2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Best Fits – Wide Receivers

Updated: April 22nd 2021

Last but not least the cream of the 2021 draft class, the wide receivers. If you missed out on the other offensive position recap, you can find each of them at the following link. Quarterbacks, Running Backs, and Tight Ends.

The receiver class is once again strong at the top end as well as deep into day two and the start of day three. While not every player can inevitably work out, this gives those that missed out on the last two classes another chance to try and hit the receiver jackpot.

The top is loaded with one player that appears to project to be a superstar receiver with All-Pro upside, another who won the Heisman Trophy despite questions about his thin frame, and his teammate who missed much of 2020 with an injury but is still likely to go top 15 in the NFL draft.

There is also a bounty of 5-10 other receivers who could go between the late first and third round that should be steals in rookie drafts. This bodes well for championship-calibre teams at the end of round one or savvy teams that selected one of the better running backs early in the first round but need starting-calibre talent with their next two draft picks.

Receiver is also the most crucial positions to match scheme and talent for the player to have success. Landing spots rather than draft spot alone will be the key to picking the breakouts from the fakeouts.

Rashod Bateman – Minnesota

DLF Ranking – 8th (9th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.58, Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens are one of the easiest teams to project to take a wide receiver early in the draft but because they are savvy with finding value I think they will wait till at least the second round and focus either on the offensive or defense line with their first pick. They have the speed with Marquise Brown but they lack more than Mark Andrews both over the middle and in the end zone. Rashod Bateman won consistently on jump balls in the end zone and can easily become the second option behind Andrews, though he is much more than just a Jumpman. Having 6-9 targets with 2 red zone targets per game would be a fair prediction for Bateman in Baltimore.

Dyami Brown – North Carolina

DLF – 20th (26th SF)

NFL Draft – 4th Round

Best Fit – 4.136, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs have been able to make good use out of receivers from deeper in the draft with names like Demarcus Robinson (undrafted) and Tyreek Hill (fifth round). They took Mecole Hardman in the second round in 2019 but even at the time, it seemed like that was a reach with Hill potentially missing time with a suspension and needing a viable duplicate speed receiver to replace him. They could go back to receiver again in 2021 this time for a player like Dyami Brown who brings much more versatility to an offense than Hardman or Robinson. The Chiefs also only have two receivers under contract for 2022 so while his role might not be immediate, Brown would be in line for a larger role in 12 months from now if he can develop.

Nico Collins – Michigan

DLF – 33rd (47th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd/4th Round

Best Fit – 3.70, Philadelphia Eagles

Howie Roseman and the Eagles probably wish they could have a redo on taking JJ Arcega Whiteside over D.K. Metcalf but they have a chance to make up for it by taking Nico Collins this year. Another size freak (6’4”, 215lbs) that also ran a 4.43, Collins has the needed skills that the Eagles have been missing since Alshon Jeffrey was fully healthy coming over from Chicago. The Eagles have a lot of problems on the defensive side of the ball so it is likely they would focus elsewhere before addressing the receiver position. Hurts to Collins could be the Wilson to Metcalf of the NFC East if they develop chemistry as quickly as the latter did.

Ja’Marr Chase – LSU

DLF – 1st (3rd SF)

NFL Draft – Top 10 Selection

Best Fit – 1.07, Detroit Lions

The problem with predicting the place for Ja’Mar Chase is that his talent, and thus draft pedigree, will likely keep him out of the hands of a team that both has a high need for a receiver and a high volume passing game. Philadelphia would have been the perfect fit but they traded out of 1.06 so I have to choose between only one of those upside outcomes. I will go with volume and say the Detroit Lions at seventh overall. The Lions have Quintez Cephus and Breshad Perriman atop their depth chart which means selecting Chase would immediately vault him to their WR1 and a bounty of targets would be projected his way. Immediate comparisons between his and Calvin Johnson’s start to their careers as highly drafted, generation receiving talents would be the media angle following day one. If Chase wants to live up to the hype he will need to prove that talent transcends the situation, much like Johnson did.

Frank Darby – Arizona State

DLF – 42nd (42nd SF)

NFL Draft – 5th Round

Best Fit – 5.160, Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals probably do not see a need for a receiver in 2021 now that they signed A.J. Green for the year. But they should be looking to the future once he and potentially Christian Kirk are gone and could look local to Frank Darby at Arizona State. Though he will not have the pedigree of fellow Sun Devils N’Keal Harry and Brandon Ayiuk, who were drafted in the first round the last two years, Darby profiles well as a complement to an alpha like DeAndre Hopkins and could develop into a solid team WR3 or maybe even outside shot at being their WR2.

D’wayne Eskridge – Western Michigan

DLF – 33rd (38th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd/4th Round

Best Fit – 3.140, Pittsburgh Steelers

How long can you wait for potential? Putting on the tape of D’wayne Eskridge I immediately had flashes of another small-sized, small school Steelers receiver, Antonio Brown. How much of a perfect situation was having a Hall of Fame quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger to helping Brown develop into an elite WR? Can it happen again knowing that Roethlisberger will not be there this time? Who knows? Still, the Steelers are one of those teams that you always watch to see if they take a receiver in the mid-late rounds as they seem to hit at a higher rate than most. Eskridge seems like the kind of player they would keep in their back pocket as players like JuJu Smith-Schuster and Dionte Johnson price themselves out of town. If you are a gambler on talent at the end of depth charts, this would create a terrific buy-low shot on a player going in the later rounds of rookie drafts.

Terrace Marshall – LSU

DLF – 11th (15th SF)

NFL Draft – Mid 1st/Early 2nd Round

Best Fit – 1.29, Green Bay Packers

If Green Bay can do Aaron Rodgers one solid favor it would be to finally draft a first-round receiver to compliment Davante Adams. While they are not going to be able to get a player like Ja’Mar Chase they could still look to LSU and grab Terrace Marshall at the end of day one. Marshall can play both inside and out and is fluid in and out of his breaks. Any receiver that might land in Green Bay with Rodgers would get the post-draft bump and there would be a pretty good case for Marshall to be a top 6 pick if this wish came true.

Elijah Moore – Ole Miss

DLF – 12th (17th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.36, Miami Dolphins

A.J. Brown has gone on tour promoting the Titans to bring in his fellow Ole Miss teammate Elijah Moore but I do not think they are prioritizing receiver in the first and Moore will not make it to their late second-round pick. He could go much early and a team like the Dolphins would be an intriguing fit for Moore who has been compared to former Miami Dolphins Jarvis Landry by Matt Waldman. Tua Tagovailoa is more of a precision passer so having a great inside receiver like Moore to go along with Will Fuller deep and DeVante Parker outside would give defenses pause for who to double. Moore’s role could expand even further in 2022 with Fuller only signing a one-year deal.

Rondale Moore – Purdue

DLF – 9th (13th SF)

NFL Draft – 2nd/3rd Round

Best Fit – 3.65, Jacksonville Jaguars

Rondale Moore has the most influx career path as I think he should succeed but whether teams are creative enough to use him all over the field will be the difference between him being a good NFL receiver and a good fantasy receiver. A team like Jacksonville I hope would bring a lot of pre-snap motion to their offensive game plan and thus would use more sweeps, crosses, bubble screen and end-arounds to give a player like Moore space with the ball in his hands. At least when I projected Kenneth Gainwell in the running back section I hoped so. Much like Tyreek Hill in Kansas City, having lots of smoke and pre-snap motion to help create separation between Moore and the trailing defender would be the best way to utilize his undersized frame but tremendous speed.

Amari Rodgers – Clemson

DLF – 27th (34th SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd Round

Best fit – 3.86, New York Jets

The Jets drafted their outside receiver last year in Denzel Mims and then double down by signing Corey Davis. With Jamison Crowder getting long in the tooth it may be time to look inside for a slot receiver like Amari Rodgers. Like Crowder, Rodgers does his best work through the middle and with likely first-round pick Zach Wilson moving around in the pocket, Rodgers would be an excellent safety blanket. A potential PPR monster once Crowder leaves town.

DeVonta Smith – Alabama

DLF – 4th (7th SF)

NFL Draft – Top 15 Selection

Best Fit – 1.12, Philadelphia Eagles

If Ja’Mar Chase is gone before the Lions are on the clock I would also like DeVonta Smith there as a target machine but for this exercise, Chase is in Detroit so Smith falls to Philadelphia at twelfth. While I also predicted the Eagles to take Nico Collins in the third round earlier the precedent has already been set by both Denver and Las Vegas that just because you take one receiver in the first it does not prevent taking another before the end of day two, especially when your offense needs it.  This would also reunite Smith with former Alabama teammate Jalen Hurts. Smith has the tools to be a WR1 in the NFL but he likely needs a WR2 more than Chase to be elite.

Amon-Ra St. Brown – USC

DLF – 16th (22nd SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd Round

Best Fit – 3.67, Houston Texans

The Texans do not have a first or second-round pick which makes this their defector first pick in 2021 and they likely have bigger problems than wide receiver to consider at this spot. Still, with the departure of Will Fuller and only Brandin Cooks along with the aging Randall Cobb available the team needs to at least take a look at the receiver position. Amon-Ra St. Brown has the typical “big slot receiver” style that can complement the speed of Bradin Cooks, at least for one season, and then they can go back and address the position more in 2022 when they have more capital.

Sage Surratt – Wake Forest

DLF – 35th (33rd SF)

NFL Draft – 4th/5th Round

Best Fit – 4.139, New England Patriots

While New England may not be ready to give up on N’Keal Harry just yet they will likely hedge their bets by taking at least one receiver later in the draft. Sage Surratt out of Wake Forest provides another option for a jump-ball specialist but who can also work the middle of the field as a big slot receiver, al a Michael Thomas. Like Harry though, Surratt also lacks break-away speed (4.6) so if he fails to separate like Harry at the line of scrimmage, he could be another bust for the Patriots. They clearly valued what they saw in Harry though so maybe they try again but for cheaper.

Tamorrion Terry – Florida State

DLF – 28th (28th SF)

NFL Draft – 5th Round

Best Fit – 5.164, Chicago Bears

The Bears have Allen Robinson for at least 2021 on the franchise tag but whether he is back in 2022 is anyone’s guess. There have also been rumors that they could be looking to move on from Anthony Miller, trade or just not resigning. Tamorrion Terry fills in a need for a second option behind Robinson now with the chance to take on a larger role if Robinson leaves after this season. He is not likely to be a WR1 or 2 in his career but Terry could have outside success in standard leagues where touchdowns over receptions are valued.

Kadarius Toney – Florida

DLF – 13th (23rd SF)

NFL Draft – Late 1st/2nd Round

Best Fit – 2.39, Carolina Panthers

I said in the tight end section that the Carolina Panthers should take Kyle Pitts with the eighth selection but he is not there (likely) or they may trade down with a team looking for the last quarterback, like New England. If so, then they could be a candidate for Kadarius Toney in the second. It is tough placing Toney as either a first or second-round pick as he would be a luxury pick for many of the teams at the end of first or I think several of those teams would prefer other options later in the second or even third round. Another slot guy, Toney would be best used similarly to Deebo Samuel with a low aDOT/high YAC working behind Robby Anderson for 2021 with the chance to take on more of a role alongside D.J. Moore in 2022.

Jaylen Waddle – Alabama

DLF – 5th (11th SF)

NFL Draft – Top 15 Selection

Best Fit – 1.13, Los Angeles Chargers

I kind of boxed myself into a corner by saying that the Falcons and Bengals would not take Ja’Mar Chase and thus pushing the available options for Jaylen Waddle down. Saying that makes this a pipe dream but if Waddle fell out of the top ten and right into Justin Herbert and the Chargers’ lap that would be a perfect match of quarterback to receiver. Waddle has the speed to take advantage of an arm like Herbert’s and would give the Chargers leverage to move on from Mike Williams after this season if his price tag is too high.

Tylan Wallace – Oklahoma State

DLF – 18th (21st SF)

NFL Draft – 3rd/4th Round

Best Fit – 3.89, Cleveland Browns

The Browns seem to have finally turned it around and while they did okay at receiver last year we do not know how Odell Beckham Jr. will bounce back from ACL surgery. He also has no dead money on the books past 2021 so this could be his final year in Cleveland regardless of his performance. If Tylan Wallace falls to the end of the third round it is a steal for all teams and he should make an immediate impact. Maybe he and Baker Mayfield could jell in a way that the quarterback just never seemed to with OBJ.

Seth Williams – Auburn

DLF – 17th (16th SF)

NFL Draft – 5th/6th Round

Best Fit – 6.210, Baltimore Ravens

A jump ball specialist, Seth Williams could be a discount option if the Ravens do not select a receiver early in the draft. His size would add a much-needed presence on the outside and endzone fades. The only questions surrounding Williams are his commitment to being great at his craft which is why he is likely to be a Day 3 pick with Day 2 talent. I trust the Ravens’ front office and if they (or another competent organization) take a shot on him then Williams can be one of the better late-round flyers. If he lands with a dysfunctional team, I am out.

More Analysis by Nick Andrews

The Watch List 2021: Early WR Tiers

Updated: February 12th 2021

Throughout the offseason I will be compiling early positional tiers for the 2021 NFL Draft. In past years I’ve done early rankings but in hindsight those feel counterproductive to my ultimate goal of creating RSO’s rookie rankings that are used in the draft room. Frankly, it’s hard to change a ranking because it feels “locked in” once I put it out into the world. When I would create my early rankings I would always start by grouping the players into themed tiers first, so that’s what I will be sharing in this series. Each tier includes players whose potential and plot line feel similar to me; the sequence of tiers is indicative of a general order of expected draft value. I’ll repeat though: these are not rankings. Within each tier players are sorted alphabetically. (Note: this article was written on February 7th.)

Dear reader, today we come to the end of my positional tiers series. I hope you have found these loose rankings as instructive as I have while I prepare to create the rookie rankings for the RSO rookie draft room. I saved the receivers for last because it was the hardest group for me to nail down my expectations. The top of this receiver class is stronger than last year: we may end up with three WRs off the board by the 12th pick which is where last year’s WR1 (Henry Ruggs) went. Things stay strong into the second round but then it feels like there is a drop and leveling off after the top 6-7 names. Would I love for my NFL team to add Seth Williams? Definitely, but he’s not on par with Chase Claypool or Denzel Mims who were similarly ranked in last year’s class. I am interested to see if NFL teams start to reach in the late second or early third rounds, worried that they need to get their receiver now or they may be on the wrong side of a run. You may encounter the same phenomenon in your RSO rookie draft so be prepared. Enough stutter-stepping, let’s get to it…

First Round Locks

  • Ja’Marr Chase

  • DeVonta Smith

  • Jaylen Waddle

Do you know the popular gif of a raggedy looking Elmo seemingly summoning a wall of flame? That’s what I envision in my mind’s eye when I think of #DraftTwitter arguing over the order of these three wide receivers. You could make an argument that any of them will be the first receiver off the board in April because they all have elite talent but some perceived “knock” against them. Unless you’re hosting your rookie draft before the NFL Draft (please don’t, unless you’re a devy league) there’s no need to settle on an order just yet. Scheme and team fit will be huge in determining their fantasy prospects. Ja’Marr Chase was last seen on the field in 2019 when he led the NCAA in receiving yards (1,780) and touchdowns (20) on his way to consensus All-America honors. I’ve wondered what impact Chase’s decision to opt-out of the 2020 season will have on his draft stock — it’ll be an interesting case study for future studs who might want to preserve themselves for the pros. I last profiled Chase when I was writing about potential rookie draft 1.01 picks and I heaped on the praise. His short-area quickness, leaping ability, and hands are all fantastic. Plus he’s physical on his route and doesn’t shy away from a battle with a corner. There were moments though when I wanted to see more from Chase, specifically when he wasn’t the primary target of a play. He’s a superb talent, is just 20 years old, and has a crazy high ceiling; Chase will be the top receiver for most heading into the draft. If I had to choose today, I would rank DeVonta Smith just a hair higher than Chase. Smith, the Heisman winner, had a superlative-laden season that even eclipsed Chase’s standout campaign last year. Smith’s eye-popping line was: 117-1,856-23. He’s a technician who is consistently open, has ridiculous body control and has go-go-gadget arms to snag balls that other receivers could never reach. Smith is a bit slight (listed 6010/175) and is two years older than Chase so I can understand why some discount his future production.  Until Smith shows otherwise he’s my favorite in the class. If Jaylen Waddle didn’t suffer a midseason injury he would have been in the WR1 conversation as well (and some might still have him there). Waddle is a singular talent as an athlete with the ability to break any play for a score. Waddle is small (5100/182) and has a small-ish sample size (just 106 career receptions) but speed sells. Like Henry Ruggs last year, Waddle may end up going higher than expected because an NFL team fell in love with his gamebreaking nature. To recap, these three guys are essentially locks to be first rounders in your rookie draft as well as the NFL Draft; don’t get too hung up on their order just yet.

Fringe Firsts

  • Rashod Bateman

  • Terrace Marshall

  • Rondale Moore

I envision “Number of First Round Wide Receivers” being an oft-discussed prop bet in April. Last year’s class saw six go in the first round; 2015 was the only other year in the last decade that we had that many. The 2018 and 2019 drafts had just four receivers combined go in the opening round. If I was the book, I would probably set the line at 4.5 this season. I believe the three players mentioned above are locks to go in the top twenty so squeezing in two or three of these fringe firsts feels about right. Terrace Marshall was a beneficiary of Ja’Marr Chase’s decision to sit out the year. Marshall led a mediocre Tigers team with 48 receptions and 10 TDs, his 731 receiving yards was just barely bested by freshman Kayshon Boutte. It was hard for me to distill what Marshall does well into one or two sentences: put simply, he’s a dude. He has perfect size at 6030/200, isn’t easy to bring down, has super strong hands, has a keen sense of timing, and knows when to check back to his quarterback to make himself an easier target. I really liked what I saw out of Marshall and I’m sure NFL scouts will too. Back in early 2019, we were talking about the wrong Golden Gophers receiver (hmm, interesting transition after talking about Terrace Marshall [thinking emoji]). Instead of ruminating on Tyler Johnson, we should have been paying more attention to Rashod Bateman. Bateman originally opted out of the 2020 season but ended up playing after the Big Ten reversed course. He leapt off the screen during the opener against Michigan (9-101) and again against Illinois (10-139-1). Bateman is a contested catch king; I have previously called out his timely leaping and strength at the catch point. Bateman is also dangerous on slants and crossing patterns where he can leverage his acceleration, fearlessness and shiftiness to great effect. Rondale Moore started his career as the most exciting player in college football as a true freshman back in 2018. Disappointingly, things have mostly been downhill from there for Moore though. His sophomore season was cut short due to injury and his junior year was delayed by an undisclosed injury. Those two shortened years combined for seven games and a 64-657-2 line. Moore’s 2020 highlights were encouraging but his medicals will be more important to monitor. Moore is a dynamic playmaker whose talent is worthy of a first round pick when he’s fully healthy. After writing this blurb, I would guess that Marshall is the most likely of this bunch to land in the first round, with Bateman right there behind him, and Moore lagging behind pending his medical evaluations. (Mocking Kadarius Toney, see below, in the first has also become en vogue so he may be due for a jump up to this tier soon.)

Day Two Targets

  • Amon-Ra St. Brown

  • Tylan Wallace

  • Seth Williams

I’m happy I was able to squeeze these three into a tier together because they are my favorites as compared to their expected draft value. Said another way, I would draft these guys higher than they inevitably will be in both the NFL Draft and your rookie drafts. St. Brown averaged 7-80-1 in the shortened season and continued his high-floor run. By my rough PPR math, St. Brown has had 8+ fantasy points in 37 of 41 career games. I love how physical he is and can’t wait to see him in the NFL, dominating nickels as a strong slot. Tylan Wallace came back strong after an injury-shortened 2019 season, tallying a respectable 59-922-6. Wallace is a consensus pick for the All Catch Radius team and has ample speed and acceleration to make him a threat to stretch the defense. Seth Williams is probably my favorite receiver in the class to root for. He’s a bit boom-and-bust but when he’s on, I relish watching his hands-catching, toe-tapping, defender-hurdling style. Williams plays bigger than his sizeable 6030/211 frame so I’ll be interested to see how he measures in officially. It’s looking like St. Brown, Wallace and Williams have Day Two written all over them and will be solid investments for your fantasy team.

Regular Season Risers

  • D’wayne Eskridge

  • Elijah Moore

  • Kadarius Toney

The three players in this tier have seen a Gamestop-esque rise in their value the last few months. Using data from www.mockdraftdatabase.com, here’s how their overall ranking has gone to the moon: Eskridge from 300th to 125th, Moore from 292nd to 68th and Toney from 121st to 29th. It’s not crazy to say that these three guys might go from off the radar in the preseason to first rounders. I owe each of these three rocketing risers a closer study because I did not delve into them at all during the 2020 season. Toney is the freakiest of the bunch and cannot be stopped by single man coverage. Many of his touches are manufactured (screens, sweeps, returns) so I expect he’ll need some work to refine himself as a receiver but it’s hard to argue against somebody who can move like he can. Elijah Moore had possibly the quietest 86-1,193-8 season ever (especially when you realize that line was compiled in just eight games). He has some of the same speed and shiftiness that Toney offers but looks like a bonafide receiver in the highlight packages I viewed. The buzz around Eskridge is growing; a recent CBS mock draft had him going at 28th overall, meanwhile one from SI had him as a second rounder. Eskridge looks smaller than both Toney and Moore (or at least is about the same) and put up worse numbers (33-768-8) against lesser competition. I’ll be jumping into his tape soon because it must be spectacular. Let’s continue to monitor these guys throughout the draft process to ensure they offer some return on investment.

Undervalued, Underdrafted

  • Dyami Brown

  • Dazz Newsome

  • Ihmir Smith-Marsette

The players who land in my “Undervalued, Underdrafted” tier are Power 5 players who are solid yet unsexy prospects. Brown and Newsome were the primary targets of Sam Howell and the Tar Heels prolific passing offense in 2020. I wrote about the dynamic duo back in September ahead of their season opener. I noted that Brown is a “home run hitting downfield threat” and that proved true: 47% of Brown’s receptions went for 15+ yards and 25% went for 25+. He was most successful downfield on first down which highlights just how much their dominant rushing game opened up the passing game. Newsome, on the other hand, is more of a make-a-man-miss receiver and punt returner. Newsome has superb balance, no surprise given his punt return prowess, and succeeds in the open field. In addition to Brown and Newsome, draftniks will also be considering running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter: this Tar Heel fatigue is why I think the pair may end up undervalued for fantasy purposes. Ihmir Smith-Marsette may be the most underappreciated Power 5 receiver coming out this year. Smith-Marsette looks like the new wave NFL receiver to me: he’s long (6020) and fast (4.40) and can be deployed on screens or jet sweeps (he does need to put on some pounds though). He’s also a great kick returner who owns the modern Big Ten record for career kick return average (28.7). I’ll bet Smith-Marsette goes undrafted in all but the deepest leagues but I’d also bet that somebody picks him up midseason after he makes a big play. If you have an extra late rookie draft pick try to snag one of these guys to stash before they make a name for themselves in camp.

Spacey Satellites

  • Tutu Atwell

  • Amari Rodgers

  • Anthony Schwartz

The aforementioned axiom that “speed sells” returns for this tier of receivers. Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell is a sub-4.40 burner who led the ACC in receiving in 2019 (69-1,272-11) and followed that up with a solid junior year (46-625-7 in nine games). Atwell is tiny at 5090/165 but if you can get him in space he’s a big play waiting to happen. Amari Rodgers, Clemson’s leading receiver at 77-1,020-7, isn’t much taller than Atwell (5100) but packs on an extra 20+ pounds on his compact frame. Rodgers is an A-1 punt returner who could make you miss in a phone booth. He’s often typecast as an underneath receiver but he also shows the ball tracking, lower body control and strong hands to be a downfield receiver too. I would want Rodgers on my football team, I have a feeling he’ll be one of those players we realized we were sleeping on because he was outshone by his teammates. My love for Seth Williams might have created a blindspot for his teammate Anthony Schwartz. I didn’t have any preconceived notions about Schwartz when I started researching this article so I had to do a quick dive into his stats and Youtube clips. Schwartz is taller than Atwell and Rodgers, an even 6000, and looks more durable than his 179 listed weight would indicate. When he has the ball in his hands, Schwartz moves like an upright running back with the vision to utilize his blockers and make the most of his angles. Admittedly I have only watched highlights of Schwartz so I can’t say with certainty but he looks promising in those snippets. When this playmaking trio finds space, good things will happen for your fantasy lineup.

Known Unknowns

  • Nico Collins

  • Damonte Coxie

  • Sage Surratt

  • Tamorrion Terry

At one time or another over the last two years, I valued these four players higher than the consensus. Now, however, their value is at its nadir. Collins, Coxie and Surratt all opted out of the 2020 season; Terry played in six games but played through injury and ineffective quarterbacking before deciding to leave the team early. I think Terry’s was a good decision because I still believe in his size/speed combination — nothing positive would have come out of catching passes from a rotating quarterback while hobbled by a wonky knee — but the other three may have allowed others to pass them in scouts’ minds. Collins, like Terry, never realized his potential because of the poor passers the Wolverines trotted out. He has prototypical size (6040/215) and the attributes to be a starting possession receiver at the next level. Coxie, on the other hand, has shown us how dominant he can be with back-to-back seasons with 70+ receptions and 1,100+ yards. He played in two games in 2020 before ending his year early (16-175-1). I love the description I wrote for his physical play when I profiled him last spring: “he reminded me of a skilled heavyweight boxer: constantly throwing jabs to set up a future haymaker and using his size to lean on his opponent to gain leverage.” Coxie has fallen out of favor on #DraftTwitter but I’m still a believer. Sage Surratt had a surprising 2019 which ended with him eking out a 1,000 yard season before going down with a shoulder injury (66-1,001-11). He’s not fast or elusive but his size and play strength make for a good redzone receiver (10 career redzone scores). These four “known unknowns” will probably go late-ish in the NFL Draft, but don’t be surprised when they pop up on our fantasy radars and remind us of why we loved them a year or two ago.

Small School Sleepers

  • Marlon Williams

  • Marquez Stevenson

  • Warren Jackson

As I mentioned in my RB Tiers article, I would typically highlight some FCS and DII hopefuls in this section. However, most FCS teams did not play in the fall and the impending spring season is full of question marks. Instead, I’ll hit a few guys here who have excelled at the Group of 5 level. I wrote about Williams back in Week 9 and was a fan of his all-around skillset. UCF featured him frequently on screens from a stack formation and otherwise he showed up all over the formation. Williams played out in 2020 and easily eclipsed last year’s totals in four less games (71-1,039-10). He’s likely a late rounder but should catch on if given a chance. Contrary to a few of the risers listed above, Marquez Stevenson saw a precipitous drop in his NFL Draft value in 2020. Per the www.nflmockdraftdatabase.com, Stevenson was a target as high as 28th overall in mocks in the fall. Lately, he’s been all over the place, from the third round all the way down to the seventh. Houston had a strange covid-riddled season so I don’t put too much weight on Stevenson’s disappointing output (20-307-4 in five games). Stevenson will win the workout — on his most recent Freaks List, Bruce Feldman predicted 4.30 speed — and as such I expect he’ll be drafted ahead of current predictions. Warren Jackson is bound to be the next small school guy who breaks my heart. Jackson caught my eye last spring after a 77-1,119-8 junior season but unfortunately opted out of 2020 to prepare for the NFL. I fell in love then, writing “backed up deep in their own end, the Rams take a deep shot. Jackson, forty yards downfield, times his jump well and rips the ball out of the air. He lands, keeps his feet, avoids contact with the colliding defenders and gallops off. None of the pursuing tacklers make it within five yards.” I also felt that his versatility belies his stature (6060/215) and thought he could be more than just a redzone target. I’m unsure what the future brings for Jackson but I’ll be watching closely, the same goes for Williams and Stevenson.

 

Notes: Heights listed are using a notation common among scouts where the first digit corresponds to the feet, the next two digits correspond to the inches and the fourth digit corresponds to the fraction, in eighths.  So, somebody measuring 5’11” and 3/8 would be 5113.  This is helpful when trying to sort players by height. Full disclosure, I am not watching film of every single game any player plays, instead I am looking for a representative sample.  There are a lot of analysts out there who have a deeper depth of knowledge about certain players but I pride myself in a wide breadth of knowledge about many players.  When researching my articles I use a number of valuable resources. I would recommend bookmarking the below sites:

  • Stats: espn.com, sports-reference.com, pro-football-reference.com, cfbstats.com, herosports.com, fcs.football, mcubed.net, expandtheboxscore.com, washingtonpost.com
  • Recruiting: 247Sports.com, espn.com, sbnation.com, rivals.com
  • Film: 2021 NFL Draft Database by Mark Jarvis, youtube.com
  • Draft info and mocks: draftcountdown.com, draftscout.com, mattwaldmanrsp.com, draftek.com, thedraftnetwork.com, nfl.com, nflmockdraftdatabase.com
  • NFL rosters, depth charts and contract info: ourlads.com, spotrac.com
  • Draft history: drafthistory.com
  • Combine info: pro-football-reference.com, espn.com, nflcombineresults.com, mockdraftable.com
  • Season preview magazines: Phil Steele, Lindy’s, Street and Smith’s, Athlon Sports
  • Podcasts: ESPN’s First Draft, The Audible by Football Guys (specifically episodes w/ Matt Waldman), UTH Dynasty, Draft Dudes, Saturday 2 Sunday, Locked on NFL Draft, Cover 3 College Football
  • Logos & Player Media Photos: collegepressbox.com
  • Odds & Gambling Stats: vegasinsider.com

Robert F. Cowper is a freelance writer who lives in New Jersey.  He is a proud member of the Football Writers Association of America and the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.  Robert works as a certified park and recreation professional, specializing in youth sports, when he isn’t acting as commissioner for his many fantasy sports leagues.

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