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2021 NFL Draft: BTSC Big Board, Wide Receivers (Part 2)

Ranking and analyzing 18 more receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft.

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The BTSC Big Board is back, this time with a shorter edition covering the second part of our wide receiver rankings and analysis for the upcoming draft.

It’s another deep group at the position this year, and even though the prospects below are graded from rounds 5-7, in any other class some might go in rounds 3-4. And despite the lower grades, there’s still a lot to like about the second half of this year’s class of wideouts.

On one hand, there’s those with a high floor who are technically sound, but lack the “wow” factor to go any higher in the draft, such as Memphis’ Damonte Coxie or USC’s Tyler Vaughns. On the other, there’s a collection of uber-talented athletes who never completely figured it out in college but have sky-high ceilings, such as Appalachian State’s Jalen Virgil and Illinois’ Josh Imatorbhebhe.

The first tend to be solid depth options on NFL rosters, while the latter are more boom-or-bust but have genuine starter upside. There’s plenty of both types listed below, all of which could be potential options for the Steelers in the later rounds.

The main rankings below are steelerfan11’s while the analysis is a collaborative effort. These rankings are a continuation of the first part of the wide receiver big board, which you can view HERE. And in case you missed it, make sure to check out the first two installments of the board: Quarterbacks and Running backs.

The consensus rankings, compiled by SNW, 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.

If you have thoughts on the board or would be interested in contributing to it, please let us know in the comments below.


25. Dazz Newsome — #5, Sr., 5’11”, 190 lbs — North Carolina

Early 5th round grade

Consensus ranking: 138 (66, 101, 273, 110, NA)

2020 season stats: 54 receptions, 684 receiving yards, 6 receiving TD (12 games)

steelerfan11: Newsome was Mr. Reliable for Sam Howell, grabbing 126 balls in the past two seasons combined. He isn’t the biggest or the fastest, but he has good hands, runs good routes, and creates separation late in the route. He also provides some value as a punt returner. Newsome is best suited in the slot, and he will likely be limited to the slot until he can get stronger. His route-running ability and sure hands could make him an immediate contributor though.

26. Frank Darby — #84, Sr., 6’1”, 200 lbs — Arizona State

Early 5th round grade

Consensus ranking: 188 (NA, 220, 228, 117, NA)

2020 season stats: 6 receptions, 46 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD (4 games)

Ryland B.: Darby is a tough, well-built wide receiver whose skill-set translates best as a slot receiver at the NFL level. He is agile with good twitch, and has excellent hands and physicality going across the middle. He doesn’t have top-end speed, but he still was a solid deep threat at Arizona State, and did well when going up for jump balls thanks to his great hands and ability to track the ball.

27. TJ Vasher — #9, Sr., 6’6”, 210 lbs — Texas Tech

Early 5th round grade

Consensus ranking: 199 (NA, 196, 123, 279, NA)

2020 season stats: 19 receptions, 227 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD (7 games)

steelerfan11: When you get to the later portions of day three, I find it better to take a shot on a special talent who has had some injuries than take a guy who’s upside is a solid special teamer or career backup. Vasher has had his share of injuries, but the talent is undeniable. Adding more weight to his 6’6 frame could help him from a durability standpoint, but he has good speed and runs good routes for a receiver at that size. He has good ball skills and has shown success on contested catches as well. Yes, the injury concern is real, but an offensive coordinator could really get creative with a healthy Vasher.

28. Cade Johnson — #15, Sr., 5’9”, 180 lbs — South Dakota State

Mid 5th round grade

Consensus ranking: 209 (NA, 272, 167, 188, NA)

2020 season stats: None

2019 season stats: 72 receptions, 1222 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD (13 games)

Ryland B.: Johnson didn’t get to play in 2020 as the FCS season was cancelled due to COVID-19, but he impressed at the Senior Bowl and definitely looked like a draftable prospect. He doesn’t have great size, but he’s a quick receiver with good athleticism all around. Johnson consistently gets separation on his routes, and showed off some great yards after the catch ability at SDSU. He has good hands and usually finds a way to hold onto the ball through contact, which is encouraging due to his smaller frame. I think Johnson is a sleeper in this draft, as he has the skill-set to be a quality slot receiver in the NFL.

29. Jalen Virgil — #11, Sr., 6’1”, 205 lbs — Appalachian State

Late 5th round grade

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

2020 season stats: 22 receptions, 225 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD (9 games)

Ryland B.: There won’t be a combine this year, but if there was, Jalen Virgil would be one of the players to really up his draft stock through the process. He has solid height, but he’s sturdily built and is incredibly fast and explosive. He’ll likely have an exceptional SPARQ score due to his size and jaw-dropping athleticism. Virgil is still very much a developmental prospect, but he showed good hands during his college career, as well as the ability to break tackles thanks to his frame and quickness. He had some success as a returner as well. Virgil is a work in progress, but he has the potential to be something special in the NFL if he gets coached up.

30. Austin Watkins Jr. — #6, Sr., 6’3”, 205 lbs — UAB

Late 5th round grade

Consensus ranking: 250 (NA, 246, 254, NA, NA)

2020 season stats: 34 receptions, 468 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD (7 games)

steelerfan11: The cousin of Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins, Austin is an explosive playmaker who thrives in contested catch situations. His ability to high-point the ball and fight through traffic for a catch is about as good as anyone’s. His route-running is decent for a 6’3 receiver, and he rarely drops a ball that should be caught. His lack of top-end speed could limit his ceiling, but there is certainly enough upside here to take a chance on him with a day three pick.

31. Ihmir Smith-Marsette — #6, Sr., 6’1”, 179 lbs — Iowa

Late 5th round grade

Consensus ranking: 108 (89, 128, 76, 139, NA)

2020 season stats: 25 receptions, 345 receiving yards, 4 receiving TD (7 games)

Ryland B.: Smith-Marsette is a tall, fast receiver with a good floor of skills. However, he was held back a bit in college due to a below-average Iowa offense, which hindered his development. He didn’t help his draft stock much himself, though, getting arrested for driving while intoxicated in November of 2020. An ill-advised front flip after scoring a touchdown hurt his ankle and effectively ended his season, as well. Smith-Marsette is a good receiver, but his red flags could tank his draft stock to the later rounds.

32. Tyler Vaughns — #21, Sr., 6’2”, 190 lbs — USC

6th round grade

Consensus ranking: 144 (NA, 120, 100, 212, NA)

2020 season stats: 33 receptions, 406 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD (6 games)

steelerfan11: Vaughns has been hidden on the depth chart during his time at USC, playing second fiddle to Michael Pittman in 2019 and Amon-Ra St. Brown in 2020. His vertical leaping ability and good hands make him successful in jump ball situations, and his route-running is above average. He will provide immediate depth for some team and potentially develop into a WR3. Although it is hard to tell exactly how high his ceiling is, at least there seems to be a safe floor here.

33. Damonte Coxie — #10, Sr., 6’3”, 200 lbs — Memphis

6th round grade

Consensus ranking: 162 (111, 104, NA, 271, NA)

2020 season stats: 16 receptions, 175 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD (2 games)

Ryland B.: Coxie is a tough, physical receiver who has been consistently productive during his time at Memphis. He’s a competitive guy who gives his all every play, whether it’s a blocking assignment or running a route. He’s not a burner, lacking the ideal speed and quickness you’d want out of an NFL receiver, but Coxie shines in other ways. He has excellent hands, good ball skills, and good body control, and paired with his larger frame, I think he could be a really solid possession receiver at the next level.

34. Warren Jackson — #9, Sr., 6’6”, 212 lbs — Colorado State

6th round grade

Consensus ranking: 216 (NA, 301, 130, NA, NA)

2020 season stats: None

2019 season stats: 77 receptions, 1119 receiving yards, 8 receiving TD (10 games)

steelerfan11: Jackson is a competitive receiver who uses his 6’6 frame to his advantage on 50/50 balls. His productivity in 2019 speaks for itself, but it is hard to tell whether he has the speed to separate against NFL corners. He also is very limited as to what routes he can run. But if he can get better positioning against opposing defensive backs, he can provide value in red zone situations.

35. Cornell Powell — #17, Sr., 6’0”, 201 lbs — Clemson

7th round grade

Consensus ranking: 204 (NA, 251, 236, 125, NA)

2020 season stats: 53 receptions, 882 receiving yards, 7 receiving TD (12 games)

Ryland B.: Cornell Powell has an interesting story, as he was a non-factor in Clemson’s offense for four years before finally breaking out as a fifth-year senior in 2020. What stood out to me immediately was the hard work and patience Powell showed while working his way up the depth chart, as he likely could have transferred at some point to get an inside track for a starting job somewhere else. Instead, he stuck around and was rewarded with an excellent senior year at Clemson. Powell as a player is a slightly different story, as he’s a good athlete who played well last year, but due to being a super late-bloomer there are concerns regarding his small body of work. It’s fair to say he was stuck behind some very good receivers on the depth chart during his time at Clemson, though. He has good size, speed, explosiveness, and is a solid route-runner with good hands. He also was incredibly willing and effective as a blocker. I like this guy a lot, and think he’s a high-upside late-round option who could turn into quite the steal.

36. Trevon Grimes — #8, Sr., 6’4”, 218 lbs — Florida

7th round grade

Consensus ranking: 174 (123, 230, 181, 162, NA)

2020 season stats: 38 receptions, 589 receiving yards, 9 receiving TD (11 games)

steelerfan11: Grimes won’t run away from very many defenders, but he uses his big frame to bring in balls that are thrown into traffic. In the red zone, Grimes has been a top target for Kyle Trask, showing the ability to get good position against opposing defensive backs and make the difficult catches when necessary. Another positive is that he is a capable and willing blocker. He needs to expand his route tree, but he should be able to make a roster somewhere as a developmental receiver.

37. Josh Imatorbhebhe — #9, Sr., 6’2”, 215 lbs — Illinois

7th round grade

Consensus ranking: 193 (NA, 197, NA, 189, NA)

2020 season stats: 22 receptions, 297 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD (7 games)

Ryland B.: Players like Imatorbhebhe are why it’s worth it to scout late-round prospects. He’s a freakish athlete with great size, speed, and an elite vertical. Problem is he wasn’t very consistent at Illinois and is still very underdeveloped all-around. Still, with some good coaching, Imatorbhebhe’s size, speed, explosiveness, and physicality could make him into a formidable wide receiver on the NFL level.

38. Marlon Williams — #6, Sr., 6’0”, 215 lbs — UCF

7th round grade

Consensus ranking: 140 (142, NA, NA, 137, NA)

2020 season stats: 71 receptions, 1039 receiving yards, 10 receiving TD (8 games)

steelerfan11: Williams was a productive college receiver who excelled at winning 50/50 balls. He has great hands and the ability to high-point the football. He has good lower body strength and is tough to bring down. However, having the thick frame that he has makes him a little less agile than some of the other receivers that may be available in this range. Route running is not a strength, but Williams uses his toughness and sure hands to make the difficult catches when he is unable to separate from defenders. He is yet another slot option that could be an absolute steal due to the depth of this class.

39. Whop Philyor — #1, Sr., 5’11”, 180 lbs — Indiana

7th round grade

Consensus ranking: 242 (NA, 281, 268, 178, NA)

2020 season stats: 54 receptions, 495 receiving yards, 3 receiving TD (8 games)

Ryland B.: Philyor is a sure-handed, tough receiver whose size will reduce him to a slot-only role in the NFL. He doesn’t have the greatest straight-line speed, but he’s quick and agile and very elusive. Philyor was pretty productive in college and has some YAC ability. A solid day three pick.

40. Tre Nixon — #16, Sr., 6’2”, 180 lbs — UCF

7th round grade

Consensus ranking: 270 (NA, NA, 270, NA, NA)

2020 season stats: 19 receptions, 260 receiving yards, 2 receiving TD (5 games)

steelerfan11: I wrote something about Nixon when breaking down UCF’s 2021 prospects in a fan post this past summer, and at the time I felt he could be a late day two pick. Unfortunately, Nixon suffered a shoulder injury in their season opener that cost him a good bit of the season. He has good length and speed, but he lacks the weight and physicality you generally want a player at that height to have. He needs to become a better route-runner as well, but there is a lot of upside to Nixon’s game.

41. Josh Palmer — #5, Sr., 6’2”, 210 lbs — Tennessee

7th round grade

Consensus ranking: 261 (NA, 352, 131, 300, NA)

2020 season stats: 33 receptions, 475 receiving yards, 4 receiving TD (10 games)

Ryland.: Palmer isn’t a great route-runner, but he brings just about everything else you could want in an NFL receiver. Good size, hands, speed, with some big-play ability. On the tape he made some nice sideline catches, as well as some really acrobatic ones, often bailing out his quarterback on some bad throws. Palmer is a good receiver who just never reached his full potential at Tennessee, and his high ceiling makes him an interesting prospect.

42. JD Spielman — #10, Sr., 5’9”, 180 lbs — TCU

7th round grade

Consensus ranking: 272 (NA, 340, 203, NA, NA)

2020 season stats: 5 receptions, 56 receiving yards, 0 receiving TD (3 games)

steelerfan11: There would be more buzz around Spielman if there were not so many other prospects in this class that offer the same skill set. He is super quick and can change direction as quick as anyone. When the ball is in his hands, he has good vision and the agility to not only make defenders miss, but make them look absolutely stupid trying to get a hold of him in the open field. His frame will likely limit him to the slot in the NFL, but he can become an explosive option in both the passing game and the return game if given the opportunity.


Notable prospects who decided to return to school for 2021:

Clemson WR Justyn Ross

NC State WR Emeka Emezie

Miami WR Charleston Rambo

Miami WR Mike Harley

Ohio State WR Chris Olave

SMU WR Reggie Robertson

Florida WR Jacob Copeland

Florida WR Justin Shorter

Florida State WR D.J. Matthews

Memphis WR Calvin Austin

Michigan WR Ronnie Bell

Boise State WR Khalil Shakir

Boise State WR C.T. Thomas

Minnesota WR Chris Autman-Bell


Here’s the poll that was included in first part of the wide receiver big board, and if you haven’t completed it yet, feel free to add your vote below.

Poll

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

This is a collaborative effort, and we are looking for more contributors to add to the board by helping with the analysis.

If you are interested in contributing, or just want to share your thoughts about the draft, please let us know in the comments below.

Stay tuned to Behind the Steel Curtain for more content, including the rest of this big board, as we inch closer to the 2021 NFL Draft.