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: Spring Scouting, QBs

Updated: May 18th 2020

Welcome to The Watch List for the 2021 NFL Draft season. a resource to help RSO owners identify the players from the college game that deserve your attention.  To view my observations, follow me on Twitter @robertfcowper.  Check back throughout the Summer as The Watch List will preview the top prospects and let you know who is fantasy relevant and worth your valuable draft capital.

In today’s installment of my Spring Scouting series we’re going to take a closer look at three quarterbacks: Trey Lance, Jamie Newman and Kyle Trask. These three signal callers may not get the headlines of stars like Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields but each has a shot at being drafted next spring so they deserve a deeper look now.

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

  • Measurables: 6030/224
  • 2019 Stats: 16 games, 192-287, 66.9% comp percentage, 2,786 pass yards, 9.7 ypa, 28 pass TDs, 0 INTs, 180.6 rating; 169 rush att, 1,100 rush yards, 6.5 ypa, 14 rush TDs

I’m going to start this piece with a bold prediction: Trey Lance will be the most talked about quarterback on #DraftTwitter this season. It has been assumed for two years already that Trevor Lawrence will be the top quarterback drafted in 2021, but who comes in at QB2 will be the subject of intense debate. You could easily make the case for Ohio State’s Justin Fields. Or you just may fall in love with Bison signal caller Trey Lance. Lance won the Walter Payton Award in 2019, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman, and was the first (redshirt) freshman to ever win the honor.

Let’s start by taking a look at Lance’s numbers. His measurables certainly stack up at 6030/224 (think Joe Burrow’s size). DraftScout.com predicts Lance would run in the 4.67 range which would make him one of the fastest passers in the last three classes who measure 6020 or taller. As far as his stats go, his 28:0 touchdown to interception ratio speaks for itself, as does his 1,100-14 rushing line.

Since I didn’t watch any of him in 2019 I watched a lengthy Trey Lance highlight package featuring each of NDSU’s playoff games. Lance has the ability to uncork the ball with placement. The reel had two plays where he launched the ball fifty yards downfield to hit a streaking receiver. As his stats would suggest, he does not make mistakes with the ball and he uses his speed and elusiveness well. This clip illustrates all three points succinctly and shows how dangerous Lance can be for defenses. He evades the rush, first to his left then to his right, and isn’t brought down by any of three potential tacklers. As he’s rolling to his right he chucks the ball 30+ yards to a wide open receiver who is able to score. Sure, it would have been nice to lead the receiver on his way to the end zone but let’s not get greedy. The fact that Lance was still upright and able to find his receiver while delivering an accurate off-structure throw is impressive.

Coaches, avert your eyes. This second clip is not the type of play you want to see your quarterback making but as a casual fan I loved it. Lance is not afraid to take a hit or fight for extra yards. This dogpile turns into a rugby scrum that lands beyond the first down marker.

As if you needed another reason to get excited for Lance, I’ll remind you that he stars for FCS darling North Dakota State, and is following in the footsteps of recent NFL draftees Carson Wentz and Easton Stick. He’s only a redshirt sophomore so we don’t know that Lance will be joining the 2021 draft class but if he does he’ll be a priority study.

 

Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia

  • Measurables: 6040/230
  • 2018 Stats (Wake Forest): 6 games, 84-141, 59.6% comp percentage, 1,083 pass yards, 7.7 ypa, 9 pass TDs, 4 INTs, 139.5 rating; 64 rush att, 247 rush yards, 3.9 ypa, 4 rush TDs
  • 2019 Stats (Wake Forest): 12 games, 220-361, 60.9% comp percentage, 2,868 pass yards, 7.9 ypa, 26 pass TDs, 11 INTs, 145.3 rating; 180 rush att, 574 rush yards, 3.2 ypa, 6 rush TDs

Jamie Newman arrives in Athens, GA as a grad transfer from Wake Forest. Newman was the starter for the Demon Deacons last season and put up respectable numbers and a 7-5 record. The Georgia quarterback room was once a strength, with the high-potential trio of Jake Fromm, Jacob Eason and Justin Fields, however times have changed. Newman is penciled in on most depth charts as the presumptive starter even without spring ball because the Bulldogs’ other options are unproven.

On the Cover 3 podcast, Tom Fornelli shared some advanced stats about Newman’s play last season at Wake. One of them was that his on-target percentage was one of the lowest of returning Power 5 quarterbacks. On the other hand, PFF had high grades on Newman and included him on one of its top 2021 prospects lists. (Worth noting, PFF did state that Newman’s game grades were significantly higher with standout WR Sage Surratt in the lineup versus without him.) To make sense of these competing ideals I watched Newman’s film against UNC from 2019. I did take note of some inconsistent placement and touch on Newman’s passes, which led to some overthrows and a bad interception. Newman has eyes for the deep ball and that impressed me more than the overthrows worried me. He keeps the ball high and cocked, ready to unleash it effortlessly downfield. On this sample play Newman takes advantage of three defenders reading the flat pass and lofts one deep for Surratt. The throw is maybe a yard underthrown but Surratt is able to keep enough momentum to score what would ultimately be the deciding touchdown.

With all the talk about his arm I did not expect to see Newman playing in a zone read offense but nearly half his touches in that game were runs. He was productive too, gaining 78 yards and punching it in twice. I don’t think he’s enough of a dual-threat for that to make or break his draft stock but it’s surely a bonus. If Newman can helm a reloading Georgia squad to another SEC East title we’ll be talking about his NFL potential come January.

 

Kyle Trask, QB, Florida

  • Measurables: 6050/239
  • 2018 Stats: 3 games, 14-22, 63.6% comp percentage, 162 pass yards, 7.4 ypa, 1 pass TD, 0 INT, 140.5 rating; 5 rush att, -4 rush yards, 1 rush TD
  • 2019 Stats: 12 games, 237-354, 66.9% comp percentage, 2.941 pass yards, 8.3 ypa, 25 pass TDs, 7 INTs, 156.1 rating; 63 rush att, 8 rush yards, 4 rush TDs

Kyle Trask is a familiar face in Gainesville as he enters his redshirt senior season for the Gators. Trask battled injuries and the depth chart during his first four campaigns and only saw starter’s reps a few games into 2019 when incumbent Feleipe Franks dislocated his ankle. Trask seized his opportunity and led Florida to the Orange Bowl and a 6th ranked finish. Franks has moved on to Arkansas but Trask may still need to fend off the highly touted redshirt sophomore Emory Jones (4-star, 0.9587 composite score per 247Sports). I’ll venture a guess that Trask keeps the starting job but don’t be surprised to see Jones continue to get sub-package touches which may detract from Trask’s final tallies.

The first thing you’ll notice about Trask is his size. I thought for sure his listed weight of 239 must have been a typo so I checked it on the Florida roster itself. Sure enough, 6050/239 it is. Since 2010, only ten quarterbacks have measured as tall and as hefty as Trask’s listed numbers. Ironically that group spans a wide gamut from first overall pick (Cam Newton) to high draft capital busts (Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler) to undrafted projects (Tyree Jackson). To help place him within that rubric, let’s see what some film can tell us.

I watched Trask’s 2019 outing against South Carolina. His final stat line in that game (200 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT) belies what really was a mediocre, at best, performance. Trask’s anticipation, accuracy and touch were inconsistent and tended toward the negative. On the positive side, he is a towering presence in the pocket and isn’t afraid to step into pressure to deliver his throw. He uses his frame well as a short yardage runner and throws accurately on the move. I watched a full-season highlight package to see if those positives stood up over the course of more games and they did. The bottomline: he’s big, has good pocket mobility and somehow makes big plays happen. Here he is embodying that on a key 4th down late against South Carolina where the Gators convert then score the go-ahead touchdown on the next play:

Circle October 31st on your calendar — not for Halloween, but for the Georgia vs Florida matchup in Jacksonville that’s likely to serve as the de facto SEC East championship game. It’ll be a great showcase for both Trask and the aforementioned Jamie Newman to show off their talents in the national spotlight.

 

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
  • 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.

More Analysis by Bob Cowper