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These guys will look to become the future playmakers of NFL franchises. Today I rank the top five wide receiver prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Ja'Marr Chase- LSU
Bio: A Louisiana native, Ja'Marr Chase stayed home and attend LSU. His sophomore year, led the FBS in receiving yards with 1,780 yards on 84 catches and 20 receiving touchdowns while winning the Fred Biletnikoff award as the best receiver in the nation and helping the Tigers to a National Championship title. Chase opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the pros.
Strengths: Weight room warrior. Well developed lower body. Can be smooth, calm, and explosive. Eight career 50+ yard touchdown catches. Ankle braking acceleration up field to gain separation from flat footed coverage. Knows how to use hands to fight off press corners. Rare ball tracking and route adjustment skills. Goes high gracefully to grab 50-50 balls. Gets two feet down on boundary catches. Gets open when play goes off script for his quarterback. Will require scheme planning down the line. "Stickum" hands. Quick reaction hand catches. Instinctively boxes out on contested balls. Easily adjusts to balls thrown away from his frame. Speed to take it all the way on slant and go routes.
Weaknesses: Foot quickness off release and breaks is just average. Upright stance could be disrupted by taller press corners in the pros. Must maintain speed throughout the play more consistently. Route running can be lazy at times. Doesn't fool coverage on curl routes. Fairly basic route tree at LSU. Slow to get open on comebacks. Blocking could improve.
Pro Comparison: AJ Brown
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles
2. DeVonta Smith- Alabama
Bio: As a true freshman for Alabama, DeVonta Smith made his name in Crimson Tide history by catching the game winning touchdown in overtime of the 2017 National Championship. As a senior he broke the all-time SEC career record for most receiving touchdowns and became just the third wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy with 117 receptions for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns while helping the Tide to another National Championship title.
Strengths: Smooth route runner with long strides. Maintained production no matter who was at quarterback. Can play outside or in the slot. Uses shifty feet, lean, and shoulder turn to get free from press coverage. Quick release off the line ideal for comebacks. Fluid route running at all three levels. Route tempo keeps corners and safeties off guard. Rare ability to break and sink for a quicker receiver. Won't drop catchable balls. Will rarely see him catch with his body. Prime body control and focus on high passes. Makes defenders look silly with acrobatic catches. Desire to fight back to the ball and get separation. Able to slip first hit and find daylight. Has experience as a return man and gunner.
Weaknesses: Rail thin with not much room for much added mass without affecting speed. Frame could raise concerns about durability. Vigorous, but play strength well below average. Can be forced to the sideline on outside release. Gets harassed at the top of routes occasionally. Bigger corners will neutralize him on 50-50 balls.
Pro Comparison: Amari Cooper
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Detroit Lions
broke the all-time SEC career record for most receiving touchdowns
3. Jaylon Waddle- Alabama
Bio: As a true freshman at Alabama, Jaylen Waddle was named the SEC Freshman of the Year after recording 45 catches for 848 yards and seven touchdowns. As a sophomore, he was the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year thanks to his skills as a return specialist.
Strengths: Blazing speed to terrify any defensive coordinator. Eleven of his 20 career touchdowns went for 50 yards or more. Rattles corners by frequently changing route speed. Good luck sticking to him on crossing routes. Fluid hips to break freely through routes. Knows how to sell double moves. Fluidity to maintain speed through transitions. Surprising lower body strength to fight through press corners. Dangerous at all three levels. Quick to locate and adjust to deep balls. Maintains pace through catch rather than slowing down and gathering. Elusiveness to embarrass tackle angles. Quietly dangerous leaper on high balls. Scrappy as a run blocker. Will be a day one starter as a return specialist.
Weaknesses: Was never really tested by complicated coverage in 2020. Pro press corners will challenge him off the line. Will body catch at times rather than plucking the ball out of the air. Had drops on anticipation throws out of breaks. never produced enough to be considered the number one receiver in an offense. Missed a lot of 2020 with a broken ankle.
Pro Comparison: Henry Ruggs III
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins
4. Rashod Bateman- Minnesota
Bio: Despite receiving late recruiting interest from many top level college programs, Rashod Bateman chose to stay true to his junior commitment and attend Minnesota. He started at wide receiver as a true freshman and set Minnesota freshman records with 51 receptions for 704 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He came into his own as a sophomore with 57 passes for 1,170 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Strengths: Ideal size to play on the outside. Diverse set in release moves. Smooth route tree. Instinctively improvises and gets open when play breaks down. Limber upper body to adjust mid air. Steady acceleration to challenge 50-50 balls. NFL ready hands. Catches crossing routes without loosing momentum. Extends arms to cleanly pluck balls away from his body. Has some spectacular catches on his résumé. Surprisingly elusive after the catch.
Weaknesses: Release from press can be occasionally stiff. Has had issues with stronger corners in the past. Stiff hips could limit route complexities in the pros. Change of direction acceleration is just average. Not great at tracking and adjusting to deep balls. Too often allows defenders into his frame to narrow passing windows. Wasn't consistent against elite college corners. Unknown technique as a blocker.
Pro Comparison: Michael Gallup
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals
5. Kadarius Toney- Florida
Bio: A dual threat quarterback in high school, Kadarius Toney signed on at Florida as an versatile athlete. Over time he developed from an occasionally gadget player to starting wide receiver.
Strengths: Accelerates early to get open. Joints like rubber for quick change of direction. Athletic ability to handle complex route at the first two levels. Has an unguardable inside pivot whip route in his arsenal. Dangerous on slants and for any gadget play offensive coordinators can come up with. Fought through injury to dominate LSU in 2020. Surprising over the shoulder ball tracking ability. Not afraid to catch away from his body. Good vision to find open space after the catch. Strong legs to elude or break tackles. Quietly physical with the ball in his hands. Maintains speed through contact to finish runs. Capable punt returner.
Weaknesses: Only one season of serious productivity. Route speed drops at times. Route running flaws will need coached up. Too much wasted movement and improvisation out of breaks. Play strength needs improvement at the top of routes. More quick than fast. May struggle with underneath contested catches. Injury history that caused him to miss several games in 2017 and 2019.
Pro Comparison: Robert Woods
Projected Round: 1
Possible Landing Spot: New York Jets
Other Notable Prospects
Nico Collins- Michigan
- Good size and athleticism, struggles to gain separation
Seth Williams- Auburn
- Jump ball winner, too many focus drops
Anthony Schwartz- Auburn
- Deep threat receiver, still fairly raw
Rondale Moore- Purdue
- Deadly speed, too short and small for some teams
Terrace Marshall- LSU
- Long and well built, timing must improve
D'Wayne Eskridge- Western Michigan
- Quick twitch athlete, odd looking frame
Amon-Ra St. Brown- USC
- Slick route runner, small catch radius
Chatarius Atwell- Louisville
- Great straight line speed, very undersized
Tylan Wallace- Oklahoma State
- Good ball tracker, lacks agility
Sage Surratt- Wake Forest
- Good size and strength, average athlete
Elijah Moore- Ole Miss
- Smart against zone schemes, struggles to separate from press
Frank Darby- Arizona State
- Solid hands catcher, questionable long speed
Tyler Vaughns- USC
- Smooth route runner, thin frame with little play strength
Amari Rodgers- Clemson
- Ideal gadget player, limited route tree
Shi Smith- South Carolina
- Aggressive slot receiver, unpolished route running
Damonte Coxie- Memphis
- Great length, rather thin
Dyami Brown- North Carolina
- Inside and outside versatility, unreliable hands
Dazz Newsome- North Carolina
- Quick feet, struggles with contact
Brennan Eagles- Texas
- Massive size, lack flexibility
Marquez Stevenson- Houston
- Swift slot receiver, slow burst
Demetric Felton- UCLA
- Diverse skill set, poor contact balance
Simi Fehoko- Stanford
- Great athlete for his size, raw as a route runner
Jhamon Ausbon- Texas A&M
- Dense frame, poor agility
Cornell Powell- Clemson
- Nice footwork, low level of production
Ibmir Smith Marsette- Iowa
- Good burst, questionable play strength
Whop Philyor- Indiana
- Soft hands, limited athletic ability
Josh Palmer- Tennessee
- Nice release of the snap, slow after the catch
Racey McMath- LSU
- Impressive athlete, failed to produce consistent stats
Isaiah McKoy- Kent State
- Former track runner, needs added play strength
Josh Imatorbhebhe- Illinois
- Freakish athleticism, lacks fluidity
Cade Johnson- South Dakota State
- Played well against tough competition, very undersized
Osirus Mitchell- Mississippi State
- Massive size, limited play speed