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Ranking 16 wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft

Which one will the Eagles pick?

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Why hello there BGN, it has been a while. Draft season is upon us and I have been trying to watch as many prospects as possible so I can complain when my favorite prospect is sitting there and Howie decides to take yet another defensive end...

Anyway, my favorite position to evaluate has always been the wide receiver position so I have been watching a fair few guys this year so I decided I should put out my ranking seeing as the draft is a few weeks away. Like everyone, I have a fair few bad misses at the wide receiver position (there is still hope for Jaelen Strong, Hakeem Butler, and ArDarius Stewart, right?) but I think on the whole I have a pretty decent hit rate at the receiver position. I got JJAW right at least, although I wish I was completely wrong about him!

I think it’s important to be transparent when talking about the draft, so these were my wide receiver rankings for the Eagles last year:

I clearly got Justin Jefferson wrong, although I did have him as WR4 in my own personal rankings but didn’t like the fit for the Eagles. I absolutely loved Brandon Aiyuk and Tee Higgins and I am looking good there right now.

Anyway, on to this year's rankings. I didn’t want to turn this into a full scouting report so I am not posting my strengths and weaknesses in this specific article, just a small summary about what I think about the specific player. If you want a full scouting report for a player below, just comment and I can post what I have saved about them. I will also be talking about all of these players on my podcast Eagles Brawl so you can check that out too! I post a bunch of stuff on my Twitter too - @JonnyPage9.

Final point, this is not my top 16, this is the only 16 I have watched in-depth enough to properly rank them. I haven’t posted exactly where I would draft each one but I have tried to put them in tiers so you can see where I would consider them.

Tier 1: Early 1st

1: Ja’Marr Chase

Chase fits the bill as a very good outside WR who makes his money outside the numbers. Has well-rounded game, good size, explosiveness, and will provide an offensive with a vertical element. Could start as a Z day one but needs to develop ability to get off press in order to be a great X but I expect he will be able to do this. Considering his draft stock, I do question whether his route running is good enough to beat the very elite number 1 cornerbacks where he won’t be physically superior. Then again, there aren’t a lot of WRs who can beat those guys consistently anyway.

2: Devonta Smith

Smith is an incredibly talented prospect. Elite speed, good hands and isn’t just a 1 trick pony on the outside. Will likely need movement to get him off contact at times as he will likely struggle to beat press coverage consistently due to his size (but he did play the X a bit this past season and excelled). Durability concerns are legit considering his frame but he has the talent to be an extremely good NFL WR and will likely be worthwhile of a very high draft pick. I am willing to bank on his talent despite understanding the concerns with his frame.

3: Jaylen Waddle

Limited games in 2020 make Waddle a slight risk but he is a real talent who is worth taking a chance on. An X-Factor who can score from anywhere on the field and has game-breaking speed. He will likely struggle on the outside against bigger physical corners who can press at the next level and will need to be used in the slot/inside alignments as he is better when he is able to get a free release. Still slightly raw in places as a route runner but also runs some routes excellently (such as a deep over, especially from a nasty alignment) and will scare defensive coordinators with his speed and ability after the catch.

Tier 2 - Late 1st-2nd

4: Rashod Bateman

Really intriguing prospect with a good blend of size and speed. Pretty advanced as a route runner and has some nuances to his game. 2019 tape looked a lot better when he was used outside more. Looked stiff in the slot at times and disappointing 2020 may cause him to slide. Despite being versatile, I see him fitting as an ‘X’ or ‘Z’ who can win vertically and with deep breaking ins. Question he will need to answer is does he have to speed to provide big plays in the passing game.

5: Kadarius Toney

Toney will suit a lot of modern offenses who expect their slot receiver to perform a number of different roles. Toney will be very effective in the short game where he has the ability to break tackles and even create yards after contact. The big question that will determine his ceiling is whether he is fast enough to provide big plays down the field too. He was only used sparingly last year on deeper throws, but did catch 7 of his 9 deep targets for 266 yards and 4 TDs which suggests he could have untapped potential here. He isn’t physically powerful and won’t win a lot of contested catches but is an explosive weapon who can be used in numerous ways by a creative offensive mind as an offenses WR2/3.

6: Tylan Wallace

Wallace’s tape impressed me a lot. In a league where it is getting harder and harder to find quality receivers who excel outside the numbers, he stands out as someone who can do this. He doesn’t run a huge amount of routes but I don’t see that as a major problem as long as he is used similarly at the next level. I am in the minority (I believe) as I think Wallace has the potential to play the X position and face up to press coverage. He will require some time to develop his release but he if is able to do this I think he could be a steal for whoever takes him. I know this is a risk to put him this high but I am willing to stand up for him as ‘my guy’ this year...

Tier 3: 2nd-3rd

7: Elijah Moore

Moore is a classic quick twitch smaller receiver who is limited to the slot but can create explosive plays out of nothing. He showed really good hands which will allow him to make tough catches over the middle too, something you often associate with bigger wide receivers. Despite his size, he is well built and is not easy to bring down with the ball in his hands. A creative offensive mind will enjoy using him on a variety of shorter routes and getting him the ball in space. However, he won’t just need manufactured touches as he has shown he is also a good route runner and will separate against man coverage.

8: Terrace Marshall

Fits the profile of a big slot WR who provides a nice catch radius over the middle of the field. He has the ball tracking ability and size to be a weapon vertically but didn’t show it last year and struggled to separate down the field. He has the ability to be a very reliable weapon from the slot with his size and movement skills but he has to clean up the drops. Hard for a player with the profile like him to succeed though if he doesn’t cut out the questionable drops.

9: Rondale Moore

Intriguing player with a lot of question marks. A big play waiting to happen with the ball in his hands with elite YAC, power, speed and vision. Can’t just line him up and expect him to win. Played in an offense where he wasn’t used on vertical routes so difficult to know if he can provide an offense with a vertical element. If an offense wants a spark in the short game, then Moore will be a perfect fit. Question is, can he separate v. man coverage consistently or he is a ‘gadget guy’ only who requires manufactured touches to succeed. He was used as a gadget buy largely in college but that doesn’t mean he can’t do more.

10: Sage Surratt

Sage Surratt is one of the most interesting prospects at WR in this class. He is a bit of a ‘boom/bust’ prospect in my opinion but I would be willing to take a risk on his talent. He has elite size and physicality and could develop into a ‘X’ receiver. I do not see him as a big slot and think he will struggle anywhere but outside the numbers. His lack of separation will cause him trouble as he will not win in contested situations as much against good NFL corners. However, I think his elite length, ball tracking and body control means he can instantly become a weapon in the Red Zone and at ‘Z’ if he struggles against press coverage. He is certainly not a safe prospect but he has talent that is worth taking a shot on if you want a playmaker outside the numbers.

11: Amon-Ra St. Brown

St Brown should fit really well into a West Coast/Spread system that utilizes the short to intermediate passing game a lot. He has excellent hands and body control and is a threat in the Red Zone. He does have athletic limitations and he won’t provide an offense with a big play threat as he has explosive limitations, but he is a savvy route runner who will make consistent catches. He’s a guy I’d like to have on my football team but as a WR3 rather than a WR1/2 due to his lack of explosiveness.

12: Dyami Brown

Will fit well in a vertical offense that throws the ball down the field often. Brown probably doesn’t have the size/movement to beat press coverage and therefore won’t line up as an ‘X’ despite playing this in college. Best case is a WR2 in the NFL but probably is better suited to a WR3/4 position. Lack of change of direction skills and YAC makes his value in the short/intermediate game quite poor. However, he has great ball tracking skills and runs some excellent downfield routes outside the numbers so he will have a role on an NFL team.

Tier 4: 4th-5th

13: Amari Rodgers

Rodgers looks like a generic slot receiver who can win in the short game and will create yards after contact on bubble screens etc. His value will rise if he can add a deep threat which he didn’t show last year. He won’t be able to separate on the outside at the next level. His questionable hands will also become an issue if he is highly targeted on short routes. I would like to see him in the backfield at times due to his build. Unless he can provide a vertical threat, I see him as a WR3 at best at the next level.

14: Tamorrion Terry

I struggle to see anything more than a WR 4/5 who can contribute with in the Red Zone. Someone will take a chance on Terry due to his great size and ability to play outside the numbers but I am not sure he has the explosiveness or ability to separate that he will need at the next level. I don’t think he has the movement skills to move into the slot either where some bigger receivers have found success by boxing out smaller CBs. I see him as your backup X/Z receiver who can come in on specific situations and can provide you with a nice matchup if you face a team with a smaller outside CB.

15: Seth Williams

Williams has a lot of work to do at the next level to become a starting WR. He does have ideal size and length and a team will hope that they can develop him into something more than a WR4/5 but he has a lot to improve on. He flashes some ability at times but it is very inconsistent. He had too many drops and didn’t win enough in contested situations despite his size. His QB was not very good but it doesn’t make up for some of the bad tape. I am not sure he has the explosiveness or route running to ever be more than a WR4/5 but he can still be used in certain packages and in the Red Zone where his length will be useful.

16: Tutu Atwell

Atwell will always have value on an NFL roster because you don’t get many players as fast as he is. However, except for that speed, he doesn’t have a lot else going for him and he just looks very small on a football field. I would expect him to be a WR4 who can be used in a specific role on shot plays, WR reverses, and as a decoy. Smart offensive minds will find ways to use him but I highly doubt he will ever be a starter.

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I hope you enjoyed BGN! Will try get to some other positions over the next couple of weeks and let me know if you have any questions about how I came to these rankings and I will let you know below.