In his first season as the lead wide receiver for the Tennessee Volunteers, Josh Palmer put himself on the 2021 NFL Draft radar. Can he follow former teammate Jauan Jennings and convert an opportunity at the Reese’s Senior Bowl into hearing his name called in the NFL Draft?
Josh Palmer NFL Draft Profile & Senior Bowl Measurements
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Tennessee
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’1 1/4″
- Weight: 210 pounds
- Wingspan: 79″
- Arm: 33″
- Hand: 9 3/8″
Josh Palmer hasn’t followed a conventional path to the 2021 NFL Draft. The Canadian-born son of Jamaican parents appeared destined to succeed on the basketball court rather than the gridiron. Growing up in Brampton, Ontario, he was a promising basketball player who also played soccer and a little football.
It wasn’t until he came to Saint Thomas Aquinas that football became a serious part of his life. The Florida-based school is synonymous with sporting success, particularly in football. During his time there, Palmer had his own taste of that success. As a senior, Palmer was a part of a Florida Class 7A state title-winning Aquinas team.
To say Palmer was a part of it is downplaying his achievement. With 506 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns on 32 receptions, he was selected to the Florida Class 7A All-State Second Team. Football was now firmly in his future.
As a three-star recruit and the 121st-ranked receiver in the 2017 class, Palmer received numerous offers. He settled on Syracuse before de-committing in January 2017. It was a big blow to the Syracuse program as Palmer was their highest-ranked recruit in the class. Despite an offer from Penn State, Syracuse’s loss was Tennessee’s gain. Palmer committed to the Volunteers just two weeks later.
Josh Palmer’s career as a Tennessee wide receiver
Although Palmer was eased into the Tennessee offense, he still contributed as a freshman. He saw time in the Tennessee wide receiver rotation in nine games, logging at least one catch in eight of them. In four of those eight games, Palmer secured double-digit receiving yards to end his first season with Tennessee (98 yards on 9 receptions).
Despite sitting behind Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings for his sophomore and junior seasons, Palmer emerged as an explosive threat for the Tennessee offense. In 2018, he racked up 484 receiving yards and secured his first career touchdown (he’d finish with 3 TDs). His 21 yards per catch average was the third-best of any receiver in the SEC and seventh-best in the entire nation.
The following season, Palmer once again accounted for 400+ yards of the Tennessee offense while staying in Callaway and Jennings’ shadows.
Becoming the figurehead of the passing offense in 2020
With Jennings and Callaway departed for the NFL, 2020 was Josh Palmer’s opportunity to shine and increase his NFL Draft stock. However, the Tennessee program struggled in his last year. Inconsistent play at the quarterback position hampered the offense.
Despite this, Palmer led the team in receiving yards and set a new career-best of 4 touchdowns. His average of 14.4 yards per catch was an increase from 2019. Impressively, against increased defensive focus, Palmer came up just nine yards short of his single-season receiving yardage total from 2018 with two fewer games.
Analyzing Josh Palmer’s NFL Draft profile
His season statistics may seem paltry compared to some of the wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft class. Don’t be fooled, however, there is plenty to love about Josh Palmer’s game. Additionally, last season’s best performance came against one of the best cornerback tandems in college football.
Palmer secured 71 receiving yards and 2 touchdowns on just 4 receptions against Georgia. Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell have both received first-round NFL Draft buzz. However, Palmer showed that he could go toe-to-toe with them both. His over-the-shoulder touchdown catch against Campbell was a beautiful combination of hand skills, awareness, and body control to ensure he kept a foot in the field of play and complete the touchdown catch.
Palmer’s body control is one of the best things about his game. His film is littered with examples of him contorting his body to snag seemingly uncatchable balls. Again, there are multiple examples of him using this control to complete sideline catches with his toes just inside the boundary.
He also exhibits the toughness that you want to see in a wide receiver. Although there are multiple examples, one stands out. In a play against Florida, Palmer secured a catch before being tackled. He continued to make forward progress, and eventually, it took three Florida players to halt him.
What are the potential concerns with Palmer?
Although there is plenty to like about his game, there will be inevitable concerns. He has run simple routes at Tennessee. Therefore, he will need to expand his route tree to be successful in the NFL. Additionally, there are some footwork concerns that he will need to iron out if he is to create separation at the NFL level regularly.
Having spent three years out of the focus, he will need to prove that he can perform when the attention is on him. One-on-one practices at the Senior Bowl should go a long way to see how that concern is addressed.
Josh Palmer’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
If you’re a team looking for a wide receiver late in the NFL Draft, Josh Palmer could be your man. Palmer has a lovely combination of hands, size, body control, and speed. He can provide a boundary threat for a team that needs one — for example, the New England Patriots.
Currently, Tony Pauline has Palmer as his 307th ranked prospect — with a seventh-round grade — in his latest big board for Pro Football Network. With a competitive performance at the Senior Bowl, there is every chance that Josh Palmer rises up NFL Draft boards.