PewterReport.com analyzes the top players in the 2021 NFL Draft with its’ position previews. Matt Matera previews the wide receiver position with a comprehensive look at what the Bucs have and what they need at wide receiver, while also providing a detailed list of this year’s top wideouts. In addition, Scott Reynolds offers up the team needs and the annual PewterReport.com Bucs’ Best Bets – the most likely wide receiver for the Bucs to select in Rounds 1-3, and in Rounds 4-7.
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What The Bucs Have At Wide Receiver
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Tampa Bay has 10 receivers on its current roster, including Pro Bowlers in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Bucs haven’t brought back Antonio Brown yet, but haven’t closed the door on his return, either. Scotty Miller stepped up last year and came through with several clutch TD catches. He has the inside track for the No. 3 receiver role. Tyler Johnson, last year’s fifth-round pick, has intriguing tools and made some big catches for the Bucs down the stretch. He just needs more time and reps to develop since the offseason and preseason were cancelled last year.
Justin Watson and Jaydon Mickens enter their fourth year in the league, but aren’t locks for the 53-man roster. Watson and Mickens help on special teams, but have been slow to develop offensively. Tampa Bay has some young, developmental receivers on the roster, including Cyril Grayson, Travis Jonsen, Josh Pearson and John Franklin, who missed last year with a torn ACL.
What The Bucs Need At Wide Receiver
The Bucs don’t need to draft a receiver or even re-sign Brown if the team believes that Johnson can develop into a player that can receive increased playing time in his second year. Godwin is in a contract year as the team’s franchise player, and Watson and Mickens also in the final year of their contracts. That means the Bucs could use another receiver in the stable – especially if Brown doesn’t return. Florida’s Kadarius Toney reminds some within the Bucs organization of a younger Brown coming out of Central Michigan. If he’s there at No. 32 Tampa Bay could consider the electric playmaker. LSU’s Terrace Marshall could also be an early consideration.
With more important positions that Tampa Bay could address in the early rounds, the Bucs could wait until Day 3 to select a receiver. General manager Jason Licht has drafted seven receivers in Tampa Bay with five of them being Day 3 selections. Names to keep in mind on Day 3 include Houston speedster Marquez Stevenson, Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry and Florida’s Trevon Grimes, UCLA’s Demetric Felton, Illinois’ Josh Imatorbhebhe and Notre Dame’s Ben Skowronek.
Top Wide Receivers In 2021 NFL Draft
1. LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase – Junior – 6-0, 201, 4.34
Chase is the consensus top receiver on the board even after opting out of the 2020 season. In 2019, Chase was winning the national championship, earning the Biletnikoff Award and was a unanimous All-American honors all while being the first player in LSU history to surpass 2,000 career receiving yards. Chase racked up most of those yards with 1,780 and 20 touchdowns in 2019. He’s a very tough player with incredible body control, who can also switch gears in an instant. There’s a chance that Chase will be reunited with his former LSU teammate Joe Burrow in Cincinnati.
The Crimson Tide have two extremely talented receiver in this draft and the best one is Waddle. An unfortunate ankle injury forced him to miss all but six games last year, but he already built a reputation as one of the best receivers in college football. Waddle brings a ton of speed both vertically and also with cuts and different routes to get open in zone coverage. He makes things very difficult for the corners covering him, and he’s just as dangerous as a kick returner. Waddle was one yard shy of 2,000 yards in his career and also found the end zone 17 times.
Smith was the receiver who caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime to win the national championship for Alabama in 2017, and then had an incredible game in the 2020 national championship win with 12 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns. Smith had a terrific senior year, winning the Heisman Trophy with 117 receptions, 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. He might have to put on some more muscle in the NFL as he’s rail thin, but Smith has the speed, hands, route-running ability and balance that teams desire in a top flight receiver.
Bateman started making plays for the Golden Gophers right away and was a three-year starter. He’s a route running aficionado that has good footwork to keep the defenders. As a pass catcher he makes it look easy when the ball is coming too him. Bateman recorded 2,395 yards at Minnesota and scored 19 touchdowns and averaged 16.3 yards per catch.
As part of a very talented roster at LSU, Marshall was still able to carve out his own role and make impact on the championship winning team in 2019. He was expected to be the main guy in 2020 after Chase opted out, but he opted out as well after seven games. Though with a smaller sample size, Marshall still led his team in receiving with 731 yards, and still managed 48 receptions and 10 touchdowns. He has a great frame and upper body strength to go after the ball. It’s just his footwork that he’ll need to work on.
Toney’s speed and acceleration stand out immediately on tape. He has incredible athleticism that helps him run any route against any type of defense. Toney kept improving each year and put the exclamation point on his college career as a senior with 70 receptions, 984 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 19 carries for 161 yards and a score. Toney has struggled with injuries at Florida and has a few character issues that need looking into. But his speed is undeniable, and also shows up in the punt return game, too.
Moore has elite speed that has allowed him to be used in many different ways on offense. He’s a player that can line up wide, in the slot or even in the backfield. The only thing keeping Moore from being an elite receiver is his lack of size and his health concerns. He’s played in just seven games over the last two seasons due to injuries. He finished his Purdue career with 1,915 yards and 14 touchdown receptions.
8. Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore – Junior – 5-9, 178, 4.35
This receiver in particular has been mocked to the Bucs a time or two if they were to go with a receiver in an earlier round. Moore started all three seasons at Ole Miss, recording 2,441 yard and 189 receptions and 16 touchdowns. He’s a reliable player with his hands, who is solid all around as a route runner with fluid movements. If he were three inches taller and 10 pounds heavier he would be a Top 10 selection.
9. UNC WR Dyami Brown – Junior – 6-1, 189, 4.44
Brown got over the 1,000-yard mark for two straight years in 2019 and 2020 with 1,034 and 1,099 yards, respectively. He’s very quick off the line of scrimmage that helps set him his best route – the double move. Brown is known as a receiver that makes the big play in crunch time and earned first-team All-ACC last year.
10. USC WR Amon-Ra St. Brown – Junior – 6-1, 197, 4.59
St. Brown is a very instinctive receiver with a knack for getting open. Although not the fleetest of foot, he’s a physical receiver that uses his strength to beat defensive backs to the ball. In three years at USC he caught 178 passes for 2,270 yards and 16 touchdowns. In his junior year, he wound up earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors and was a named a team captain.
One of the hardest things to do as a receiver is make the contested catch and that what Wallace does best. He makes the big plays in traffic even on balls that are difficult to come up with. Wallace is a big-play threat, but also is good enough with his routes to be efficient in other areas aside from the deep ball. He led the Cowboys in receiving last year with 922 yards and six touchdowns, which also earned him first-team All Big-12 honors as a senior.
Rodgers excels in getting yards after the catch due to his strength and physicality. He does a great job breaking tackles and is elusive due to his ability to make multiple different cuts at full speed. Rodgers had a superb ending to his college career with 1,o20 receiving yards, 77 catches and seven touchdowns in 2020.
Collins opted out of the 2020 season, but showed off his ability to be a vertical threat in 2019. He didn’t have the best quarterback play during his time at Michigan, so he could be even better at the NFL level. In a three-season college career, Collins recorded 78 catches for 1,388 yards with 13 trips to the end zone.
Fehoko has tremendous size as a receiver and a great deal of speed to go with it. He can make the plays down the field with his combo of height and leaping ability. He only has five starts under his belt, but still managed to gain 1,146 career receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He’s already 24 years old after starting his college career later after a religious mission. Fehoko also holds Stanford’s school record for making 16 catches in a game last season, and also earned first-team All-PAC 12 honors.
A former track star, Eskridge has blazing speed that causes issues for any defense. With his footwork and quickness he is able to elude defenders and get yards after the catch. Eskridge could wind up in the slot due to his lack of ideal size. He showed versatility in college, playing both receiver and corner in 2019 before redshirting due to injury. In 2020 he made first-team All-MAC and led the conference with 784 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Overall, he recorded 2,260 yards and 15 touchdowns at Western Michigan. His kick returning prowess adds another element to his game.
He’s a constant threat with his track like speed, so the deep ball is always in play with Atwell. Teams need to press him at the line because Atwell gets out of his breaks so well with his initial steps off the line of scrimmage. Atwell put up some good numbers at Louisville with 2,307 yards and 21 career touchdowns. This saw him earn second-team All-ACC honors in 2019 followed by first-team All-ACC accolades in 2020.
17. South Dakota State WR Cade Johnson – Redshirt Senior, 5-11, 184, 4.51
The South Dakota State season was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19 but Johnson showed he belonged in the NFL at the Senior Bowl. He’s got above average footwork and can make tough catches despite a lack of ideal size. Johnson has gone over the 1,000-yard mark twice, totaling 2,872 total with 28 touchdowns in his career.
18. South Carolina WR Shi Smith – Senior – 5-9, 186, 4.43
Smith started all four years at South Carolina, as he lit up opponents with his speed. It’s his overall toughness, though, that helped him stand out and lead the team in receiving during his senior year with 633 receptions and four touchdowns. His skill set will need to be polished in the NFL, but he has the competitive drive to make plays after the catch. Smith plays with a veteran savvy.
Williams is a sure-handed receiver that can be relied upon to the tough catch. The big-bodied receiver isn’t afraid to go over the middle and do the work that other receivers won’t sign up to do. He caught 132 receptions in his career, with 1,234 yards and 17 touchdowns. Williams’ 760 yards and four touchdowns as a junior led the Tigers.
As a four-year player, Palmer has plenty of experience on the field. He’s an athletic receiver that relies on his speed, running technique and catching ability to make big plays. Palmer ended up with 1,514 career receiving yards from 99 catches and seven touchdowns.
Grimes is not overly fast but he can run routes at the NFL level to get open against the defense. He has good size and can be relied upon to make catches in traffic. He made a career-best 38 receptions as a senior to go with 589 yards and nine touchdowns while starting each game.
Stevenson was a team captain for Houston and earned first-team All-AAC honors in 2018 and 2019. Though he opted out after fives games in 2020, he still managed a kick return touchdown, after having two the year before, showing his versatility. Stevenson has a slight build but is absolutely electric with blazing speed off the line and a second gear to break away from defenders downfield. He had 2,269 career yards on 147 receptions and scored 22 touchdowns.
23. Florida State WR Tamorrion Terry – Redshirt Junior, 6-2, 207, 4.44
Given the nickname “Scary Terry” from the hit cartoon show “Rick And Morty,” Terry earned that nickname due to his versatility of lining up anywhere on the field and using tremendous speed to motor down the field. He’s a big play waiting to happen, and had multiple touchdown receptions of over 70 yards. He had 118 receptions in his college career for 2,21 yards and 18 touchdowns, averaging close to 20 yards per catch.