Here at Touchdown Wire we tend to go to 11. In an homage to “This is Spinal Tap” we like to rank players, including draft prospects, in terms of our Top 11.
When it came to wide receivers, I needed to go past 11.
Why? Because this is a tremendous class of prospects and I wanted to include everyone who I personally would feel comfortable drafting in the first two rounds. That leaves us with 14 receivers who I truly enjoyed watching, and wanted to make sure got their just due.
We also have a player who is considered the best at his position elsewhere, but is worthy of including among receivers. You probably know who I am referring to…
It is also helpful to think of these players in tiers. The top four are the “Big Four” in my mind, and honestly you can place them in any order you want. The fourth player is a bit of a polarizing prospect, particularly after his pro day, so I might be higher on him than most. The player ranked fifth is one of the unicorns of the draft, a player on his own tier. Then the group clustered seventh through ninths are similar “offensive weapons,” but player who are likely going to be slot receivers only in the NFL. Whether the NFL values them high or not remains to be seen.
Enough chatting, let’s get ranking.
Note: The percentiles in parentheses listed next to pro day data are compared to all historical athletic testing (combine and pro day) at the respective position of the player. Kudos to Pro Football Focus, and their Pro Day Schedule and Results Tracker, for this. As there was no scouting combine in 2021, and pro day schedules vary, we may not have all testing information for all prospects at publication time. For offensive tackles whose positional specificity is in question, we will include percentiles for both positions per PFF’s data.
1. Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
(Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'0" (42nd) Weight: 201 (50th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.38 seconds (89th) Bench Press: 23 reps (97th) Vertical Jump: 41 inches (96th) Broad Jump: 132 inches (96th) 3-Cone Drill: 7.00 seconds (41st) 20-Yard Shuttle: 3.98 seconds (97th) Bio: A dual-threat athlete coming out of Archbishop Rummel High School in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, Ja'Marr Chase had dozens of scholarship offers due to his success on the gridiron and in track and field. Chase originally decided to attend Mississippi, but changed course due to investigations of the school by the NCAA. He decided to stay close to home and play for LSU, and was part of one of the most prolific offenses in college football history. Chase decided to opt-out last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stat to Know: Back in 2019 Pro Football Focus charted Chase with 24 deep catches, which they termed as "the most we've seen in a college season." Strengths: In a draft that might not offer a ton of options in the X receiver mold, Chase's experience facing and beating press coverage stands out. In a game that has become a bit of scouting lore because of the number of future first-round players, the 2019 contest between LSU and Alabama, you'll get a chance to see Chase battle with a press coverage defender who would get drafted in the second round, Alabama's Trevon Diggs. That game is a perfect illustration of Chase's upper-body strength and physical style of play. He can use both power and footwork to beat the press, and that will truly serve him well at the next level. Chase's play strength translates after the catch as well, PFF charted him with 22 broken tackles after the catch, and that gives him the ability to turn slants and hitches into big plays due to his strength. He also shows no fear working to the inside, over-the-middle or on routes when he knows the big hit is coming. On an early wheel route against Alabama in 2019 he knows the free safety is coming to deliver a shot, and Chase does not drop his arms or short-arm the catch. Some concerns about his route-running have been raised, but this is not a concern I share. Can Chase give you a full and complete route tree out of the gate? Perhaps not. But what he has been asked to run he runs extremely well, from corner routes, hitches, slants, vertical routes and double-moves. In terms of his role and scheme fit, Chase can play as an X but you can find moments of him being used all over the field, aligning both in the slot and as a Z. That coupled with what he offers in terms of routes makes him a scheme fit in almost any offensive system. Finally, Chase has a great feel for scramble drill situations, and when playing with Joe Burrow back in 2019 anytime the QB vacated the pocket Chase would continue working to get into his field-of-vision. If there is a strength of his on par with his play strength, it is his effort. If Chase took a snap off during the 2019 season, I did not find it on film. Weaknesses: While it is easy to find strengths to his game, it is much tougher to find weaknesses. Again, he might not offer a full route tree, but smart teams that focus on what players can do will put him in positions to be successful. There were questions about him from an athletic profile -- although he looked plenty fast and athletic on film to me -- but the results of his recent pro day as outlined above probably erased any fear. He might not be the shiftiest receiver in this class, but his strengths in every other aspect of the game make him an impressive prospect. There is also a two-fold set of concerns regarding his prowess with contested catches that I also think is overblown. First, often contested catch specialists in college struggle to make the transition because they cannot separate from coverage at the next level. I do not think there are any concerns over Chase and separating from coverage. Second, some might worry about if Chase is physical enough to win in those contested catch moments, but watching him play against top-flight talent such as Diggs and A.J. Terrell should dissuade you from that notion. Conclusion: This is a strong class at the position but what sets Chase apart is his ability to play the X receiver spot at a high level out of the gate. Staring down some of the best man coverage defenders the NCAA had to offer, Chase put together an impressive season back in 2019, when he was just 19 years old. He has true big play ability, with the potential to beat you deep with his speed but also his ability to turn slants into touchdowns with his strength and footwork. His versatility and strength make him the top option at this position on the board. Comparison: A common comparison for Chase is Anquan Boldin, given how strong both players were off the line and at the catch point. PFF also used the Justin Blackmon comparison, which is accurate for where both players were coming out of college. Resources: For more on Chase you can dive into this look at that battle between him and Diggs from the 2019 LSU-Alabama game.
2. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
(Caitie McMekin-USA TODAY NETWORK)
Height: N/A Weight: N/A 40-Yard Dash: N/A Bench Press: N/A Vertical Jump: N/A Broad Jump: N/A 3-Cone Drill: N/A 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: Jaylen Waddle was a two-sport athlete at Houston Episcopal in Texas, where he competed on both the football field and the track. Waddle was a sprinter, running both the 100-meter and the 200-meter races as well as the long jump. He received a number of scholarship offers, including from Florida State, Oregon and TCU but ultimately chose to play for Nick Saban at Alabama. He suffered an injury to his lower leg that cut his final year short, but prior to that injury he put up some impressive numbers for the Crimson Tide. Stat to Know: We said that he was putting up huge numbers prior to his injury, and this backs that up: Waddle averaged 21.1 yards per catch in 2020 before the injury. Strengths: Pace is the first thing that comes to mind watching Waddle. His track background -- and the ability to pace himself and use a variety of speeds on a single route -- is evident on film. Whether on vertical routes or working across the field, Waddle will use two or three different speeds to set up defenders and then accelerate away from them. Waddle is explosive to all levels of the field and can turn almost any route into a home run. He is also a bit of an offensive weapon, and his ability to erase angles makes him a threat in the screen and quick game. Prior to his injury, offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian used Waddle on a lot of designed plays, such as jet sweeps, screens and/or underneath crossers with downfield blockers, or aligned as a running back and racing immediately to the flat on a designed checkdown, and Waddle was effective in that role. (Interestingly enough, after his injury Sarkisian slid DeVonta Smith into more of that role, so do with that information what you will). Waddle's game against Missouri is one of those contests that has become legendary. Whether it was his fade route out of the slot late in the game -- where he beat both the safety and the cornerback over the top -- or the "catch," his early downfield play on a deep post, Waddle showed in that contest true game-breaking ability. Finally, Waddle's explosiveness and ability to quickly change direction stand out. That makes him a threat on a variety of routes, and he might offer a more complete route tree than most options in this class. Weaknesses: Concerns over Waddle come in two varieties. First, there are concerns about his relative inexperience. Waddle was playing behind Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III a season ago, and then the injury ended this past season early. He has less than 1,000 collegiate snaps, so there is not a huge body of work. Then there is his size, which might make him more of a slot or a Z receiver than someone who can play in the X role. But that gets us towards the Justin Jefferson discussion from a season ago. Can Waddle beat press coverage? There are examples of this, particularly early in Alabama's win over the Georgia Bulldogs. You will see him beating press coverage on a hitch route early in the game -- thanks to his impressive change-of-direction skills -- or a deeper curl route later in the contest. There are also examples of his suddenness and COD skills against the press in the game against Texas A&M. It is not a lengthy body of work but, like Jefferson a season ago, there are examples of him doing this on film. Conclusion: This is a great class and how you might stack these players could come down to personal preference. What elevates Waddle in my mind is his route-running and his ability to use pace to influence -- and beat -- defenders in a variety of coverage situations. Separation is not a concern with him, and if you can get open in the SEC, you can get open at the next level. He might not offer the ability to align as an X receiver at the next level, and his ability against press coverage is more of an "incomplete" grade, but as we saw last year with Jefferson, if you can get open and have shown instances of beating press in the past, you have an NFL future. Comparison: This is more of a schematic comparison than an athletic one, but I think he has an NFL future in the mold of Jefferson. Teams that run a lot of 12 offensive personnel that can align him at Z or in the slot even will love to have him in their huddle. Resources: For more on his route-running, you can take a look at this deep dive into his game.
3. DeVonta Smith, Alabama
(Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: N/A Weight: N/A 40-Yard Dash: N/A Bench Press: N/A Vertical Jump: N/A Broad Jump: N/A 3-Cone Drill: N/A 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: DeVonta Smith was a four-star recruit according to ESPN, who ranked him the 34th receiver in the 2017 recruiting class. The product of Amite High School received offers from a number of prodigious football institutions including LSU, Florida State and Auburn, but decided to play at Alabama under Nick Saban. He contributed six touchdowns to the Crimson Tide offense as a sophomore in 2018, but his production over the past two seasons exploded. Last year Smith caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns, becoming the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy since Desmond Howard back in 1991 and just the fourth receiver overall. Stat to Know: If you want versatility, Smith offers that and more. Pro Football Focus Charted him with 15 deep catches -- tied for first in the NCAA -- along with 589 deep yards, also ranking first. Smith also had 35 screen catches -- most in the NCAA -- along with 304 screen yards. Again, first. That is a diverse receiver. Strengths: Smith is a complete prospect at the receiver position who is a fantastic player to watch from snap to finish. He displays suddenness off the line with the ability to beat press coverage/press alignment. Smith has a quick and well-rounded release game, both with change-of-direction skills and quickness off the line to evade the jam. He is a complete route-runner with "whole body" route-running skills, who will use his shoulders and even his eyes to manipulate defenders on breaks and double-moves. An area where he stands out is his explosiveness working out of breaks, as he drives back towards the football and makes himself an available target for his quarterback. Smith also has solid hands (PFF charted him with just three drops last season on 145 targets) even in traffic. It is also hard to ignore the production. Smith caught 184 passes and 37 touchdowns over the past two seasons in an offense that will likely have four receivers drafted in the first round between last year and this year. (Five, when you consider John Metchie who could end up being the best of the bunch). Even surrounded by incredible talent, Smith stood out for Alabama. Weaknesses: So given all of that, what is not to love? Really, nothing. For me I am a huge fan of all these receivers (Chase, Waddle and Smith) and I just have the other two graded out slightly higher, but if you want to tell me that Smith is your WR1 or WR2, you will not get any pushback from me. However, there is no denying that Smith is an outlier. Receivers of his size and frame often do not add up to NFL stars, and given the risk-averse nature of NFL general managers, betting on an outlier is something that happens later in the first round, not earlier. I think Smith plays well above his size and weight, and if you watch him on film you'll see him show strength off the line, at the catch point and even as a blocker. His game against LSU is a fascinating study, as not only will you see him working against cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (a potential first-round pick next year) but he will show you strength over the middle and he takes some shots in that game after the catch, but bounces right up every time. Still, if you are reading this odds are you know how NFL decision makers work. Betting on outliers is not something they tend to do early in drafts. That might lead to a bit of a slide for the Heisman winner, and the team that pounces will be glad they did. Conclusion: Smith is one of the best receivers in this class and his combination of production and skills could make him the first WR off the board. The only things that might prevent that? His frame, and the talent of the other two players already listed. But his route-running, ball skills and nuance make Smith a fun player to study and a potential All-Pro at the next level. Comparison: A lot of outlets have compared Smith to Marvin Harrison from a play style standpoint, and I can get behind that comparison for sure. It often feels awkward comparing a prospect to one of the best to ever play the position, but in this case, Smith has the potential to live up to such hype. Resources: It took just four plays of Smith's against Mississippi State for me to buy into the potential, and in this video I dive into those four snaps.
4. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
(Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'0" (44th) Weight: 190 pounds (25th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.39 seconds (86th) Bench Press: N/A Vertical Jump: 36" (56th) Broad Jump: 123 inches (62nd) 3-Cone Drill: N/A 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: Like many of the other receivers in this class Rashod Bateman was a two-sport athlete in high school. But while others starred on the track, Bateman did some of his best prep work on the hardwood. Both Penn State and Virginia Tech offered him basketball scholarships, but Bateman chose to play football for P.J. Fleck at Minnesota. He was an instant contributor to the Golden Gophers offense, catching 51 passes for 704 yards and six touchdowns as a freshman in 2018, with those reception and yardage numbers setting new school records. His most productive season was his sophomore campaign where he caught 57 passes for 1,170 yards and 11 touchdowns. For that effort he was named First-Team All-Big Ten and the conference's receiver of the year. He initially announced that he would enter the NFL draft when it looked like the conference was not going to play in 2020, but when that decision was reversed he returned to the field. In just a handful of games this past season Bateman caught 36 passes for 472 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Stat to Know: Bateman is a danger after the catch. Pro Football Focus charted him with 36 career broken tackles on 147 catches. Strengths: Bateman's versatility is a strength. Back in 2019 when Minnesota also had Tyler Johnson in the fold Bateman saw more time outside, either as an X receiver isolated to the single side or as the outside receiver in trips formations. This past season, however, Minnesota moved him inside more to scheme him more opportunities, and as such he truly could align as an Z, an X or in the slot. Personally, I think he did his best work outside as an X, but that versatility is nice. Drops have been an issue -- as we will discuss -- but confidence is not the reason why. Bateman attacks the football away from his frame, and there are examples from both 2019 and 2020 of him coming up with a big catch just a few plays after a drop. That leads into another strength of his, which is his competitive toughness. Bateman delivered in some big moments for the Golden Gophers, such as a tough catch in traffic on a dig route against Wisconsin back in 2019 with the Big Ten West on the line, a catch that came in traffic on a high throw with the snow falling. Bateman is well versed at beating press coverage, particularly with violent footwork off the line of scrimmage. Even on slants, crossers and other quick-game routes Bateman can cross the face of the press defender quickly and get himself open for his quarterback. Bateman also drives back to the football to help his quarterback, and shows great awareness in scramble drill situations. He is not someone to stop when the route is run, but he will keep working to get himself into the QB's vision. He will also find work as a blocker, driving back to the football or racing downfield to try and throw that last critical block for a teammate. Again, this speaks to his competitive toughness. Weaknesses: As noted, drops are an issue. PFF charted him with 19 drops on 166 career "catchable targets," which is a concerning number. This is more a concentration issue than anything else. Take for example a drop against Maryland from this season where he was looking to run before securing the pass. Or a drop on a slant route against Iowa where he again shifted his eyes before securing the catch. Increased consistency at the catch point will serve him well. There are also some questions about Bateman from a size and athleticism standpoint. Prior his pro day he faced questions about his long speed, but given his listed size (6'2" 210 pounds) and ability to separate on film, it was not a huge concern. Then he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash which might have answered the speed question, but when he measured in at 190 pounds and just over six-feet tall, his size started generating some concerns. Bateman indicated that he lost ten pounds due to his own bout with COVID-19, which might explain the weight, and perhaps he gets back to the listed weight. If so, his ability to separate on film might address any lingering concerns about his long speed. Conclusion: His alignment and route diversity makes him one of the better receivers in this class in my mind. However, that is not a universal opinion. Some might have him higher on their boards, and other might have him much lower. For me, I think he is one of the best prospects given his ability to beat press, his ability to run a variety of routes and what he does after the catch. I think he is a divers player both in terms of scheme fit and usage, and I would be banging the table for him in the first round. Comparison: Others such as Mike Renner at PFF have gone with the Keenan Allen comparison, which I understand. I also see a little Allen Robinson to his game, particularly with what he can do at all three levels of the field.
5. Kyle Pitts, Florida
(Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'6" (85th) Weight: 245 (24th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.44 seconds (99th) Bench Press: 22 reps (69th) Vertical Jump: 34 inches (52nd) Broad Jump: 129 inches (97th) 3-Cone Drill: 7.12 seconds (59th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.30 seconds (69th) Bio: Entering the 2020 season Kyle Pitts was considered a "player to watch" at the tight end position, with other names like Penn State's Pat Freiermuth perhaps more likely to emerge as the top option at the position. Everything changed when Pitts put together a tremendous final season for the Gators. In just eight games he caught 43 passes for 770 yards and 12 touchdowns, with the touchdown receptions a career-high mark for him. Beyond the production is what he put on film. The phrase "matchup nightmare" almost became a running gag during Florida telecasts, as tracked by noted Gators fan -- and huge Carolina Panthers fan -- Trevor Sikkema: https://twitter.com/TampaBayTre/status/1309890689233281025?s=20 Over the course of the season, Pitts moved from player to watch at the position to perhaps the first non-quarterback taken in the draft. But the rise, as we will discuss, is real. Stat to Know: Thanks to charting data from Pro Football Focus we know that Pitts averaged 4.91 yards per route against man coverage, third-highest of any player in the nation and more than two yards higher than the second-ranked tight end. Matchup. Nightmare. Strengths: Every single time I sat down to study quarterback Kyle Trask, I ended up taking more notes on Pitts. What makes him such an intriguing talent is the fact that yes, matchup nightmare is exactly what he was in college and can be at the next level. When you think about it, his position in the NFL might be accurately listed as MN: Matchup Nightmare than TE: Tight End. And the fact that he is such a nightmare makes him worthy of inclusion with the wide receivers, in a tier of his own. Florida used him all over the field, putting him in-line, in the wing, in the slot and then aligned to the boundary as more of an X receiver. His ability to beat man coverage -- as illustrated by the yardage per route -- shows up consistently on film. Whether beating cornerbacks on double-moves or linebackers on slants or pivot routes. Pitts also has a tremendous catch radius, as evidenced by the above image from the SEC Championship game. Put it up near him, and odds are he is going to come down with the catch. What helps him against man coverage, and what you can see on the film, is his lower-body technique. Pitts has the footwork of a slot receiver, and when you see a player like him running pivot routes down near the goal-line like he is Julian Edelman, you come away impressed. Pitts truly sinks his hips and lower body into and out of cuts, getting that critical separation from the nearest defender even on quick-game concepts. Then there is his schematic diversity. Pitts fits any offensive system, and can run any route out of any alignment. Whether a pure West Coast offense, an Air Coryell downfield system, and anything in-between, Pitts can give you what you need. A great example of how Pitts can function as more of a WR comes on this play against South Carolina and cornerback Jaycee Horn, who is likely a first-round pick, and an early one at that: [video width="960" height="720" mp4="https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/59/2021/03/HornVideo1.mp4">[/video] That is a first-round CB playing the snap almost to perfection, and Pitts still remains near-impossible to defend. Weaknesses: Three weaknesses often come up when discussing Pitts as a tight end. First is the idea that he is just a tight end and those players do not offer the value that others do on the offensive side of the football. Again, Pitts is more than a TE. Smart offensive coordinators will find ways to make defenders pay in man coverage situations, through alignment, personnel and scheme. Second is his blocking. Is Pitts someone you will put next to the tackle and run Sprint 36 Gut behind? Probably not more than a few times a game, if that. But Pitts did improve from 2019 to 2020 as a blocker in both the run game and in pass protection. Furthermore, if you are drafting him and use him as a blocker on more than a handful of snaps per contest, the happiest person in the stadium will be your opposing defensive coordinator. Finally is his size. Pitts does not fit the mold of a protoypical tight end. However, neither does his unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.46. If you really want blocking from your tight end, there are options later in the draft that you can pair with him. If you want someone that can run by a cornerback on first down and then break away from a safety on third down, this is your player. There is a fourth potential weakness with Pitts that arises when contemplating him as a receiver. If an organization simply uses him as an X receiver, there might be cornerbacks in the NFL that can handle him in one-on-one situations, such as Jalen Ramsey for example. Using him as more of a tight end/matchup player allows the offense to create favorable matchups using personnel -- while forcing defenses to determine how they will treat Pitts and respond -- whereas simply treating him as a receiver negates that advantage for the offense. Conclusion: Football is a matchup game, and offensive coordinators try as hard as they can to create mismatches and then exploit them. A player like Pitts, with the ability to beat defensive backs and linebackers in man coverage, is ideal to fill that role. Even teams that have a tight end already on the roster, like the Philadelphia Eagles or the Detroit Lions, would be smart to consider Pitts. You can put him next to a Zach Ertz or a T.J. Hockenson and run a 12 personnel package that forces the defense to decide whether to use a base package, or a sub package. Either way the defense is wrong. If they go light, you can run behind the TE duo. If they go heavy, spread them out, put Pitts on the boundary and watch him run away from safeties or linebackers. It is a win-win for you as an offense. That strength is negated somewhat if Pitts is used as a pure receiver. However, on those instances where Pitts is put outside, or even in the slot, he is one of the better offensive weapons in this class. He is perhaps this draft's unicorn, a player without comparison. That puts him in his own tier, even among the receivers, and his talent makes him worthy of inclusion in this group. Plus, in a draft class that might not have a ton of options at the X receiver spot, Pitts' ability to serve in that role will make him an enticing option in addition to what he offers as a tight end. Comparison: Darren Waller is a name that comes up often in the Pitts conversation, and I understand that. Deep down I think Pitts is one of those prospects that merits a comparison to himself, a unicorn. He is Kyle Pitts, the most dangerous weapon in this offensive class. Resources: For more on Pitts you can watch this video breakdown which dives into what he does well, and how he might be used in the NFL.
6. Kadarius Toney, Florida
(Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'0" (31st) Weight: 193 (31st) 40-Yard Dash: 4.41 seconds (81st) Bench Press: 9 reps (11th) Vertical Jump: 40 inches (90th) Broad Jump: 136 inches (99th) 3-Cone Drill: 6.88 seconds (64th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.25 seconds (49th) Bio: Kadarius Toney was a quarterback at Blount High School in Eight Mile, Alabama, graded as a three-star prospect by 247Sports.com. He entertained offers from a number of SEC schools including Alabama and Auburn, but decided to play football for the Florida Gators. Toney contributed immediately for the Gators, catching 15 passes for 152 yards as a true freshman in 2017. But it was not until his senior year where the breakout truly came. Last season Toney caught 70 passes for 984 yards and ten touchdowns, and also ran for 161 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. That earned him an invitation to the Senior Bowl. Stat to Know: Pro Football Focus graded him with just three career drops on over 120 catchable passes during his time at Florida. Strengths: Toney is an absolute human joystick. He can stop and start on a dime, and his change-of-direction (COD) skills are among the best in the class. Elsewhere in these rankings I talk about the best one-yard gain I have seen, well Toney provided me with the best two-yard loss I have ever seen, which came on a bubble screen against Vanderbilt. The initial play was blown up by the defense, but due to a combination of play strength, COD and contact balance Toney manages to fight back near the line of scrimmage. He has great feel for his routes, particularly against zone coverage, and does a good spot settling down in soft spots and finding holes. Florida used him on a variety of routes and he offers a solid route tree. He was at his best on routes that emphasized his COD skills such as slants, pivots and speed outs, but you can also get an array of vertical routes from him such as posts, fades and double-moves. He has solid hands and a decent catch radius for a player of his size. He was able to go up and make a good catch on a crossing route against Texas A&M when the throw was high. Toney is also a very feisty, willing blocker who you would be wise to keep tabs on as a defender: [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/59/2021/04/ToneyTrident.mp4">[/video] In the end, however, these are the kinds of plays where he flashes what he does best: [video width="1280" height="720" mp4="https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/59/2021/04/ToneyRun.mp4">[/video] Vision, COD, explosiveness, contact balance and more. This is Toney doing what he does best. Weaknesses: A lot of Toney's evaluation is projection. The bulk of his production was due to scheme, as well as having talent like Kyle Pitts and Trevon Grimes around him. He is very much a slot receiver with a limited route tree, but what he does he does extremely well. The question might become how the NFL values that skill-set and where it leads a team in the draft. If you can select him in the first round, or potentially an Amon-Ra St. Brown or D'Wayne Eskridge later in the draft, what would you do? There are also concerns about how he will handle contested catch situations, as that is a trait that did not show up much on film. How he will fare against press coverage is a bit of an uncertainty, although he fared well in those moments at the Senior Bowl. Also Toney did seem to have a bit of an extra gear when the ball was coming is way when contrasted with those moments when the concept would take him out of the play or progression. Something to monitor. Conclusion: Teams that run a lot of option routes through the slot receiver might have him as the fourth or fifth WR in the draft. Teams that run a more vertical-based offense or more 12 personnel might grade him a bit lower on their boards. I look at what he offers out of the slot, and how he could step right into New England's huddle and give them the "juke" route on their Hoss Z-Juke design, a staple of their playbook, and think that you're gonna have to draft him in the first if you want him on your roster. His human joystick qualities are too good to wait for, and those kinds of skills make magic happen on Sundays. Comparison: Dante Hall was the original human joystick if memory serves me well -- which it may not -- and Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner calls Toney a "bigger Dante Hall." Hard to disagree.
7. Elijah Moore, Mississippi
(Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 5'9" (9th) Weight: 178 (7th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.35 seconds (93rd) Bench Press: 17 reps (77th) Vertical Jump: 36 inches (56th) Broad Jump: 120 inches (40th) 3-Cone Drill: 6.66 seconds (93rd) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.00 seconds (96th) Bio: Coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Elijah Moore was graded as a four-star recruit at wide receiver. Moore originally committed to Georgia, but later changed his mind and decided to play at Mississippi. He has been a productive player since his freshman season, where he caught 36 passes for 398 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but that production exploded this past year under Lane Kiffin. In his final collegiate season Moore caught 86 passes for 1,193 yards and eight touchdowns, over just an eight-game season. Stat to Know: Pro Football Focus charted Moore with just ten drops on 200 catchable targets over his Mississippi career. Strengths: Last year I argued that books would one day be written about Denzel Mims and his pre-draft process. Under that same standard Moore might one day see a book about his own work prior to the draft. Moore's pro day immediately became the stuff of legend, but it largely backed up what was available to see on film. His impressive three-cone drill? You could see that from his releases off the line, his cuts on his routes, and his ability after the catch. His impressive 40-yard dash time? That also showed up when he was running vertical routes right by defenders like he did twice against Vanderbilt this past season. Moore's ability after the reception stands out. His combination of athleticism, play strength and contact balance allows him to turn three-yard throws into ten-yard gains. He had one of the more impressive one-yard receptions I have ever seen against Alabama this past season, when he caught a quick throw on an orbit/swing route and made multiple defenders miss. Sure it went for just a single yard but the COD skills and the ability to make people miss in space jumped off the film. Moore offers a solid route tree from both inside and outside alignments, with a good mix of vertical routes, over routes, skinny post/glance routes, slant routes and double-moves. While the bulk of his routes came in the hitch/slant/glance family, I think his ability, footwork and limited usage in other roles means he can offer close to a complete route tree on day one. Creative offensive minds are going to see how Kiffin used him and implement some of the same designs in the NFL, and the first three plays against South Carolina could be a guide. On the first snap he aligned at running back and took a pitch from the quarterback to the outside. On the second snap he again aligned at running back and Mississippi ran him on outside zone. On the third snap he aligned in the backfield, motioned towards the outside nd ran a hitch route along the outside. A player that you can run on gap/power, outside zone and then on a go route on three different plays is something special. (The South Carolina game is also a good watch because he saw a lot of Jaycee Horn in that meeting). Weaknesses: When I think about Moore I think his weaknesses are more akin to when you first start playing a role-playing game like Elder Scrolls. You just have not leveled up those skills yet. Moore saw limited snaps against press, but I think he can handle press well given his athleticism, footwork and COD skills. Moore might be viewed as a slot-only option in the NFL, but I think that is just a failure of imagination. I think he can operate on the outside early and often. Moore might not offer a full route tree on day one, but that is largely due to the fact that he was so good on what they asked him to run, they did not need more from him. Teams may also look at his size and wonder about surviving an NFL season, but I do not have any concerns on him from a play strength standpoint. Finally yes, some of his production was schemed this past season due to the influence of Kiffin, but isn't that the job of an offensive staff? Conclusion: After the "Big Four" tier, and the "Unicorn" tier of Kyle Pitts, Toney, Moore and Rondale Moore are the three next players who might all find a home in the first round. And with reason. These three players are offensive weapons much like Pitts, but in a different mold. These are more slot-type receivers who could also see snaps in the backfield, and in the right hands could produce at an alarming rate as rookies. What I love about Moore is the potential, some of which we saw in Kiffin's creative hands. Imagine him with coaches like Joe Brady, or Sean McVay, or Kyle Shanahan, or Matt LaFleur? The potential is off the charts. Comparison: Mike Renner went with a "faster Cole Beasley" which, I get. Dating back to the old Bleacher Report NFL1000 days, when I would tell anyone who would listen that "all Beasley does is get open" -- and yes, his recent play has me taking some victory laps on that proclamation -- I think very highly of Beasley. So when I buy into this comparison, you should know it is a bullish stance.
8. Rondale Moore, Purdue
Height: 5'7" (1st) Weight: 180 (9th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.29 seconds (98th) Bench Press: 24 reps (99th) (Note: done outside of Purdue's pro day) Vertical Jump: 42.5 inches (99th) Broad Jump: N/A 3-Cone Drill: 6.68 seconds (92nd) 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: Rondale Moore was a four-star recruit coming out of Trinity High School in Louisville, Kentucky according to ESPN's recruiting services, and the second-ranked player in the state. Schools such as Texas, Ohio State and Penn State came calling and he originally committed to play for the Longhorns. but after helping lead Trinity to a second-straight state championship -- in a game he was named MVP -- Moore reevaluated his recruitment, ultimately deciding to play at Purdue. He did not wait long to make a mark, as he racked up 313 all-purpose yards in his first college game. As a freshman he gained 1,258 receiving yards and 213 yards on the ground, second-most in Purdue history. Moore was named a First-Team All-Big Ten selection, as well as winning the Paul Hornung Award, given to the most "versatile" player in all of college football. Unfortunately, he missed most of the 2019 season due to a hamstring injury and even in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Moore appeared in just three games due to a "lower-body" injury. Stat to Know: Back in his legendary freshman season Moore averaged 10.9 yards from scrimmage, including 11.0 yards per reception and 10.1 yards per rushing attempt. Strengths: I have often talked about games that become scouting lore. LSU-Alabama from 2019 is one, given all the future NFL players who stepped on the field that day. Jaylen Waddle versus Missouri in 2018, or Justin Fields versus Clemson in 2020 are others. Moore's 2018 game against Ohio State is also in that rarified air. On that night against the Buckeyes Moore caught 12 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns, and carried the ball twice for 24 yards. He also returned three kicks for 49 yards and a punt for nine more yards. He did this against one of the top teams in the country, leading the Boilermakers to a huge upset of Ohio State. But beyond the production there is how he did it. Take a 3rd and 20 conversion where Ohio State walked a linebacker outside to jam him and also had Shaun Wade over him. Still Moore wriggled free on a dig, maintained his speed through the catch and picked up the conversion. Legendary stuff. Moore's ability to contribute on designed plays is impressive, such as slants, swings and end arounds. He is dangerous and explosive with the football in his hands, and can separate from most man coverage cornerbacks. He shows great change-of-direction skills on his routes, such as pivot routes and speed outs, and also has great great play strength for a receiver. If you want to distill what he offers as a prospect -- beyond just turning on the Ohio State game from 2018 -- then watch the slant route touchdown against Boston College from the same season, when he just runs through a safety who is trying to unload on him after the reception. Powerful, electrifying and dangerous both on his routes and after the catch, Moore is a dynamic player and prospect. Weaknesses: First, however, is the injury history. That prevented him from duplicating the heroics of his freshman season, and given his style of play you cannot help but wonder if more injuries are in his future. Second is the fact that a lot of his production and touches were the result of scheme, and a simplified one at that. Still, I think he can transcend what he was asked to do at Purdue and his route-running skills mean that he can offer a full route tree out of the slot, he was just asked to deliver one in college. Finally, teams will look at him as a pure slot player, and despite his change-of-direction skills and his play strength -- two components to beating the press -- Moore is probably a slot-only option at the NFL. Conclusion: Players that tend to make something out of nothing, as Moore did at Purdue, tend to find homes in the NFL. He might be more offensive weapon than pure receiver, but you can use him out of the backfield, in the slot and probably even as a quarterback in some short yardage, Wildcat type of packages. Creative offensive minds are going to bang the table for him early in the draft, and with good reason. Comparison: Moore reminds me of a similar player from last season, Laviska Shenault Jr. I'm yet to give up on Shenault -- who could be in position for a big year with Trevor Lawrence coming to town -- and I won't give up on Moore. Players with his ability can contribute early and often.
9. Terrace Marshall, Jr., LSU
(Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'3" (78th) Weight: 205 (58th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.38 seconds (89th) Bench Press: N/A Vertical Jump: 39 inches (87th) Broad Jump: 125 inches (76th) 3-Cone Drill: N/A 20-Yard Shuttle: N/A Bio: Terrace Marshall Jr. was one of the top-ranked prospects in the 2018 recruiting class according to 247sports.com. They graded him as a five-star recruit, the top player out of Louisiana (and the third-ranked receiver) and the 13th player nationally. As you might expect, that led to a bevy of scholarship offers. Marshall stayed close to his hometown of Bossier City, Louisiana and picked LSU over schools like Texas A&M, Texas, Alabama and Florida State. Marshall saw limited action as a true freshman but was part of LSU's prolific offense in 2019. While he missed three games with an injury, Marshall still caught 46 passes for 671 yards and 13 touchdowns. When you remember that he was playing alongside Ja'Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, those numbers are even more impressive. Marshall's Tigers struggled this past season but his numbers took a big step forward. In just seven games he caught 48 passes for 732 yards (both career-high numbers) and ten touchdowns. Stat to Know: "50/50" balls are more of a sure thing when it comes to Marshall. Pro Football Focus graded him with 25 catches on 41 contested catch opportunities. Strengths: Marshall has a solid set of release moves off the line, and as such he is pretty adept at beating press coverage. He relies on a skip release/hesitation step for the most part, but you can see him use play strength or foot quickness to beat the press as well. He is able to attack leverage regardless of alignment from the defender: If he needs to get inside he will, even if the defender is trying to take that away by his own leverage before the play. A good against of that came against Mississippi State this season when he worked across the face of the cornerback on a post route, with the defender aligned inside before the snap. Play strength, particularly at the catch point, shows up both on the film and in the numbers. He will make tough catches in traffic working across the field or into coverage, and he will absorb the blow from defenders and hang onto the football. We will talk about his hands in a second, but I found more than a few examples of him making tough catches with the hands extended from the body, erasing what might have been incompletions due to poorly thrown passes. There was a post route against Missouri, a vertical route against Mississippi State, a blaze-out against Missouri and a slant route against South Carolina that all required tough adjustments that he made with ease. Marshall might also be a player that draws his share of pass interference penalties in the NFL, and he drew a few flags against South Carolina if you want to see for yourself. Marshall also displays solid body control from head to toe, and his touchdown against Missouri on a corner route in the red zone is a prime example. Then later in the game he shows the long speed and simply runs by the coverage. Just like Jaylen Waddle, Marshall's game against Missouri is worth a peek: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaoQSW0MMvw Weaknesses: Marshall does suffer some concentration drops, and that shows up early in his game against Mississippi State. He dropped an open slant route when he started to run before the catch. But as with other players -- such as Amon-Ra St. Brown -- Marshall is able to shake those moments off quickly. He remains very confident in his hands, and given some of the other things he did on film, I am not worried about him from a "drops" standpoint. Marshall also struggles against bigger, stronger defenders, both at the catch point and off the line. He is young and has room to grow and add strength, so this should get corrected over time, but it is something to note. Marshall could also stand to improve his route-running. He is good in this area, but he could gain by using his lower-half better and sinking into routes more efficiently, allowing him to maintain speed through breaks and accelerating out of them better. Conclusion: Given his youth -- Marshall will not turn 21 until just before his rookie training camp -- there is potential that he could develop into a tremendous NFL receiver. The foundation is there, but some refinement to his game could turn him into a true WR1, X receiver at the next level. In a class that might not offer a pure X receiver option, teams might be willing to bet on his development. PFF pointed out that he'll be two years younger than Julio Jones when the current Atlanta Falcons star was drafted, so there is potential for growth. Comparison: Joe Marino of The Draft Network went with DeVante Parker and the more I think about that comparison, the more I like it.
10. Dyami Brown, UNC
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 6'1" (46th) Weight: 189 (23rd) 40-Yard Dash: 4.46 seconds (63rd) Bench Press: 18 reps (82nd) Vertical Jump: 38 inches (79th) Broad Jump: 128 inches (89th) 3-Cone Drill: 6.87 seconds (65th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.35 seconds (24th) Bio: Graded a four-star prospect by 247sports.com, Dyami Brown had multiple offers coming out of West Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Among those included Florida, Duke and Alabama, but Brown stayed close to home to play for the Tar Heels. He saw limited action as a true freshman in 2018, catching 17 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown, but exploded as a sophomore in 2019. That year Brown caught 51 passes for 1,034 yards and 12 touchdowns over 12 games. Playing in one fewer contest this past season Brown exceeded some of those numbers, catching 55 passes for 1,099 yards and eight touchdowns. Stat to Know: If you are a believer in Average Depth of Target (aDOT) then Brown is your guy. Pro Football Focus charted him with an aDOT of a whopping 18.4. Strengths: If you are looking for the true X receiver of this class and miss out on earlier names, then Brown might be a fantastic Plan B. He has a good deal of experience against press coverage and has developed a diverse release package, using a variety of stutter-steps and hesitation moves to beat the cornerback off the line. He has great feel and pace for the routes he runs, and also has the ability to get into the defender's blind spot on routes in the vertical passing game. One of the things that I love about him is how much effort he puts into each route. There are other receivers in this class who run their route and stop, waiting for the ball to come to them. Brown is not finished until the whistle. If he is running a curl route at about 12 yards and the ball is not immediately throw to him, he'll run all the way back to the line of scrimmage if he has to to get into the QB's line of sight. This happens on every snap, and it really left an impression on me while studying his game. Brown has solid change-of-direction skills which show up not just on his routes, but after the catch as well. He also has a solid catch radius and some confidence in his hands, although the results at the catch point are a mixed bag. He tracks the football well in the vertical part of the game, and quickly transitions from route-runner to ball-carrier after the catch. Brown is also a willing blocker, as the Tar Heels ran a lot of bubble screens behind him with him trying to pave the road for a teammate. Weaknesses: Brown offers what we might call the old Baylor route tree: Go routes, hitches, slants and curls. There was not a lot of variety to his game. Still, what he does he does well and it fits the mold of a more X receiver. His ability at the catch point is questioned. He left some plays on the field -- including some potential big plays like a potential touchdown against North Carolina State on a go route -- due to drops. PFF charted him with a drop rate of 6.8% (which is above-average) and four drops last season on his 82 targets. Still, I tend to think that drops are a bit "noisy," and the ability to separate is more important, and Brown can separate on the routes he runs. There is another aspect to his game that could use some refinement. He often uses a false or slow step off the line. He will point his toes to the outside with his front foot, and his first step off the line is to pick that foot up, straighten it out, and put it right back down. That costs him a split-second off the snap, which could be something to refine and clean up in the NFL. Conclusion: Brown in my mind has the ability to be an X at the next level rather quickly, due to his ability to beat press (and his experience facing it) and the routes that he offers out of the gate. There might be some aspects to his game that he needs to fill in before becoming a more complete player, but teams looking for this kind of receiver to add to their offense would be wise to strike early. *Glares at Bill Belichick* Comparison: Perhaps it is the route tree but I get a Denzel Mims vibe from watching Brown. Looking back at my pre-draft writeup of Mims I can see why...
11. D'Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan
(Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 5'9" (5th) Weight: 190 (25th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.38 seconds (89th) Bench Press: N/A Vertical Jump: 35 inches (41st) Broad Jump: 124 inches (70th) 3-Cone Drill: 6.95 seconds (50th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.22 seconds (54th) Bio: 247sports.com graded D'Wayne Eskridge as a three-star receiver coming out of Bluffton High School in Bluffton, Indiana. Eskridge had only two offers coming out of Bluffton: Ball State and Western Michigan. He chose to play for the Broncos, and after contributing as a reserve wide receiver as a freshman, he earned a starting job for his sophomore season. That year Eskridge hauled in 30 passes for 506 yards and three touchdowns. He improved on those numbers a bit as a junior, catching 38 passes for 776 yards and three more scores. Prior to his senior year, he trained as a cornerback and when the 2019 season kicked off Eskridge was listed as a starter at both WR and CB. He broke his collarbone early in the year, and used a medical redshirt so he could come back for the 2020 campaign. This past season he caught 34 passes for 784 yards and eight touchdowns, and also contributed as a kick returner, adding 467 yards and a touchdown on 16 kickoff returns. Stat to Know: Despite his size and role, Eskridge is a true big play threat. He averaged over 20 yards per reception each of his last three seasons, averaging 23.3 in 2020. Strengths: "Hitches should not be home runs." That phrase is written all over my notes while watching Eskridge, whose pure speed makes him such a dangerous player even when catching a five-yard pass. But the Broncos used him on a variety of routes, from quick-game patterns underneath to vertical routes on the boundary. He faced a lot of press coverage this past season, but his pure speed and footwork skills enable him to beat the jam off the line in most instances. He also used an incredible move against Central Michigan, where he slapped the cornerback in the helmet right at the snap, looking more like Mean Joe Greene working against an offensive tackle than a receiver coming off the line. Eskridge also shows a large catch radius on film, due more to his explosiveness as an athlete than his size and wingspan. A prime example of this came on his go route against Toledo later in the game, where he somehow managed to get his hands on the football despite the throw being off-target. The strongest trait of his is simply his speed. He can turn almost any route into a big play with his ability to accelerate away from the nearest defender and erase angles after the catch. He has good feet and change-of-direction skills both prior to the catch, and after the reception. Eskridge also does a good job of maintaining speed into and out of the catch point. In terms of route-running, he might not offer a complete route tree but what he does, he does well. The fear of his game-breaking speed that lies in the mind of opposing corners allows him to press vertically and then work back to the quarterback on routes like curls, hitches and deep comebacks. Weaknesses: The major weaknesses in his evaluation are the level of competition he faced at Western Michigan, and his potential NFL role. At times Eskridge looked like a man among boys last season, which is why his performance at the Senior Bowl was huge for his draft stock. He showed that his production was not merely a function of the opponents he faced, but his own traits. Still, teams might question what that will look like against NFL defensive backs. Then there is his role in the league. Sure he played on the outside against teams like Ball State and Toledo, but he probably is a slot-only player in the NFL. That might hurt his value. Couple that with the limited route tree he showed on film, and you will likely see other players come off the board before him come draft time. Finally, there are concerns about his age, given that he is currently 24 and will be on the older side as a rookie. Conclusion: Despite the weaknesses and concerns, this is a big-play type of receiver at the next level. The NFL is a matchup game and offenses are designed to get their playmakers the football in space and in favorable situations. A player that can turn hitches into home runs -- like Eskridge -- is still valued despite their status as a slot receiver. Plus, what he offers on special teams via his blazing speed is game-breaking in its own right. Comparison: Many have gone as far as to compare him to Tyreek Hill, which does seem lofty. John Ross might be a better comparison.
12. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 5'11" (30th) Weight: 197 (40th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.51 seconds (42nd) Bench Press: 20 reps (90th) Vertical Jump: 39 inches (83rd) Broad Jump: 127 inches (85th) 3-Cone Drill: 6.81 seconds (75th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.27 seconds (41st) Bio: After finishing his career at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California, Amon-Ra St. Brown was one of the top recruits in the country. ESPN graded him as a four-star recruit and the 35th player overall in the 2018 recruiting class. Schools such as Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Georgia came calling but St. Brown stayed close to home to play for the USC Trojans. He was an immediate contributor as a freshman, catching 60 passes for 75 yards and three touchdowns. As a sophomore in 2019, St. Brown had his best statistical season, catching 77 passes for 1,042 yards and six touchdowns. In a COVID-19 shortened season last year, he still caught 41 passes for 478 yards and seven touchdowns, the bulk of those coming in a huge performance against Washington State. St. Brown comes from an athletic family. His mother Miriam holds a degree in physical therapy and his father, John, was a two-time Mr. Universe as a body-builder. His oldest brother Equanimeous is a receiver for the Green Bay Packers, and Osiris, the middle son, is finishing up his own career as a receiver with the Stanford Cardinal. Stat to Know: Given that his parents met in Germany it might not be a surprise that St. Brown is fluent in both German and French. That is not a stat, per se, but one of the more impressive scouting notes I've come across (H/T to the Pro Football Focus draft guide). Strengths: Opinions on St. Brown vary but for my money he is a smart, experienced, competitive receiver that I absolutely love watching play. He, along with Amari Rodgers who we will get to in a moment, is one of the reasons I insisted on going beyond our standard list of 11 ranked players at the position, because I needed to write about him. USC used him primarily out of the slot his first two seasons on campus, but he moved to the outside for 2020 and has experience operating both inside and along the boundary. St. Brown offers a complete route tree, from both inside and outside alignments, and shows strong hands at the catch point. He is a receiver that will fight through contact when working over the middle, and has great confidence in his hands even when operating in traffic. St. Brown has great body control, which shows up when he is working along the sideline. Often he would manage to get both feet down in bounds even when one would due under NCAA rules. He was a demon on speed outs this past season, particularly against UCLA. Against Arizona when the Trojans needed a late game-winning drive, quarterback Kedon Slovis kept targeting him down the stretch. Competitive toughness is a box he checks in a big way. As I wrote in my notes, "he wants to kill you" on the field. He will attack receivers downfield as a blocker and USC used him as a crack blocker working inside, and while he sometimes got roughed up cracking down, he showed no fear in those moments. St. Brown also showed the ability to beat press coverage, particularly on a slant route touchdown against UCLA. He also has a short memory. Against the Bruins he let a pass go through his hands for an interception, but he came back with a tough catch later in the game and then caught the game-winner on a fade route in the red zone. Weaknesses: Despite his competitive nature, there are still moments when his play strength is not ideal. He can get pinned to the sideline by bigger defensive backs, and there are also moments on film where he would rather stalk and mirror defenders downfield than take them on. Still, when he decides to get physical as a blocker, he shows the competitive toughness you want to see from a receiving prospect. While there are examples of him beating press coverage on film, you do have to look for them. PFF charted him with just 148 snaps against press over his entire career, which is not a huge number. That might lead to some teams viewing him as a slot receiver only. Then there is the long speed, which was a question on film that was answered at his pro day with a 4.51 40-yard dash. That also probably means a future working out of the slot. Still, given that his game is more about route-running and change-of-direction skills -- along with his competitive nature -- the slot was likely his future home anyway. Conclusion: I am a huge fan of his game, and think he can be a difference maker at the next level. From his experience to his competitive toughness, his short memory and his football intelligence, and his ability to offer a complete route tree, St. Brown is a plug-and-play slot receiver at the next level. I'd be banging the table for him at the start of Day Two for any offense, as I think he is a scheme diverse receiver that can operate in any system. Teams might view him as a slot-only WR, but I think the limited examples of him beating press could see him offer time as a Z receiver as well. Comparison: Maybe it is the Patriots fan in me, but watching him I kept seeing Julian Edelman in my mind. St. Brown is a bit bigger, but both players are tough, feisty receivers that can operate as slot receivers or as flankers on the outside.
13. Nico Collins, Michigan
Height: 6'4" (93rd) Weight: 215 (82nd) 40-Yard Dash: 4.42 seconds (78th) Bench Press: 14 reps (50th) Vertical Jump: 37.5 inches (74th) Broad Jump: 125 inches (76th) 3-Cone Drill: 6.78 seconds (79th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.29 seconds (37th) Bio: Nico Collins was graded by 247sports.com as a four-star recruit in the 2017 class, and as the 138th prospect overall. Coming out of Clay-Chalkville High School in Pinson, Alabama Collins entertained a number of offers from big programs including nearby Alabama, but chose to head to the Big Ten and play at Michigan. He saw scant action as a true freshman but brokeout as a sophomore, catching 38 passes for 632 yards and six touchdowns for the Wolverines. Those were numbers he replicated as a junior in 2019, when he caught 37 passes for 729 yards and seven touchdowns. Collins chose to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19, but received an invitation to the Senior Bowl based on his previous seasons worth of work. Stat to Know: Collins posted just eight broken tackles over his 78 career catches, as charted by Pro Football Focus. Strengths: Looking around the evaluation landscape I get the sense that Collins is one of the more polarizing prospects at WR. There are some that love what he offers as a big-bodied X receiver, particularly with what he can do at the catch point and in the downfield passing game. Then there are others who are more underwhelmed by what he did in college, and look at him as more of a developmental player at the next level. I find myself in the latter category. There are things that Collins does well. While the bulk of his production came in the vertical game, if I need someone to run a dig route out of this class his is the number I will call. He gets consistent separation on those in-breaking routes due to his ability to maintain speed into the break and coming out of the cut. He can also be physical on those routes if the defender manages to stick to him. Collins also has a bevy of release moves versus press coverage, including shoulder reductions, arm chops to beat the defender's hands, hesitation moves and stutter-steps. Those will all serve him well at the next level. There are even moments on film that he was able to beat defenders to the inside on slant routes who were aligned with inside leverage, an important box to check. There is also an argument to be made that with better quarterback play, he could be in position to truly live up to his potential. After watching Michigan during the past few seasons, this is an argument that is not without merit. Weaknesses: Still, watching him I am reminded of a big of wisdom from the brilliant Emory Hunt: "size is not a skill." As we watch more and more "contested catch" prospects try and thrive in the NFL due to physical styles of play -- and struggle in the attempt -- one cannot help but wonder if the ability to separate is more important than what you can do at the catch point against college corners. That is a concern that I have with Collins. What works on Saturdays might not work on Sundays, so he will need to refine his game and provide more consistent separation. Another area where he could stand to improve is what he does after the initial route. Unlike Dyami Brown, who keeps working to get open, there were far too many instances on film where Collins would run his route and...stop. One such example came early in the bowl game against Alabama, his final college contest. He ran a hitch route and when the quarterback flushed away Collins just stood and watched. Conclusion: Again, Collins is a polarizing prospect and other evaluators are much more bullish on his prospects. To be fair, his size and frame coupled with what he offers both against press coverage and in the downfield passing game translates well to the NFL. Teams looking for more of the X receiver type are going to value what he can bring on day one. In heavy vertical offenses, Collins could be an ideal fit. Comparison: Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network went with Vincent Jackson, which I think is a bullish comparison that might represent Collins' ceiling as a player. His floor might look more like N'Keal Harry, a player who won with his size and frame in college but has struggled to produce at the next level.
14. Amari Rodgers, Clemson
(Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports)
Height: 5'9.5" (10th) Weight: 212 (75th) 40-Yard Dash: 4.44 seconds (99th) Bench Press: 24 reps (99th) Vertical Jump: 33 inches (17th) Broad Jump: 121 inches (46th) 3-Cone Drill: 7.12 seconds (19th) 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.36 seconds (22nd) Bio: Amari Rodgers initially committed to USC, where his father Tee Martin was once the offensive coordinator, but he later flipped his commitment to Clemson. Rodgers saw limited action as a true freshman (but did appear in 12 games) but took on a much bigger role as a sophomore in 2018 where he caught 55 passes for 575 yards and four touchdowns. The bulk of his plays that year -- 460 of his 574 snaps -- actually came on the outside. This past year was by far his most productive, due to the departure of Tee Higgins in the draft and the injury to Justyn Ross. Rodgers caught 77 passes for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns, all of which represent career-high marks. The majority of that came from the slot, as Rodgers aligned inside on 536 of his 650 snaps according to Pro Football Focus. Stat to Know: If production from the slot is what you are looking for, Rodgers offers that. His 68 slot receptions as charted by PFF led all NCAA receivers. Strengths: One of the things I love about Rodgers is his football intelligence, which you might expect from his four years of college experience. Rodgers is consistently identifying blitzers and creepers pre-snap, giving his quarterback more information before the play begins. He offers a complete route tree, as the Tigers used him in the vertical passing game but he can also run quick-game routes with precision and footwork. Rodgers offers what you want from a slot receiver, with impressive change-of-direction skills, play strength and competitive toughness. He accelerates into and out of his breaks, and gets sufficient separation even on routes such as slants, speed outs and pivot routes. He also shows a variety of releases off the line, from hesitation moves, stutter-steps and upper-body strength. Rodgers is impressive up to and after the catch. He displays good ball-tracking skills and strength at the catch point, but he is strong after the catch and fits well with a West Coast system. His ability to break tackles -- coupled with his size -- has led some to consider him a potential running back at the next level. At his pro day he even took some reps at RB. Weaknesses: As a receiver, Rodgers is a pure slot player. While Clemson did use him outside it is far more likely that NFL offenses view him just as an inside player. His consistency at the catch point -- as well as his strength in contested catch situations -- is a question mark. Rodgers was charted by PFF with just one contested catch in 2020, putting him in a tie for 382nd in the nation. He also had some concentration drops, including one against Wake Forest when he dropped what should have been a touchdown. Rodgers also tends to lose his footing on cuts, which might be an expected side effect of how explosive he is into and out of breaks. Ultimately, his biggest weakness might be his role in an NFL offense. Slot receivers are starting players in today's game (for most offenses) but given how you can scheme open slot receivers, players who can play on the boundary are more valuable. Conclusion: When I started working on wide receivers for this draft cycle I came into a problem. The assignment was the top 11 in the class, but I could not in good conscience leave some of the prospects out of the discussion. Rodgers is one of the players that led me to ask to include more players. There is something about his game, and what he could potentially be at the next level, that has me intrigued. Whether that is solely as a slot receiver, a running back or just an offensive weapon, I think Rodgers is the perfect player for the modern game. Comparison: PFF compared Rodgers to Ty Montgomery, in a nod to potential ability to play running back, so that makes sense. Another potential comparison is Shane Vereen, who was used more as a receiver by the New England Patriots than a true running back.