two. With guys like Smith, Waddle, and Chase coming off the board before receiver-needy teams like the Patriots and Bears, he could be a mid-first-rounder.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 20 - Pick 40

NFL Comparison: Keenan Allen

PHOTO CREDIT: AJ Mast / Associated Press

Rondale Moore - Purdue

Don’t let his size fool you. Even though Rondale Moore is 5’9”, and 180 pounds, he led the Boilermakers in receiving yards as a true freshman. He has incredible balance, which makes him hard to bring down, Moore is a Yards-After-Catch (YAC) master. He is a monster route runner, and creates lots of separation, and could be a solid number one for any team. He does have some injury history, which may lower his draft stock, but he has first-round talent.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 25 - Pick 50

NFL Comparison: A.J. Brown

PHOTO CREDIT: Pro Football Network

Rashod Bateman - Minnesota

Bateman had a nice 2019, but 2020 hasn’t been very kind to him. He opted-opt in the middle of the season to prepare for the NFL Draft. He may not be as polished as Moore, but he has 2nd-Round talent, and can be a useful number three weapon for teams. He breaks tackles, as he has amazing balance and a powerful stiff arm, which makes him a YAC monster. Teams that need another solid weapon would definitely try to get a guy like Bateman.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 30 - Pick 55

NFL Comparison: A Travis Kelce, but as a WR

PHOTO CREDIT: The Athletic

Terrace Marshall, Jr. - LSU

Like I said with Chase, the same goes for Marshall. Even with Justin Jefferson and Chase putting up monster stats, Marshall was able to get 671 yards on 46 catches and 13 scores, in 2019. With Chase opting-out, Marshall was the obvious number one for LSU this year, before his opt-out as well. He is 6’3”, and weighs 200 pounds, and can definitely handle contact, and is a beast on contested catches. His route tree isn’t the best, but I could see him as a 2nd round pick.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 40 - Pick 60

NFL Comparison: DK Metcalf

The Rest of the Bunch

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Amon-Ra St. Brown - USC

St. Brown is a former 5-star recruit, who worked alongside current Colts wideout Michael Pittman, Jr. St. Brown has a high upside and great athleticism. But he is going to need to be fine-tuning on his routes, so he can create more separation. Still, he can be a reliable target for any QB in the next couple of seasons, if he lands with the correct team, that can tap into that potential.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 45 - Pick 70

NFL Comparison: JuJu Smith-Schuster

PHOTO CREDIT: NFL Draft Diamonds

Tylan Wallace - Oklahoma State

In his Cowboy career, Wallace caught 205 passes for 3,434 yards, and 26 TD’s along with a solid 16.8 average. He was an All-American in 2018, and is an amazing deep threat, and could be a number one guy in that category for any team, as he has great hands, and can win contested catches via his impressive jumping ability. He did tear his ACL in 2019, and isn’t a finished product, and like St. Brown, he’ll need work on his route tree, to get more separation.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 40 - Pick 80

NFL Comparison: Michael Gallup

PHOTO CREDIT: Josh McCoy / Ole Miss Athletics

Elijah Moore - Ole Miss

Moore was an All-American this season, after nothing 86 catches for 1,193 yards and 8 TD’s for a 13.9 average, by far his best collegiate season. He is 5’9” and 185 pounds, a perfect 3rd down weapon, and could be a sneaky player for any team. He runs a DK Metcalf like 40 yard dash, as Moore posted a 4.39 40. He could end up being a good player with above-average production as a number two type guy. I don’t see him as a first-round pick, or an early second, but I think Moore could be a late second-early third-round pick.

Where He’ll Go - Pick 50 - Pick 90

NFL Comparison: Denzel Mims