Top prospects by position
Quarterbacks | Running on your back | Wide receivers | Tight ends
1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
After a dominant sophomore season (84 / 1,780 / 20) at LSU with Joe Burrow behind center, Chase chose not to participate in 2020 due to Covid concerns. His best success came in four explosive games (10/229/4, 8/227/3, 7/197/7 and 9/221/2) while he also gained more than 100 yards in five other contests (8/147, 7 / 127/2, 8/123, 6/140/1 and 6/144/2).
He comes to the NFL with some concern about his journey and his ability to beat the press against the best physical cornerbacks. I don’t see opinion or thought as a problem. Chase will work the short areas of the field to move the chain in quick inclines, returns and crossover patterns. LSU used it in bubble screens and deep cuts showing its versatility to make plays in the passing game. You will need to hone some areas of your game at the next level. Chase works hard as he owns the moves to shine across the field.
Chase thrived by winning on deep passes thanks to his big hands and explosiveness on long field in college. It will have double coverage and will win a lot of jumps. His basic skill set is elite while he has a roof that makes a difference.
The NFL has lacked the next wave of 100-catch electric wide receivers to replace Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall. Chase will stand tall in the NFL while he hopes he has a Hall of Fame career. He should be the first wide receiver off the board this season, and I expect the Bengals to jump in and add him with their young developing offense with the fifth overall pick.
2. Devonta Smith, Alabama
In each season in Alabama, Smith improved every one of his stats. His window of playing time and opportunities were limited early in his college career because Crimson Tide had exceptional depth and talent as a wide receiver (Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle). After showing growth in 2019 (68 / 1,256 / 14), Smith won the Heisman Trophy last season after catching 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He closed the year with three explosive exhibitions (15/184/2, 7/130/3 and 12/215/3), the latter in the national championship game.
Smith can run a forty-yard dash under 4.40, but he’s lacking in size (6’0 ”and 175 pounds), which may deter some teams from adding him as a franchise first-round pick. He makes up for this deficit with an excellent road run, extreme speed and open field skill.
Alabama used him on many plays last year where he started behind the scrimmage line to take advantage of his speed and quickness. His movements and structure had the feel of DeSean Jackson, but Smith will have a lot more opportunities in the short areas of the field. I hope it has an out-of-the-slot edge, and it will come off the line better than expected against press coverage for its size and strength.
3. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
During three seasons in Alabama, Waddle caught 106 passes for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns. His best year came in his first year (45/848/7). In 2020, he missed six games with an ankle injury. Waddle started last season with four dynamic games (8/134/2, 5/142/1, 6/120 and 6/161/1), which was his first chance to shine as a top two receiver for Crimson Tide. . . He returned 20 punts for 487 yards and a touchdown in his sophomore year, plus five kickoffs for 175 yards and a touchdown.
His game in college gives him a sense of threat of explosive depth, but his quickness, vision, and route execution project him to be a more well-rounded player. Waddle is excellent in the outfield with the ball in his hands while playing bigger than his size (5’10 ”and 180 lbs.). His experience in front of press coverage is limited and many of his captures arrived in space.
I feel Antonio Brown traits with much less experience and opportunities in college. Waddle has lower body strength with the skill set to create a capture window across the field. I would love to see him land in Green Bay to play on the opposite side of Davante Adams.
4. Terrace Marshall, LSU
In 2019, Marshall caught a portion of Joe Burrow’s journey to the national championship, leading to 46 receptions for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns. He reviewed the first seven games last year (48/731/10) before opting out. His best start came in Game 3 (11/23/3) of the season against Missouri.
He projects to be a vertical threat early in his career while dealing damage on return shots. Marshall offers size (6’2 ”and 205 pounds) and speed (4.38 forty on his pro day). Its release seems questionable and lacks tempo. To reach a high level, you need to add more fighting to your game from the start and at the top of your routes.
Overall, Marshall has a pro feel with the talent to play well as WR2 on superior offense. Your roof falls on your motivation to work hard on your running route.
5. Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
Moore is another undersized wide receiver (5’9 “and 185 pounds) in the draft class of 2021. He finished last year with eight receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns, which is even more impressive when he has just eight games. played. Moore had seven games with 10 or more receptions. His season began with an excellent start (10/227) and ended with three impact games in a row (14/238/3, 13/225/2 and 12/139).
He projects himself as a slot catcher with the ability to test defense in the deep passing game. Moore will be a zone buster while possibly fighting physical corners in tight cover. His release looks good with his hands to win in tight spaces.
Moore continues to improve while offering a sneaky edge. His reported time of 40 yards (under 4.40) put him in the game with the best receivers in this year’s draft. An NFL team looking for an inside receiver will be delighted with what he brings. The Saints were successful with Brandin Cooks, who may be the best place for Moore to start running.
6. Expenditure Bateman, Minnesota
In his second season in 2019, Bateman caught 60 receptions for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns to move his name onto the NFL’s radar. He played in five games last season (36/472/2) before deciding not to participate after a game was canceled due to Covid. Bateman finished his college career with six impact games (7/175/2, 7/105/1, 6/177/2, 7/203/1, 6/147/1 and 10/139/1) in 31 starts. . .
Bateman has a good sense for placing defenders off the line and the skill set to make plays at all three levels of defense. His hands are an asset as they reach 6’0 ”and 190 pounds. He lacks the quickness to create space in a deep road tree, and elite cornermen can stop him.
There’s a good player in the Bateman pack while improving in a couple of crucial areas. I hope it is written higher than most sites have it rated.
7. Kadarius Toney, Florida
After working in a split role between running back and wide receiver for his first three seasons (1,025 yards combined with three touchdowns and 50 receptions), Toney had a starting opportunity for Florida in 2020. He finished 70 receptions for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns with some damage to the ground (19/161/1). His star rose in his last three games (8/108/1, 9/182/1 and 8/153/1) in his college career.
He came to the Gators as a quarterback while transitioning to wide receiver. Toney lost time in two seasons due to injuries, which restricted his development. His running route has a runner feel in that he relies on head and shoulder fakes to create space and separation. His game rates well in the open field thanks to his wiggle in space.
To make an impact in the NFL, Toney needs to improve his running route. His lower half paves the way to success, and he catches the ball well when given the opportunity. Early in his career, Toney can land a role as a kickback.
8. Nico Collins, Michigan
During his last two seasons at Michigan, he worked as a deep threat that led to 75 receptions for 1,361 yards and 13 touchdowns. He opted out of 2020. His best start came last year against Indiana (6/165/3), while he failed to gain more than 100 yards in any other game of his career.
He brings size (6’4 ”and 215 pounds) and speed (4.42 forty) to the wide receiver position, but Collins offers minimal value in the short areas of the field. His hands play well although they lack depth in his career path. He’ll turn heads in the deep passing game as he needs a long passing window to have a productive day at receptions. Collins doesn’t shoot from the scrimmage into the press with too many comments when declaring his direction outside of his breaks.
Collins appears to be a developing player with little chance of starting early in his career. An NFL team looking to expand the field with four wide receivers will be drawn to it after the first two rounds of the draft.
More NFL Draft Coverage:
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.