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2021 NFL Draft: BTSC Big Board, Wide Receivers (Part 1)

Ranking and analyzing the top 24 receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft.

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

We are less than three months away from the draft, and the Senior Bowl is now behind us. After breaking down the quarterbacks and running backs the past two weeks, we are taking a look at the wide receivers.

Every year, there are usually a couple positions in the draft that are significantly deeper than others. Just like last year, wide receiver is one of those positions, as I currently have 42 receivers with draftable grades. D’Wayne Eskridge and Nico Collins cemented their status as potential top 50 picks with their performance in Mobile. Other guys, such as Shi Smith and Frank Darby, have moved from late round picks to potential day two options.

This board is a collaborative effort, and I, steelerfan11, want to thank Ryland for all the work he has put into these rankings and SNW for adding the stats and consensus ranking. If you want to join us and add analysis for prospects for the positions we have yet to break down, be sure to let us know in the comment section.

SNW’s consensus rankings are an average of where the prospects appeared on big boards (ranking all positions) from other draft websites. The websites, in order, are CBS Sports, Drafttek, ESPN, Mock Draft Database, and Tankathon.

In case you missed it, make sure to check out the first two installments of the board: Quarterbacks and Running backs.

As always, community interaction is encouraged, so be sure to let us know what you think of these rankings in the comment section. Feel free to tell us which receivers you would like to see the Steelers take a look at as well. But first, let’s get to the rankings!

1. DeVonta Smith — #6, Sr., 6’1”, 175 lbs — Alabama

Top 5 grade

Consensus ranking: 7 (8, 11, 4, 8, 5)

2020 season stats: 117 receptions, 1,865 receiving yards, 23 receiving touchdowns (13 games)

Ryland B.: While some still have Ja’Marr Chase ranked as the best wide receiver in the 2021 draft class, DeVonta Smith’s incredible senior season at Alabama made it hard to rank him anywhere besides #1. Despite lacking ideal size and athleticism for the position, Smith made the absolute best of what he had during his time at Alabama. And it’s fair to say his hard work paid off, as Smith won the Hesiman trophy his Senior year thanks to an absolutely incredible season (if you haven’t looked at his 2020 stats listed above yet, I’d recommend you do so — they are absolutely mind-blowing for a receiver at any level). What Smith does well is get open and catch the ball, perhaps the two most important traits for a receiver to have. Probably the best route-runner in the class, Smith has a great release, makes good cuts, and has a good feel for the little things that make a receiver great, such as finding the soft spot in a zone, faking out defenders at the top of his routes, and sharp footwork. He isn’t the greatest athlete, but still has solid speed and is a natural catcher of the ball, which makes him a threat in contested catch scenarios despite his diminutive frame. It’s worth noting Smith suffered a finger injury in the National Championship Game (a game in which he had 215 yards in the first half), which could be something to keep an eye on as hand injuries can be dangerous for receivers, although it doesn’t look like it will be a big deal. Smith was as close as you can get to unstoppable in 2020, and while lack of size may be a concern at the NFL level, he’s a complete prospect who will undoubtedly be a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft.

steelerfan11: When Jaylen Waddle went down with an injury early in the year, I was afraid that Smith’s production might drop due to getting more attention from defenses, but that was not the case at all. Smith took his game to another level and had one of the best seasons for a receiver in college football history. He is a savvy route-runner with incredible hands and body control. His speed is not on the same level as his teammate Jaylen Waddle, but he can separate from defenders downfield as well. His slight frame is something that will get some teams to give second thoughts about taking him inside the top five, but he has not been injury prone in college because of it. If I am Miami at three and Smith is available, I am running to the podium to get Tua a familiar target.

2. Ja’Marr Chase — #7, Jr., 6’0”, 208 lbs — LSU

Top 5 grade

Consensus ranking: 5 (5, 3, 5, 5, 6)

2020 season stats: Opted out

2019 season stats: 84 receptions, 1,780 receiving yards, 20 receiving touchdowns

Ryland B.: Although he may not have top tier size or speed, Ja’Marr Chase put up spectacular numbers during his sophomore season at LSU. Perhaps the best in this class at contested catches, Chase’s combination of strong hands and a good vertical made him nearly undefendable when the ball is in the air. While not the fastest, Chase has NFL-level speed and runs solid routes, and his excellent ball-tracking skills (along with his aforementioned strong hands) make him a receiver with an extremely high floor. Chase is a willing and successful blocker as well, and he can do some damage after the catch. If Chase can run a good 40 at his pro day I think it would alleviate some concerns regarding his athleticism. A year off of football could be an issue as well. However, his impressive numbers in college and polished skillset make him an early first-rounder regardless.

steelerfan11: Chase was almost as unstoppable in 2019 as DeVonta Smith was in 2020. Chase is an explosive player with a decent sized frame to win a good amount of contested catches. Hands are not an issue, and his ability to high point the ball is among the best in this class. He has good speed and runs solid routes, and his willingness as a blocker will not go unnoticed by scouts. There are a lot of other accolades I could give Chase, but since he is not falling anywhere near 24, let’s move on.

3. Jaylen Waddle — #17, Jr., 5’10”, 182 lbs — Alabama

Top 10 grade

Consensus ranking: 10 (9, 8, 10, 12, 13)

2020 season stats: 28 receptions, 591 receiving yards, 4 receiving touchdowns (6 games)

Ryland B.: One of my favorite prospects in this year’s draft, Waddle is a complete package at wide receiver, although some may knock him as simply a deep threat. He’ll be one of the fastest players in the NFL once he’s drafted, and is an excellent vertical threat who will be a great addition to any offense. However, Waddle isn’t just a one-trick pony, as he’s an above-average route runner with good quickness to go along with his game-breaking speed. He’s difficult to bring down in the open field. Waddle also has good hands and can make difficult catches, although his smaller frame may prevent him from succeeding in contested-catch scenarios on the next level. Waddle’s 2020 season was cut short due to an ankle injury in his fifth game, but all four games he started he gained over 120 total yards, showing how dynamic he can be when healthy. Although it might not have been his wisest decision, Waddle returned late in the season despite not being 100% to help his team in the National Championship, showing some impressive toughness. Waddle is a great receiver in a loaded class, and if he inexplicably falls to the Steelers’ pick at #24 overall, I’d expect them to take a long look at picking him despite the team’s bigger needs.

steelerfan11: I love guys who bring a special speed element to the game. With Waddle, it is not just straight-line speed. He is quick in and out of cuts, and he is extremely versatile, occasionally being used on jet sweeps and as a dangerous kick returner. There is the concern with injury, as Waddle has had some issues staying healthy, but the reward far outweighs the risk of taking him inside the top ten in my opinion. This guy is on another level when healthy.

4. Kadarius Toney — #1, Sr., 6’0”, 193 lbs — Florida

Top 25 grade

Consensus ranking: 51 (119, 54, 23, 29, 28)

2020 season stats: 70 receptions, 984 receiving yards, 10 receiving TD (11 games)

steelerfan11: Toney plays faster than what he might run in the 40. He is quick off the line of scrimmage, has good body control, and isn’t afraid of the middle of the field. Toney also shows tremendous effort as a blocker, which is something that the Steelers like in their receivers. There are a lot of receivers in this draft with Toney’s body type and style of play, but Toney was probably the most productive and most consistent at the collegiate level.

Ryland B.: Toney’s agility and shiftiness are on another level. A ton of his highlights were simple wide receiver screens where Florida would throw a short pass to Toney and let him create the rest of the yardage. He reminds me a bit of Diontae Johnson, as he’s a quicker-than-fast receiver who is incredibly dangerous after the catch, although Toney has stronger hands. He isn’t much of a deep threat and doesn’t have the greatest speed, but he’s fast enough to succeed on the NFL level. On a side note, I doubt he’ll end up in the black and gold, but if he does, he’s the perfect fit for a Matt Canada/Ben Roethlisberger offense: he has good hands and excels with short passes, sweeps, and motions.

5. Rashod Bateman — #0, Jr., 6’2”, 210 lbs — Minnesota

Top 25 grade

Consensus ranking: 22 (24, 26, 19, 19, 20)

2020 season stats: 36 receptions, 472 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD (5 games)

steelerfan11: Todd McShay compares Bateman to Juju Smith-Schuster, and that isn’t a terrible comparison. Bateman is good at making the contested catches and high-pointing the ball. He won’t likely run under 4.5, but he has sufficient speed and can run decent routes. His hands are among the best in this loaded class. While it was disappointing that he opted out this season, he showed enough in 2019 to warrant first round consideration.

Ryland B.: Bateman’s COVID-19 shortened 2020 wasn’t anything to write home about, but if you turn on his 2019 tape you’ll see what the hype was all about. Bateman made a living off of contested catches, showing off his incredible hands and concentration, even pulling some passes in with only one hand. Concerns about his speed are a little overblown, as he has enough to gain separation on the NFL level, and has quick feet and runs good routes. Contested catch specialists often have a hard time transitioning to the NFL level, but I think that Bateman’s solid floor of skills put him in the late first/early second round conversation.

6. Amon-Ra St. Brown — #8, Jr., 6’1” 195 lbs — USC

Late 1st round grade

Consensus ranking: 62 (58, 68, NA, 61, 60)

2020 season stats: 41 receptions, 478 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD (6 games)

steelerfan11: St. Brown has the bloodlines and the talent that warrant a first round selection, and he has a skill set to complement that. He is very quick and clean in and out of his cuts, he runs decent routes, has good body control and sideline awareness, has solid speed, and displays reliable hands week in and week out. Former USC receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is a reasonable comparison here as well, but I honestly think St. Brown’s game is a little more complete and a little better in terms of overall upside. While he isn’t dominant in any one area, he is very good in almost every category. If he isn’t a WR1 for some team, he will most certainly be one of the best #2 receivers in the league. He is a high floor prospect with a reasonably high ceiling.

Ryland B.: Steelerfan11’s Juju Smith-Schuster comparison is pretty good, but St. Brown reminds me more of his other USC predecessor, Michael Pittman Jr. (who, ironically, drew some Smith-Schuster comparisons as well during last year’s draft). St. Brown has a tall, lean frame, with great hands and a good catch radius. He has a great football IQ, runs good routes, and is a decent athlete all-around. He isn’t a freak athlete, but showed off some big-play ability with his combination of solid speed, physicality, and great hands. He projects as an excellent possession receiver in the NFL with some big-play upside.

7. D’Wayne Eskridge — #1, Sr., 5’9” 190 lbs — Western Michigan

Late 1st round grade

Consensus ranking: 109 (NA, 89, 105, 134, NA)

2020 season stats: 34 receptions, 784 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD (5 games)

steelerfan11: I watched Eskridge on tape and saw a guy who was extremely quick and difficult to cover, albeit against inferior MAC defenses. His explosiveness was impressive enough for me to give him a day two grade. I realize that the Senior Bowl drills give the edge to the receivers, but Eskridge was impressive nonetheless. He has the hands, he can run the routes, he can stop on a dime and make a defender look foolish, and he has extremely dangerous speed. Several years ago he ran a laser timed 4.33 40, which leads one to wonder if he could get under the 4.3 mark now. Either way, his speed is on another level, and an innovative coach will make this guy one of the most dangerous receivers in the league.

Ryland B: Eskridge’s draft stock rose meteorically during the Senior Bowl, going from a mid-round grade to a viable late first-rounder to many. Despite playing at a lower level of competition, Eskridge showed he could put DB’s at any level on skates during his impressive string of practices at the all-star game. Eskridge runs very snappy routes, making sharp cuts, and showing off great acceleration — all while being one of the fastest receivers in this class. He’s a little small for an NFL wideout, but he still has good hands and toughness, along with a defensive background. He was a starting cornerback at Western Michigan for much of his time there, and played fairly well. Overall, there’s a lot to like about Eskridge’s game, and while a good Senior Bowl may have taken aways his status as a late-round gem, a deep wide receiver class could push him into the second round. He’s a MAC guy, too, which means the Steelers will definitely have him on their radar.

8. Rondale Moore — #4, So., 5’9” 180lbs — Purdue

Late 1st round grade

Consensus ranking: 32 (17, 20, 58, 29, 34)

2020 season stats: 35 receptions, 270 receiving yards, 0 receiving TD (3 games)

steelerfan11: Moore has only played in seven games since 2018, but Purdue was a different team when he was on the field. His small body causes durability concerns, but he is incredibly dangerous after the catch and difficult to bring down due to his quickness and elusiveness. He has plenty of speed, and he has the ability to separate on short and intermediate crossing routes with ease. He is very versatile, being used on jet sweeps and being used as a kick returner throughout his time at Purdue. Moore has the chance of becoming a truly special player, but the durability concerns cannot be ignored. He is worthy of being a top 15 pick based on potential.

Ryland B.: Rondale Moore is an interesting prospect, as most of his first-round hype is based off of his incredible freshman season — back in 2018. That year Moore had over 100 catches and 1,200 yards to go along with his 12 touchdowns, making him a surefire first round pick when he would eventually enter the draft. However, a torn ACL at the beginning of his sophomore campaign didn’t help his draft plans, and then a decision to opt-out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns essentially made Moore a one-year wonder. Although when he’s on the field, there is a lot to like about his game. Moore is very fast and elusive, and is a monster after the catch. There are some concerns about his smaller frame, as Moore isn’t suited for contested catches and struggles against physical corners, although he has good hands. Moore is a boom-or-bust prospect entering this year’s draft, but if he can be the player he was in 2018, the team that drafted him will be quite happy that they did so.

9. Nico Collins — #1, Sr., 6’4” 215 lbs, — Michigan

Late 1st round grade

Consensus ranking: 125 (138, 157, 43, 161, NA)

2020 season stats: Opted out

2019 season stats: 37 receptions, 729 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD

steelerfan11: Collins opted out of the 2020 season for Michigan, and his absence was quite evident. Collins did not have a great quarterback throwing him the ball during his time in Ann Arbor, but he bailed Shea Patterson out many times down the field in 2019. For a guy at that size, he actually runs decent routes and gets in and out of his cuts pretty quickly. His ball skills are tremendous, and he has good speed. If he would have had good quarterback play last year and decided to play this season, we may be talking about him as a top 15-20 pick. I still think that he is deserving of first round consideration simply based off of talent, but it is probably more likely that he falls to day two.

Ryland B.: Nico Collins is an athletically-gifted wide receiver with great NFL size. He’s a solid route-runner with impressive speed, who is incredibly dangerous on vertical routes. He has good hands and concentration, and his size makes him a threat in jump-ball scenarios. He was never that productive in college, but quite frankly that might have been a product of a poor Michigan offense. Collins opted out of the 2020 season, which could be a slight concern, but he looked good at the Senior Bowl and should be a high-upside pick in the early rounds.

10. Elijah Moore — #8, Jr., 5’9”, 184 lbs, — Ole Miss

Early 2nd round grade

Consensus ranking: 54 (NA, 56, 36, 68, 54)

2020 season stats: 86 receptions, 1193 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD (8 games)

steelerfan11: Yet another undersized receiver with great speed, Moore broke out this season for the Rebels, grabbing 86 balls for nearly 1,200 yards. He doesn’t have a huge route tree, but he is quick in and out of his cuts and dangerous after the catch. His hands are generally reliable, and he has the acceleration to separate from defenders in the vertical passing game. Sometimes he can get held up at the line by good press corners, but overall, Moore’s ability far exceeds his limitations. He may be limited to the slot in the NFL, but he immediately gives the team that drafts him an explosive element to their offense.

Ryland B.: I hadn’t watched Elijah Moore at all until looking at film for this board, but I came away very impressed. He’s very quick and has solid speed, and runs good routes. He was very productive in college as well, and although he ran a lot of short routes, mainly bubble screens and curls, he was really successful when he got the chance to run vertically. I think he’ll translate quite well into the NFL as a starting slot receiver.

11. Terrace Marshall — #6, Jr., 6’3”, 200 lbs, — LSU

Early 2nd round grade

Consensus ranking: 41 (65, 35, 35, 36, 35)

2020 season stats: 48 receptions, 731 receiving yards, 10 receiving TD (7 games)

Ryland B.: Part of a highly productive LSU offense in 2019, Marshall still managed to shine despite being in the same wide receiver room as Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase. Both Jefferson and Chase didn’t play in 2020, and Marshall was able to capitalize on the opportunity, putting up good numbers before opting out part way through the season. Marshall has really great size and good vertical speed and ball skills, although his hands aren’t the most consistent. Marshall is a good route-runner as well, although there is room to grow regarding his quickness and agility. Having been overlooked early on in his career due to the talented offense he played on, Marshall could be a big-time steal in the second or third round.

12. Tylan Wallace — #2, Sr., 6’0”, 190 lbs, — Oklahoma State

Mid 2nd round grade

Consensus ranking: 53 (62, 50, 60, 72, 67)

2020 season stats: 59 receptions, 922 receiving yards, 6 receiving TD (13 games)

Ryland B.: Tylan Wallace has been consistently productive as a three-year starter at Oklahoma State, racking up nearly 3,500 receiving yards in his career as a contested-catch specialist. Wallace doesn’t have great size or speed, and his lanky frame limits his agility and quickness. However, he’s a good football player, period. Wallace has really great hands and tracks the ball well, and despite not being the biggest guy, he wins a lot of jump balls. He’s a scrappy, physical receiver who is an excellent blocker and tough to bring down after the catch, fighting hard for yardage every time. He also sells out for the ball when it’s in the air, fighting through the defender and contorting his body to find a way to make the catch. Wallace was an excellent college receiver, but his athletic profile may hinder his transition to the NFL.

13. Anthony Schwartz — #1, Jr., 6’0”, 179 — Auburn

Early 3rd round grade

Consensus ranking: 117 (141, 92, NA, 118, NA)

2020 season stats: 54 receptions, 636 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD (10 games)

steelerfan11: Schwartz is one of my favorite prospects in this entire class. There is fast, and then there is freaky fast. Tyreek Hill fast. If there was a scouting combine this year, I would be fascinated to see if Schwartz would break the 40 record currently held by John Ross. Listed at only 179 pounds, Schwartz could probably afford to add ten pounds and not lose his world class speed. Schwartz has pretty good hands for a speed guy, and he is not afraid to work the middle of the field. He can line up on the outside or in the slot, although his best fit in the NFL will likely be the slot. I wish that he was a more willing blocker and had a little more shiftiness to his game, but the sky’s the limit for a guy with Schwartz’s speed.

14. Tamorrion Terry — #5, Jr., 6’4”, 210 lbs — Florida State

Mid 3rd round grade

Consensus ranking: 107 (78, NA, 129, 116, NA)

2020 season stats: 23 receptions, 289 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD (6 games)

steelerfan11: Terry has dropped significantly on big boards on national sites, but I am not totally sure why. Terry is not the most sure-handed receiver in the world, but I think a lot of his drops are because of poor concentration and adjusting to the football a bit late. I think he can and will improve in that area. Terry’s size and speed make him incredibly difficult to cover on the boundary one-on-one, and his ability to high-point the ball make him an excellent contested catch receiver. His length allows him to create separation vertically, and his agility and footwork make him dangerous after the catch as well. He is raw, but guys with this much size and speed are not usually available in the middle rounds. If he can solve some of the technical issues in his game, he has a chance to be special.

15. Seth Williams — #18, Jr., 6’3”, 211 lbs, — Auburn

Mid 3rd round grade

Consensus ranking: 90 (95, 97, NA, 83, 86)

2020 season stats: 47 receptions, 760 receiving yards, 4 receiving TD (11 games)

Ryland B.: Seth Williams is very similar to Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace as a receiver. Williams isn’t the fastest, and has a hard time gaining separation on routes. However, he excels at tough catches, tracking the ball well and having vise-grip hands, even through contact. Williams has better size than Wallace, though, and I think he can be a good contested catch/red zone target in the NFL.

16. Simi Fehoko — #13, Jr., 6’4”, 227 lbs, — Stanford

Late 3rd round grade

Consensus ranking: 423 (NA, 423, NA, NA, NA)

2020 season stats: 37 receptions, 574 receiving yards, 3 receptions TD (6 games)

steelerfan11: Have you ever heard of a guy named Chase Claypool? Fehoko isn’t quite as strong as Claypool, but there are some similarities. At 6’4 and over 225 pounds, he has the ability to win the contested catches in tight spaces. While a few drops do show up on tape, he generally displays strong hands needed to haul in the balls that are thrown into heavy traffic. I know that 40 times do not make or break a player, but that time is rather important when evaluating receivers and perimeter skill players. If there was a combine this year, his straight-line speed could probably get him in the 4.3s. He isn’t quite that fast when you see him on tape, but we said the same thing about Claypool after he ran his 4.42 last year. He also has some sneaky wiggle to his game. If he can clean up those occasional drops, he has a chance to be special.

17. Dyami Brown — #2, Jr., 6’0”, 185 lbs, — North Carolina

Late 3rd round grade

Consensus ranking: 113 (108, 95, NA, 135, NA)

2020 season stats: 55 receptions, 1099 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD (11 games)

steelerfan11: Brown is very good at getting vertical. He has great ball skills and does a great job of tracking the ball downfield. He does have the occasional dropped pass, but he seemed to improve in that department as the season went along. What makes Brown an intriguing option in the middle rounds is that, unlike a lot of other receivers in this part of the draft, he gives tremendous effort as a blocker. He does a good job of creating separation late in his routes, and he isn’t afraid of working the middle of the field. There is certainly upside for Brown, and he should be able to step in and contribute immediately as a #3 option for an offense.

18. Shi Smith — #13, Sr., 5’10” 190 lbs, — South Carolina

Late 3rd round grade

Consensus ranking: 191 (NA, 208, 217, 149, NA)

2020 season stats: 57 receptions, 633 receiving yards, 4 receiving TD (9 games)

Ryland B.: Another Senior Bowl riser, Shi Smith might have raised his draft stock a few rounds after a fantastic week in Mobile. He’s not the biggest, but he plays larger than he is and has good, consistent hands. He’s a good route-runner with quickness and great acceleration, getting off of line well on his releases. He has good speed as well, and is fairly elusive after the catch. While mainly used on short and intermediate route concepts in college, Smith is still a above-average deep threat thanks to his speed, while his ball skills have helped him make some circus catches over his career. Despite his smaller size, Smith is quite the receiver and has a lot of athletic upside. He could be a dynamic slot receiver at the next level.

19. Chatarius (TuTu) Atwell — #1, Jr., 5’9”, 165 lbs, — Louisville

Late 3rd round grade

Consensus ranking: 85 (90, 98, 46, 99, 94)

2020 season stats: 46 receptions, 625 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD (9 games)

steelerfan11: There is no denying the explosiveness that Atwell could bring to a team, but 165 pounds is small. One has to wonder is he will be able to sustain hits in the NFL. That said, you have to catch a guy before you can hit him, and Atwell’s elusiveness and twitchiness makes him nearly impossible to stop in open space. While he could be one of the best gadget receivers in the NFL, he will need to sure up the hands and be able to run better and more complex routes if he wants to be anything more than that.

20. Sage Surratt — #14, Jr., 6’3”, 215 lbs, — Wake Forest

Mid 4th round grade

Consensus ranking: 88 (107, 109, 48, 84, 91)

2020 season stats: Opted out

2019 season stats: 66 receptions, 1001 receiving yards, 11 receiving TD (9 games)

Ryland B.: I see Surratt as a less athletic Chase Claypool in this year’s draft, as he’s a jumbo-sized, muscular receiver who is a little lacking in general quickness and speed. Originally committed to Harvard, he ended up deciding to play at Wake Forest, where he established a good connection with quarterback Jamie Newman. Despite not being the fastest, one of Surratt’s strengths was vertical routes, where he has adequate long speed and excellent hands to make difficult catches, although he struggles with concentration drops at times. After opting out of the 2020 NFL season, Surratt looked to improve his draft stock at the Senior Bowl, but may have ended up lowering it, as he had a difficult time getting separation all week although he did have some nice catches. Overall, Surratt’s size, hands, intelligence, and physicality make him a solid mid-round target, although some question regarding his athletic ability could drop him to the later rounds.

21. Jaelon Darden — #1, Sr., 5’9” 174 lbs, — North Texas

Late 4th round grade

Consensus ranking: 100 (NA, 93, NA, 107, NA)

2020 season stats: 74 receptions, 1190 receiving yards, 19 receiving TD (9 games)

steelerfan11: Darden was moved all over the place in North Texas’ offense, taking reps as a running back, slot receiver, outside receiver, and kick returner. His stop and start ability is as good as anyone’s, and his awareness allows him to sense when he needs to come to a halt to make a defender miss. He is a very good route-runner as well. However, he does not seem to be a natural catcher of the ball, and his catch radius is not very big. But if he can position his hands better and clean up the occasional drop, he is yet another potential gem in this deep class of receivers.

22. Dez Fitzpatrick —#7, Sr., 6’2”, 204 lbs — Louisville

Late 4th round grade

Consensus ranking: 165 (NA, 175, 154, NA, NA)

2020 season stats: 43 receptions, 833 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD (11 games)

Ryland B.: Fitzpatrick is a tall, lanky receiver who never reached his full potential in college due to below-average quarterback play. Still, he was fairly productive during his Louisville career, and looks to be a mid-round pick in the upcoming draft. Fitzpatrick is a technically sound receiver, who runs good routes, cuts really sharply, and has excellent hands and concentration. He is a high-effort, tough receiver as well. However, he doesn’t have the top notch athleticism and speed some of the other receivers in this class do, and despite his good route-running, he doesn’t have great quickness, either. Fitzpatrick had a good Senior Bowl overall, but suffered from some uncharacteristic drop issues. His limited athleticism may be a concern, but Fitzpatrick is an NFL-ready player with a lot to like in his game.

23. Amari Rodgers — #3, Sr., 5’10”, 210 lbs — Clemson

Late 4th round grade

Consensus ranking: 157 (104, 153, 213, NA, NA)

2020 season stats: 12 receptions, 1020 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD (12 games)

steelerfan11: Rodgers has a thick, sturdy frame for a receiver who isn’t even 5’10. His lack of length and limited route tree are two areas that could limit his potential at the next level, but he has dangerous speed once he has that motor accelerated as high as it will go. He has good vision and burst, which is why I could actually see him transitioning to running back. That does not mean that he doesn’t have upside as a receiver. Rodgers could be a special slot receiver, but his build could allow him to have a higher ceiling as a running back, especially if he can pack on a few more pounds to his short frame.

24. Marquez Stevenson — #5, Sr., 6’0”, 190 lbs — Houston

Late 4th round grade

Consensus ranking: 137 (NA, 214, 99, 97, NA)

2020 season stats: 20 receptions, 307 receiving yards, 4 receiving TD (5 games)

Ryland B.: Stevenson has game-breaking speed, and made a living off of it in college, burning defensive backs consistently for the Houston Cougars for big play after big play. As you can probably guess, his strength is deep routes, where his aforementioned speed would get him plenty of separation while his excellent ball-tracking skills would help him corral deep balls. He has good size for the position as well, and is a dynamic kick returner. Stevenson’s athletic abilities make him a good receiver, but he’s still rather underdeveloped when it comes to his route-running, and he struggles making difficult catches although his hands aren’t much of a concern overall. The other concern with Stevenson is his injury history, as he’s suffered a torn ACL, a broken collarbone, and ankle issues throughout his college career. Still, he’s an incredibly high-upside prospect who could develop into something special at the NFL level.

Several of you have commented on the length of the rankings of the running backs. So because of the incredible depth of the receiver position, we are going to split up the players with round four grades or higher from those with round five grades or lower. The second installment of this series, covering the wide receivers with grades from rounds five through seven, will be released in the next few days on the website.

Should the Steelers draft a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Ryland B.: “You can never have too many good wide receivers” is a saying I see thrown around a lot during the draft, and I adamantly believe in it — and if you look at the track record of Steelers’ general manager Kevin Colbert, it’s fair to say that he does too. So while the Steelers have much bigger needs on their team such as offensive line and running back, it’s fair to say that a receiver will be selected at some point, especially if the team loses Juju Smith-Schuster to free agency (they could possibly lose Ray-Ray McCloud too). I’d say that the third round or later is where the Steelers could potentially pick a receiver, especially due to the team’s ability to find late-round gems. That being said, the Steelers take second-round receivers a lot, so that could definitely be an option as well. I’ll finish with this: the Steelers have been known to not pass on receivers who they really like, even if there are bigger needs on the roster. So if one of the top four receivers are available in the first round (Smith, Chase, Waddle, and Toney), the Steelers will likely take a long look. And given this team’s success with wide receivers, I wouldn’t mind one bit.

steelerfan11: Much will depend on whether the Steelers bring back Juju Smith-Schuster, but I would grab one if at all possible. The past two drafts have been rich at receiver, and this class is arguably deeper than either of them. What will be intriguing to find out is the type of receiver that the Steelers target. Personally, I would like a true speed option. Chase Claypool has good speed for a man his size, and Dionate Johnson is quick, but the Steelers do not have a Tyreek Hill type burner that would add another dimension to this offense. While it would be nice to get a Rondale Moore or D’Wayne Eskridge on day two, the Steelers have too many needs on the offensive line to take a receiver that high. It would also be interesting to see us match Chase Clapool with another freak of nature such as a Nico Collins or Simi Fehoko, but again, there are more pressing needs. I think the sweet spot could be in round four, when the likes of Anthony Schwartz and Tamorrion Terry could be available. Ray-Ray McCloud would not be difficult to replace in this draft either, as Jalen Virgil, Jaelon Darden, Cade Johnson, and several other late round options would provide the versatility that Ray-Ray brought while bringing slightly more upside in the long term. If I was the GM, I would trade back at least once in this draft to gain a few more picks, which would give us the flexibility to take a chance on a couple receivers. However, if the Steelers do not acquire more draft capital, there is no way that they can afford to take more than one.


When should the Steelers draft a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    Round 1
    (4 votes)
  • 14%
    Rounds 2-3
    (33 votes)
  • 57%
    Rounds 4-5
    (132 votes)
  • 21%
    Rounds 6-7
    (50 votes)
  • 4%
    UDFA/Don’t draft a wide receiver
    (10 votes)
229 votes total Vote Now

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