2021 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Big Board


Image credit: Stephen Lew - USA Today Sports)

Written by: Joseph Yun

Twitter: 2Yoon2ZeroBlitz


The offseason draft process is rapidly coming to a close with Pro Days going hot and heavy as we begin the month of April. Welcome to the 2021 edition of the positional big boards.


The 2021 wide receiver class is loaded down with stars and some of the elite of the elite athletes in the overall class. The position is still going strong even years of elite talent being called up to the big show and performing beyond anyone’s expectations. Who will be the next generation of superstar wideouts? Who will fill a role for years to come?


Happy Easter, everyone!


If you missed the first two articles in the series, it can be found in the links below:


Quarterbacks

Running Backs


Note: All RAS scores were courtesy of relativeathleticscores.com and @MathBomb


1. DeVonta Smith Alabama


- The reigning Heisman Trophy winner takes the top spot in a photo finish over WR2 and WR3. It was close but Smith’s overall production and traits won out in the end. You can’t go wrong with placing any of the top three in any order you wish. Smith has all the elite traits that you want in a true blue alpha dog WR1 despite his alleged size issues (listed at 6’1 175 by some outlets). He’s a really good route runner that could rival Van Jefferson in that regard. Special teams ability will also be an asset to whoever drafts him. The positional versatility within an offense is what also put him over the top. A lot of people will draw the DeSean Jackson comparison due to the gamebreaking speed and size similarities but I see a lot of the same things that I saw in Reggie Wayne coming out in Smith. He elected to not workout at both Alabama’s Pro Days so no RAS is available.


Draft Projection: Top Ten


Pro Comp: Reggie Wayne


RAS: N/A


2. Ja’Marr Chase LSU


- Entering the 2020 season, Chase had a really good case for WR1 honors but he elected to opt out. He still has a presentable case for the debate with the route running abilities, positional versatility, production, and speed. At the LSU Pro Day, he confirmed the scintillating athleticism by running a blistering 4.38 40 and performing well in the other drills. Chase is a surefire lock to be no worse than WR3 off the board. He’s that good. The numbers and film are eerily similar to former Terrapin and longtime NFL veteran Torrey Smith.


Draft Projection: Top Ten


Pro Comp: Torrey Smith


RAS: 9.89


3. Jaylen Waddle Alabama


- Before the unfortunate fractured ankle that knocked him out of most of the 2020 season, Waddle was on track to win a bevy of awards and become WR1. He shockingly came back for spurts of the national title contest against Ohio State and put on a good show all things considered. When healthy, he was the best receiver in the past two classes combined. The total package of route running, athleticism, and overall speed was awesome. He “drops” to being the third receiver taken due to the medical. I just wonder how far along he is with the broken ankle. Will it hinder him as he progresses to his rookie season? He’s a speedy playmaker in the form of DeSean Jackson. Like WR1, he also did not partake in the Pro Days in Tuscaloosa.


Draft Projection: Top 20


Pro Comp: DeSean Jackson


RAS: N/A


4. Kadarius Toney Florida


- Toney has risen the most up the boards after an electric 2020 season that earned him a Senior Bowl invite among other honors. He was the do everything type of weapon for the high powered Gators offense in 2020 behind all world tight end Kyle Pitts thus the comp to a former Gators superstar Percy Harvin. There’s a lot of Deebo Samuel in his game as well even if Samuel outweighed him by almost 20 pounds coming out. Whatever team that selects him will have a great slot matchup nightmare that can also play as an X on the perimeter. He has had nothing but a stellar offseason, locking him into the first round for now.


Draft Projection: First Round


Pro Comp: Percy Harvin


RAS: 8.87


5. Rashod Bateman Minnesota


- Rounding out the top five is an interesting receiver who opted out, in, and back out again for the 2020 season. Bateman is a special receiver who isn’t the “best” athlete but runs routes like a 10 year vet to get himself open. Like the previous four on the board, he has plenty of experience at slot and on the perimeter. He’s probably the more alpha my ball guy due to being that dude for the past couple of years. The former Golden Gopher runs the ball like a running back with not nice intentions. The RAS scores and tape are stunningly similar to former first round pick Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State).


Draft Projection: First Round


Pro Comp: Justin Blackmon


RAS: 9.13


6. Rondale Moore Purdue


- My ranking of Moore will probably be a surprise to many who read this given his medical history and lack of film due to that. When he’s healthy and fully on, he’s simply a playmaker in every sense of the word. Dude is an unstoppable electric jitterbug all over the field but health is a big concern. In a nutshell, he was the Big Ten’s answer to the aforementioned Toney. When I see him play, I see a lot of the same physical characteristics of another Big Ten stud receiver in K.J. Hamler.


Draft Projection: First to Second Round


Pro Comp: K.J. Hamler


RAS: 9.32


7. Terrance Marshall LSU


- Marshall broke out during the trying season of 2020 for the then defending national champion Bayou Bengals. He showed flashes of what could be in 2019 playing behind WR2 and rookie sensation / Griddy expert Justin Jefferson. The former five star recruit is what NBA teams desire in their players, positionless. He can play both slot and the X with very little dropoff doing either. A team would be wise to exploit the mismatch he can provide in that manner. He’s likely going to sneak into the first round or take a bit of a “fall” into the second but no later than that due to the immense talent. When I watched him and did the RAS scores, he was a near carbon copy of former first round receiver Braylon Edwards (Michigan). Let’s hope he has a bit more success, though.


Draft Projection: First to Second Round


Pro Comp: Braylon Edwards


RAS: 9.94


8. Dazz Newsome UNC


- Newsome as a top ten receiver? Yes you read that right. He was an ultra productive receiver for the potent Tar Heels offense. He’s a YAC monster that can go to all three levels of the field and score if the chance is right. Special teams value is there as well in the return game. He profiles similarly to Randall Cobb minus the ability to be a wildcat QB. I just like Newsome’s ability to consistently find the holes all over the field and that sells me for him being a top eight caliber receiver despite being a bit less athletic than initially thought of.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round


Pro Comp: Randall Cobb / Lee Evans


RAS: 2.56


9. D’Wayne Eskridge Western Michigan


- Stop me if you heard this before, but there’s a really good receiver that’s garnering some love from Western Michigan. While Eskridge won’t go as high as Corey Davis once did, he still will go early. If the receiver thing doesn’t work out, he can move to DB as he played there in college some. Special teams experience is a plus for him. Like Davis, he loves blocking and the contact. Route running is great as well. He profiles in a similar manner to former Tennessee receiver Cedrick Wilson and shouldn’t fall into the third round.


Draft Projection: Second Round


Pro Comp: Cedrick Wilson (Tennessee)


RAS: 6.73


10. Nico Collins Michigan


- Finishing the top ten is a receiver who opted out in 2020 after the Big Ten initially decided to delay things. Collins is a big target at a legit 6’4 215 with a ton of ball skills so he isn’t some cumbersome red zone target. He can move at will even the QB play was spotty at best in Ann Arbor. Athletically, he profiles the same as former Ohio State and current Saints great Michael Thomas (which should draw the ire of fans of Michigan). The size and speed is too intriguing for teams to ignore for too long on Day 2.


Draft Projection: Second to Third Round


Pro Comp: Michael Thomas


RAS: 9.56


11. Dyami Brown UNC


- Brown was the home run hitter of the dynamic UNC receiver duo with his sub 4.5 speed that translates to all three levels of the field. He just drops out of the top ten due to the talent of the receivers above him but it’s close. He’s a really good athlete that scored high in the RAS. The size does limit him some to slot duties and not having special teams in his arsenal hurts a little. Profiles a bit similar to former Seahawks standout Laurent Robinson athletically.


Draft Projection: Second to Third Round


Pro Comp: Laurent Robinson


RAS: 8.42


12. Elijah Moore Ole Miss


- Moore has had the most interesting glow ups in recent memory from that infamous 2019 celebration that launched a thousand coaching searches* to a top 15 receiving prospect in 2020. At any rate, he turned into a YAC machine under the auspices of Lane Kiffin. While he has experience at both outside and in the slot, the size (5’9 178) may limit him to slot duties only. He’s had a tremendous offseason process to merit a Day 2 selection. A home run threat at any time. A shorter Mike Wallace clone if you will. Interestingly, Wallace is a fellow alumnus of Ole Miss. He’ll definitely make a living as a WR3 for a while but has a chance to be a WR2 for a team that’s creative.


Draft Projection: Second to Third Round


Pro Comp: Mike Wallace


RAS: 8.62


13. Tylan Wallace Oklahoma State


- Wallace, much like fellow beloved Cowboys star Chuba Hubbard opted to return for a senior season after a monstrous junior campaign. He isn’t the greatest athlete one can see but wins on “my ball” shots a ton. That means something in terms of mindset and willingness to sacrifice for the team. Not the most refined route runner thanks to the interesting high powered Pokes offense but he’s underrated at it. Production is elite (minus 2020, which I’m not downgrading him or anyone for unless it’s warranted). James Washington 2.0? Wallace is the better overall athlete of the two but the size is quite similar. He’s not “slow” by any means so a sub 4.5 40 is great for him. I can see him grinding out a long and productive career as a WR4 that can elevate to WR3 type.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


Pro Comp: Rashad Higgins / James Washington


RAS: 5.21


14. Amon-Ra St. Brown USC


- The youngest of the St. Brown receiver family trio finally gets his shot in the spotlight after a middling to good career for the Trojans (thanks to inept QBs and shaky OCs). It’s quite apparent that he’s received a lot of pro level coaching from his older brothers and at USC. While he isn’t the greatest of all around athletes, he is serviceable in that regard. Physically and stylistically, he matches up to former Packers and Vikings veteran Greg Jennings. A great route runner who has an alpha dog mentality after being the focal point of the offense in the shortened 2020 season and bits of the 2019 season as well. Ball skills are a plus plus trait for him. He doesn’t profile as a primary X but can make a decent wage as a “medium-ish?” slot receiver.


Draft Projection: Third to Fourth Round


Pro Comp: Greg Jennings


RAS: 7.15


15. Demetric Felton UCLA


- That RAS score is a bit....off putting to say the least. The tape doesn't lie though. Felton is slated to play receiver full time at the next level but has experience as both a WR and RB in college. Has excellent ball skills and vision due to switching between positions. Stodgy, old school NFL teams will have some difficulties placing him but he has a ton of special teams ability too. A lot of people will compare him to Antonio Gibson for trying the reverse switching but I see him as a floating hybrid like a Dexter McCluster was for the Chiefs and Titans. The size will restrict him to the slot and / or RB3 (if teams are creative) along with return duties. Still, he did enough to merit a top 15 selection on the board.


Draft Projection: Fifth Round


Pro Comp: James Rodgers / Dexter McCluster


RAS: 0.92


16. Tutu Atwell Louisville


- Dude is a magician with the ball in his hands. The athleticism and speed is just jaw dropping but the size is a bit concerning so he just missed the top 15. A true home run threat from every level of the field and the 4.32 40 all but confirms that. While he probably won’t develop into a WR2 or even WR3, he’ll still have some value as a return specialist and in certain packages. Size and speed compares well to Bills receiver and returner Isaiah McKenzie.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


Pro Comp: Isaiah McKenzie / Greg Ward, Jr


RAS: 5.94


17. Amari Rodgers Clemson


- Rodgers is next man up in the long line of Clemson receivers trying to make their way to the big leagues. After waiting his turn behind some high profile names, he broke out in 2020 acting as the lead dog. He earned an invite to the Senior Bowl with his stellar play. Stylistically, I can see him carving out a slot role like Adam Humphries should’ve been for the Titans. The RAS is almost a perfect match. He’ll likely sneak into early Day 3.


Draft Projection: Fourth Round


Pro Comp: Adam Humphries


RAS: 5.37


18. Ihmir Smith-Marsette Iowa


- Speaking of former Clemson receiver comps, Smith-Marsette’s usage and play style matches to Sammy Watkins. Like some receivers on this list, ISM was a victim of substandard QB play. He also returns kicks so there’s value there too. The Hawkeyes receiver is a playmaker that can make any play from all levels of the field. He’s a Day 2 talent that will slip to Day 3 due to the talent above him.


Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round


Pro Comp: Sammy Watkins


RAS: 6.81


19. Austin Watkins UAB


- Watkins is a highkey sleeper in the class after helping resuscitate the dormant UAB program back from the dead. The RAS score indicates that he has a similar athletic profile to former UCF and Bills receiver Gabriel Davis, who had a pretty decent rookie year. Watkins is an athlete in every sense of the word.


Draft Projection: Fifth Round


Pro Comp: Gabriel Davis


RAS: N/A


20. Marlon Williams UCF


- UCF receivers, you say? Williams is a pretty good one despite not doing so hot at the Golden Knights Pro Day. He plays bigger like a running back with the ball on the perimeter. 50/50 balls are his forte. Doesn’t have breakaway speed but works with what he has to outmuscle the defensive backs when called upon. Williams is an inch perfect reflection of Rams standout receiver Cooper Kupp in terms of his RAS. Hopefully he makes a role for himself and earns a similar contract to Mr. Kupp one day.


Draft Projection: Sixth Round


Pro Comp: Cooper Kupp


RAS: 3.29


21. Frank Darby Arizona State


- Darby is more Kyle Williams than Brandon Aiyuk at this point and might be drafted late on Day 3 as such. There’s also flashes of former Washington Huskies receiver Kasen Williams in his game as well. The former Sun Devils receiver was the leading man for them in 2020 after years of being the second banana to Aiyuk and N’Keal Harry. He didn’t disappoint and earned a Senior Bowl invite as such. He’s not the fastest guy nor the biggest so the slot role might be perfect for him at the next level.


Draft Projection: Fifth Round


Pro Comp: Kasen Williams


RAS: 5.91


22. Trevon Grimes Florida


- The “other” guy in Florida’s offense is remarkably similar to former USC and current Colts rising sophomore Michael Pittman. Jr in play style and measurements. Grimes definitely benefited from Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney taking the heat off of him in 2020 as his breakout season occurred. He’s had to wait awhile for his star turn and could be in store for some big things as a rookie WR3 on Day 3.


Draft Projection: Fourth to Fifth Round


Pro Comp: Michael Pittman, Jr


RAS: 8.57


23. Jaelon Darden North Texas


- Darden is an intriguing option on Day 3 due to his immense athletic potential and possible slot role on the right team with a creative offensive mind. He’s a more offensive minded Kermit Whitfield who was used as both a return man and receiver at Florida State. The size will be a huge question mark at just 5’7 174.


Draft Projection: Fifth Round


Pro Comp: A more offensive Kermit Whitfield


RAS: 7.16


24. Marquez Stevenson Houston


- The playmaking receiver for the Cougars did well considering the circumstances surrounding their quarterback situation after D’Eriq King transferred to Miami. He has a similar profile to perennial special teams ace and contributing WR3 Andre Roberts and should play the same role. Houston was wracked with COVID related delays and cancellations so 2020 was a bit of a wash for Stevenson at times.


Draft Projection: Sixth Round


Pro Comp: Andre Roberts


RAS: N/A


25. Shi Smith South Carolina


- Smith presents an interesting case for himself as he was the lead actor after serving as a role player behind Bryan Edwards and Deebo Samuel for a couple of years. He was the preseason darling for many in the industry but suffered a bit due to inconsistent QB play. When I watch him, I see a lot of the same traits that made MTSU’s Richie James successful. They do have similar measurements as well.


Draft Projection: Fifth to Sixth Round


Pro Comp: Richie James


RAS: 6.80


26. Dez Fitzpatrick Louisville


- The Louisville man was the short to intermediate guy while Tutu Atwell was the big play specialist for the Cardinals. He doesn’t have a lot of athleticism but does well with what he has in 50/50 settings and deep balls when he’s called upon. His profile is Jeremy Maclin but slightly taller and heavier.


Draft Projection: Sixth to Seventh Round


Pro Comp: Jeremy Maclin


RAS: 8.89


27. Josh Imatorbhebhe Illinois


- The former USC signee transferred to Illinois to play with his brother. The RAS score, physical, and film flesh out a comparison to former Ohio State and WFT star receiver Terry McLaurin. Imatorbhebehe is an incredible athlete with the ball in his hands. The vertical and broad jump numbers are eye popping for a guy his size. He’ll get drafted based on the measureables alone.


Draft Projection: Sixth to Seventh Round


Pro Comp: Terry McLaurin


RAS: 8.97


28. Sage Surratt Wake Forest


- Surratt hasn’t played competitive football in well over a year due to injury and opt out. Will he be able to shake off the rust after such a long layoff? He wasn’t the best athlete to start with so the RAS is near the truth of the matter. Stylistically and physically, he compares to Corey Davis and in more of a shout to the past, former LSU receiver Michael Clayton. Still, the limited tape he does have warrants a Day 3 flier.


Draft Projection: Sixth to Seventh Round


Pro Comp: Corey Davis / Michael Clayton


RAS: 5.94


29. Seth Williams Auburn


- Simply put, Williams profiles as a near match to Bryan Edwards in style of play. There’s value in that as teams need a big physical target to outmuscle smaller defensive backs in the red zone and goal to go situations. Lateral agility is an outlying issue that will need to be accounted for by the team that drafts Williams. He broke out in 2020 despite subpar QB play and ultimately a poor coaching job that resulted in Gus Malzhan being relieved of his duties.


Draft Projection: Sixth Round


Pro Comp: Bryan Edwards


RAS: 6.88


30. Dax Milne BYU