The NFL Draft is a few short weeks away and we have another great class of wide receivers. The 2020 class was loaded with talent including rookie of the year runner up Justin Jefferson, Tee Higgins, Chase Claypool, and CeeDee Lamb just to name a few of the standouts. The 2021 class won’t have as much depth, but certainly has talent at the top that we will break down the top 5 candidates heading into this year’s draft.
#1: Devonta Smith – Alabama
Smith was the Heisman winner for a reason, he had an incredible season with Mac Jones under center. Smith had over 600 more yards than the next closest receiver in the country. He managed to get over 1,800 receiving yards and over 3,000 yards in 2 seasons. Smith has been stellar and has consistently put up games of over 100 yards and oftentimes over 200 yards. Devonta Smith has drawn concerns regarding his size as we haven’t seen many receivers under 180 pounds excel once they reach the big leagues. One receiver who meets this criteria is someone Smith shares many similarities with and that is Desean Jackson who has had a great career in the NFL. Smith has potential to be better than Jackson and is on his way to doing so if he can land in the right offensive scheme.
#2: Jaylen Waddle – Alabama
The other receiving weapon on the Crimson Tide’s offense is Jaylen Waddle. Despite missing a significant chunk of the season with injuries, Waddle still managed to haul in nearly 600 receiving yards. Waddle has drawn comparison to Henry Ruggs of the 2020 draft class for his explosiveness and ability to make plays downfield. This is what offensive coordinators in the NFL look for and Ruggs hasn’t panned out as the Las Vegas Raiders would have hoped in his first season in the league, we expect Waddle to fare better in the upcoming season regardless of where he lands.
#3: Ja’Marr Chase – LSU
Ja’Marr Chase may very well go down as the best receiver in this draft class. Chase has raw talent with pure physicality in his play-making abilities. Chase opted out of the 2020 season which does hurt his draft stock in our rankings. In the 2019 season, Chase had a tremendous season alongside fellow breakout receiver in the NFL, Justin Jefferson. Chase and Jefferson both had #1 overall pick, Joe Burrow, to rely on. Without Burrow in 2020 at LSU, if Chase had played, who knows how well he would have played. There is no denying Chase’s talent, but without getting a look at how he plays in a system without 3 standout players like Burrow, Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jefferson, we can’t give Chase a fair assessment of how he will produce in the NFL where offensive schemes are very unpredictable.
#4: Rashod Bateman – Minnesota
The 4-star recruit is ready for the NFL and many teams should look at Bateman in the late 1st round. Bateman would fit in well with a team who already has a #1 receiver on their team so he can play in the slot or be a vertical threat. Bateman runs his routes well and can make separation between him and the defender downfield which makes him a viable option for many teams needing another receiving threat without having to trade up into the top 10 or using one of their first picks if they are in the top 10 to land Bateman. Bateman would be a good #2 receiver once he enters the big leagues.
#5: Elijah Moore – Ole Miss
Elijah Moore is the best Moore in this draft. Elijah slightly edges out Rondale Moore for the 5th spot in this draft class. Rondale’s lack of staying healthy is what kept him out of the top 5 in this ranking. Elijah has better capability of being durable and is one of the hardest working players on the field. Moore gives it his all and can be the steal of the draft. Moore has elite potential with his speed, agility, and ability to make a play in traffic. Moore’s lack of size will hold him back, but similar to Devonta Smith, Elijah Moore still can produce at a high level and can get past a defender when it matters. Moore should be a quality wide receiver in the NFL and return specialist if teams utilize him to his maximum capabilities.