NFL Draft 2021: Top 5 Wide Receiver Prospects

Story posted April 22, 2021 in

This year's wide receiver draft class could follow in the footsteps of last year’s class as one of the great groups of receivers to ever be drafted together.

Even more so than last season, some of the prospects in this year’s draft really have a chance to develop into perennial All-Pro pass catchers, and the depth will likely produce viable No. 2 receivers as well.

Here are the five best wide receivers in the 2021 draft.

DeVonta Smith, Alabama

It’s a really close decision here between DeVonta Smith and Ja’Marr Chase, but Smith really is the complete package. 

Smith has ideal height at 6’1”, and has long rangy arms that hang far down his sides, giving him a superior catch radius. He has every natural skill to be a stud receiver in the NFL, with approximately 4.4 40-yard dash speed, crisp route running, and reliable hands.

Smith has the production and game tape to show that he can line up anywhere in the formation and dominate.

Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

Chase has all the talent Smith has and more, and the more full 200 lbs frame to boot. His superstar 2019 season in which he racked up 84 receptions for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns for one of the best offenses in college football history launched him to this status.

Like Smith, Chase has top-level speed, strong route running and good ability for yards after the catch. Some scouts say he can rely on his pure athleticism too much over technique, but get him with the right coaches, and he can be as dangerous as any receiver in the NFL.

Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

What makes this receiver class so interesting is that we again have two top-flight receivers out of Tuscaloosa, but this year the two receivers are not that far apart in quality.

Waddle hurt his ankle on the opening kickoff against Tennessee this year, and that opened things up for Smith who took over the No. 1 wide receiver role from there. Waddle was every bit the star his teammate was prior to his injury, with dangerous speed and route-technique on display.

Some see him as less refined as a pure receiver, but good coaching could turn him into a true top target. It will be interesting to see if his ankle injury plays a role in a potential draft night slide.

Kadarius Toney, Florida

We stay in the SEC for another stud receiver, this time coming out of the Swamp. Toney has 4.4 speed like the rest of this group, and put on a strong 2020 to give himself a strong chance and getting selected on the later side in the first round.

Toney is also versatile, playing on the outside, in the slot and carrying the ball out of the backfield. His strong frame and tenacity to power through tackles makes him a real threat for big gains after the catch, especially when you consider the speed he has.

At the Senior Bowl he showed he can get separation from professional level defenders, and he’ll be a good value if he drops to round two.

Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

Bateman comes into this draft as one of the biggest and athletic bodies at receiver, possessing a 6’2”, 210 lbs frame. He’s a tick slower than some of the receivers ahead of him on this list, but he can really get up in the air and win jump balls.

Bateman played in only five games for the Golden Gophers before opting out again in 2020, of the eight he could have appeared in. He’s been coached by former NFL wide receivers coach and Gophers head coach PJ Fleck, but he wasn’t overly impressive during this season.

His physical skills can be potentially fine-tuned into a dynamic red-zone threat, but he might have to wait until the second night of the draft to hear his name called.

 

Jeremy Ganes is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jlg6097@psu.edu.