2021 NFL Draft Profiles Wide Receivers part I

By John Laub
John Laub



  Rating the Receivers


       2021 Wide Receiver Prospects part I




Every evening over the past month, I have had a difficult decision: Do I watch WandaVision or scout NFL Draft prospects? Despite my love of the Marvel Universe, I turned on the tape knowing that I could binge watch television shows after the Draft in April.


I watched hours of film and am done with film grades for the WR Class of 2021. I identified the finest prospects, and it is a captivating group. Nonetheless, before I published my elite wide outs, I reflected on my model over the past seven seasons. From 2014-2020, I rated the Top 20 prospects in regard to the benchmarks in my college-production model. The exclusive playmakers are listed in the chart below:




In full disclosure, there are misses among my pre-draft rankings of players who I rated too low or high: Kelvin Benjamin, Kevin White, Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson, Laquon Treadwell, Zay Jones and Dante Pettis. The goal moving forward is to continue to improve on my film review and model in order to better provide rankings for readers.


Looking back, film assessment grades weighed too heavily in my final analysis. Moving forward, the college production model and tape review will be more equally considered in my rankings.


In regard to the top twelve players in this year’s class, there is disparity among the NFL scouting community and fantasy football universe. Nevertheless, I feel confident in my Class of 2021 prospect rankings.


Without question, speed and size often separates the All-American from a Pro Bowler and cannot be ignored when evaluating players. Seven indicators (Career Receptions, Yards per Reception, Catch Percentage, Team Aerial Dominator, 40-yard dash, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle) among future receivers provide additional insight into long-term NFL potential and anchor my production model. My top wide receivers are profiled for readers.


Enjoy my fellow Diehards!


Benchmark Statistics and Measurements for Draft Consideration

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 150

Yards per Reception: 15.0

Catch Percentage: 65%

Team Aerial Dominator: 30%

Breakaway Ability

40-yard Dash: 4.50 seconds (or less)

3-cone Drill: 6.90 seconds (or less)

20-yard Shuttle: 4.20 seconds (or less)

Official Pro-Day measurements will be updated as available.


1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU

Another specular Tigers’ playmaker declares for the Draft. In 2019, Biletnikoff Award Winner, First Team All-SEC and unanimous All-American. Set SEC single-season marks with 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. In CFP Championship Game, dominated Clemson Tigers with nine receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Recorded three 200-yard games—first in program history. In 2018, early breakout as a true freshman: started seven games and logged 23 catches for 313 yards, averaging 13.6 ypc., and three touchdowns. In Fiesta Bowl versus UCF, snatched six passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. In high school, four-star prospect by ESPN and Rivals. Ranked as No. 19 receiver in country by 247Sports. Played in Under Armour All-American game. Won 5A state title in long jump as a junior. Opted out of 2020 crusade and prepared for the NFL Draft. At 6’0” and 201-pounds, über game breaker with elite combination of strength, speed, quickness and toughness. Clean route runner. Competitive athlete who battles for, and wins, with ball in the air. Instinctive pass catcher with first-rate body control and strong hands. Makes a living winning contested balls. In open space, turns on afterburners and leaves defenders in the dust. Very good contact balance. Unbelievable competitor with alpha dog mindset: Challenges defensive backs and fights for football. Uses strength to gain separation. Not an elite blocker. Occasionally drops football. Best receiver prospect in the 2021 Class and a Top Ten selection in April.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 107

Yards per Reception: 19.6

2019 Season

Catch Percentage: 66%

Team Aerial Dominator: 30%

Breakaway Ability (Pro Day Results)

40-yard Dash: 4.34

3-cone Drill: 6.96

20-yard Shuttle: 4.34

Draft GradeFirst Round



2. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota

Golden Gophers' big-bodied game breaker jump starts professional career after three seasons. In 2018, Outstanding Offensive Freshman and Big Ten Freshman of the Week versus Illinois. In 2019, First Team All-Big Ten—60 for 1,219 and 11 touchdowns—Big Ten's Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year, Biletnikoff Award Finalist, AP Third-Team All-America and Bronko Nagurski Award as the Team MVP. In 2020, All-Big Ten Third Team. Established many school records: sophomore receiving yards (1,219), sophomore receiving touchdowns (11), freshman receptions (51) and freshman receiving yards (704). Caught at least one pass in each game during campus tenure. Four-star recruit in high school. At 6’0” and 190-pounds, extraordinary combination of pass-catching, route running and ball tracking skills. Stupendous route runner who rapidly snaps in and out of breaks. Rapidly accelerates off the line of scrimmage. Devious route specialist and target magnet. Employs double moves and head fakes to get open. Separates at the top of the route stem. Easily changes direction. Uses size to outmuscle opponents and wins one-on-one battles. Diverse route tree on resume and employed all over the formation. A yards-after-catch master. Large-catch radius and strong hands. Lacks top end speed and must improve against press coverage. High-ceiling prospect who can become the focal point of a team’s aerial assualt as an “X” receiver.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 147

Yards per Reception: 16.3

2020 Season

Catch Percentage: 64%

Team Aerial Dominator: 34%

Breakaway Ability (Pro Day Results)

40-yard Dash: 4.39

Draft Grade: First Round


3. DeVonta Smith, Alabama

Compiled one of the best resumes in the history of college football. In 2020, Heisman Trophy Winner becoming only the fourth receiver—Johnny Rogers (’72), Tim Brown (’87) and Desmond Howard (’91)—to capture the award. AP Player of the Year—first receiver to win the honor. Paul Hornung Award, First Team All-American, Biletnikoff Award winner and Team Captain. Broke Ja’Marr Chase’s single-season receiving records with 1,850 yards and 23 touchdowns. Holds Alabama and SEC marks for career touchdowns (46) and receiving yards (3,965). Established a Crimson Tide mark with five 200-yard receiving games and 235 career catches. Logged 13 100-yard outings. In 2019, Second Team All-American and AP First Team All-SEC. In 2017, played in every game as a true freshman and secured game-winning touchdown in National Championship Game versus Georgia. In high school, five-star prospect out of Louisiana and No. 3 wide out in the nation. Joined a crowded Crimson Tide locker room at receiver with Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and Jayden Waddle. At 6’0” and 166-pounds, quick-twitch competitor with elusive speed. Savvy route runner with jitter-bug moves. Possesses sure hands and outstanding body control. Easily corrals ball in traffic. First-rate concentration and snags ball high and low. Polished, smooth and nuanced route runner. Quickly separates from defensive backs. A YAC Wizard: Breaks away from defenders and explodes into open space. Employed all over the formation and diverse route tree on resume. Can play inside and outside of hashmarks. A versatile playmaker in the NFL with first-round grade.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 235

Yards per Reception: 16.9

2020 Season

Catch Percentage: 80%

Team Aerial Dominator: 40%

Draft Grade: First Round



4. Elijah Moore, Mississippi

Rebels’ speedster leaves campus after three seasons to pursue NFL career. In 2020, First Team All-American, First Team All-SEC and Biletnikoff Award Finalist. Produced school record 86 receptions for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns. Led nation in receiving yards per game (149.1) and receptions per game (10.8). Set program mark with three 200-yard receiving games. In 2019, Third Team All-SEC and paced team in receiving with 67 catches for 850 yards and six touchdowns. As a true freshman in 2018, appeared in every game and logged 36 receptions for 398 yards and two touchdowns. Finished Mississippi tenure third in career receptions (189), fourth in yards (2,441) and third in receiving touchdowns (16). In high school, four-star recruit and No. 24 WR in the nation by ESPN. A tough and savvy competitor at 5’9” and 178-pounds. Short-range agility and burst: Rapidly releases off line of scrimmage. Slot receiver with electric explosiveness and super speed. Smooth in space and quickly changes directions. Thrilling in between the hashmarks and middle of the secondary. Identifies holes in zone coverage. Sticky hands combined with first-rate body control. Stupendous second-level vision: Finds open lanes downfield. Violent competitor. Young breakout age. Very small frame and catch radius. Struggles in contested catches. Overlooked playmaker with a high ceiling in the NFL.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 189

Yards per Reception: 12.9

2020 Season

Catch Percentage: 84%

Team Aerial Dominator: 35%

Breakaway Ability (Pro Day Results)

40-yard Dash: 4.35

3-cone Drill: 6.63

20-yard Shuttle: 4.07

Draft Grade: First Round


5. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama

Crimson Tide speedster jettisoned campus early to ignite professional career. In 2020, Second Team All-SEC return specialist. Selected to the preseason watch lists for the Biletnikoff, Hornung and Maxwell Awards. Suffered injury against Tennessee and played in only six games. In 2019, First Team All-American (FWAA & PFF), Second Team All-America as a returner, SEC Special Teams Player of the Year and AP Second Team All-SEC (AP). Led nation in punt return average (24.4). In 2018, named SEC All-Freshman Team and averaged 18.8 yards per catch. Snagged 45 passes for 848 yards and seven touchdowns. Posted three of the top-five longest touchdown receptions in program history. Among Crimson Tide returners, ranks first all-time on punt returns, averaging 19.3 yards. In high school, four-star prospect and rated among the Top 10 Texas prospects. 247Sports ranked Waddle as the No. 9 WR in the country. At 5’10” and 182-pounds, chess-piece competitor who lined up all over the formation. Dynamic playmaker. Tremendous hand-eye coordination and wide-catch radius. Smooth footwork and fluid movement. Great initial burst and sharp cuts. Impressive change of direction skills. Uses jab steps and head fakes to create separation. Takes quick passes and jet sweeps to the house. Stupendous return specialist who excels up field in space after the catch. Acceleration and agility to slip and slide through the secondary. Never played a full season. Lean and smaller frame. Suffered ankle injury in 2020. Higher ceiling prospect than model indicates and a team will covet upside potential.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 106

Yards per Reception: 18.9

2018 Season

Catch Percentage: 74%

Team Aerial Dominator: 17%

Draft Grade: First Round



6. Terrace Marshall, LSU

Tigers’ wide receiver factory (Odell Beckham, Jr., Jarvis Landry, DJ Chark, Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase) yeilds another gamebreaker. In 2020, played in seven games and snagged 48 passes for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2019, third member of the receiver corps to score double-digit touchdowns for the record-breaking LSU offense. In 2018, a freshman who saw limited action in 13 games. Career: Scored double-digit touchdowns (13 & 10) in 2019 and 2020. Recorded 94 receptions and scored 23 TDs (24% TD Rate) over past two campaigns. In high school, No. 1 prospect in Louisiana and No. 2 WR recruit in the nation by Scout. Sidelined senior season due to injury. 2018 Under Armour All-American. Played forward on the basketball team. At 6’2” and 205-pounds, idyllic combination of height, weight and speed. Physical competitor with stupendous run after catch capability, ball tracking skills and body control. Precise route runner. Sells routes and twists ankles of opponents. Long and fluid athlete who gets in and out of breaks. Big and strong hands. Long strider who creates separation late in route. Big-framed deep threat: Vertically challenges safeties. Premier playmaker on the boundary as “X” receiver. Runs with purpose and anger downfield. Enjoys blocking in the ground game. Drops too many passes. Needs to improve release off line of scrimmage. Does not garner enough dialogue in the Dynasty community.

Key Career Stats

Receptions: 106

Yards per Reception: 15.0

2020 Season

Catch Percentage: 63%

Team Aerial Dominator: 35%

Breakaway Ability (Pro Day Results)

40-yard Dash4.40

Draft Grade: Second Round


It is John Laub’s eighth year publishing The Scholar’s Study Sheets: NFL Draft Prospects. With his Masters in history and professional experience as an educator, Laub is uniquely qualified to research, analyze and discover new insights and trends in college and professional football. Laub has played fantasy football over thirty years and published articles for FootballDiehards.com for well over 25 years. He won $10,000 in 1993, defeating nearly 15,000 owners, and published Audibles: Winning is Everything in the 1990s. He truly is The Gridiron Scholar.

Twitter: @GridironSchol91 or e-mail: Audibles@aol.com