With the 2020 NFL Draft reaching peak season and the NFL Combine just around the corner, it is time to take a look at some great players who may be available at this time next year as the 2021 NFL Draft will be here before you know it. There is yet another talented group of players that will be eligible to boost some lucky NFL teams in 2021, and one of the more exciting groups of prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft comes from the wide receiver position.
While there are some standouts at the top of the 2020 draft such as CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver prospects eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft seem poised to create an even more profound and breathtaking class of wide receiver talent. This class may be the speediest and most dynamic group of pass-catchers we have seen in a long time, and I am going to offer five names that figure to pace the group as the 2020 season wears on. I introduce to you the cream of the receiver crop for the 2021 NFL Draft.
1. Ja’Marr Chase – LSU
If you watched any LSU games during their incredible championship run this past season, especially the title game, this selection should come as no surprise. Chase was arguably the best receiver in the entire country last season and took claim to 20 of Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow’s record-setting 60 passing touchdowns this past year. He was a man possessed against the Clemson Tigers en route to nine catches for 221 yards and two touchdowns.
In a receiving core that also featured 2020 draft hopefuls Justin Jefferson, Thaddeus Moss, and another 2021 darling Terrace Marshall, Chase was the leader of the pack and routinely made field-stretching and game-altering plays. His separation skills from the line of scrimmage and after-the-catch running ability are second to none.
Dynamic plays like this one below led him to a 21.2 yard-per-catch average.
2021 WR Jamarr Chase everybody. Really poor safety play pic.twitter.com/nlBCZDmUn2
— Joseph Yun #ForTheBoy (@DuckinNoles247) December 1, 2019
Chase seems like a sure-fire top-10 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and could very well end up as the first wide receiver prospect off the board.
2. DeVonta Smith – Alabama
DeVonta Smith is a name many college football fans know from his game-winning catch in overtime for Alabama in the 2018 National Title game. The talented speedster entered the 2019 season behind stars Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs in the Alabama receiving hierarchy. However, that quickly changed as Smith took over as Tua’s favorite and most reliable target this past season. Smith paced the Crimson Tide with 1,256 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns in a real breakout 2019 campaign.
I highlighted Smith back in November as a potential early declaration in the 2020 NFL Draft, but he announced at the start of January his intentions to return for his senior season. He has tremendous burst off the line and can get downfield quickly if defenses give him a free release. If the assumed Alabama starting quarterback, Mac Jones, proves capable in 2020, Smith could be in line for another strong season and a top-20 draft selection.
3. Justyn Ross – Clemson
As the third-ranked 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver prospect on this list, Ross comes as a bit of a projection. His upside is immense, and Ross has the potential to be the number one wide receiver prospect and a top-5 overall player in the 2021 NFL Draft. He takes over as the number one receiver for the Clemson Tigers and Trevor Lawrence following the departure of Tee Higgins.
Ross burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2018, registering 1,000 yards receiving and nine touchdowns on an elite 21.7 yards-per-catch average. He looked like a man among boys as Clemson took down Alabama in the 2019 National Title game. In that game, Ross amassed six catches for 153 yards and a score. He’s long, physical and has elite body control and separation skills.
— patrick (@PatDStat) January 8, 2019
The big soon-to-be junior wide receiver reminds me of A.J. Green during his time at Georgia, and I believe he could be that type of receiver at the next level.
4. Rondale Moore – Purdue
Moore was an absolute target monster during his freshman season at Purdue two seasons ago. Moore was a U.S. Army All-American that committed to Purdue before the 2018 season and went on to have one of the best freshman campaigns in recent memory. In only ten starts, Moore’s 114 receptions tied for 26th all-time in a single season. He also broke the all-purpose yardage record at Purdue by amassing 314 total yards against Northwestern in his very first collegiate game.
This past season, Moore’s greatness was put on hold as he struggled through a hamstring injury that forced him to miss all but four games. Moore is at his best in the slot for the Boilermakers, but he moves all around the field. His shiftiness and tackle-breaking ability make Moore a dangerous weapon out of the backfield.
Rondale Moore is ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/6h4Dnogd9n
— Max Olson (@max_olson) October 21, 2018
He also does a great job tracking the ball on deep passes. The one weakness to Moore’s game is his lack of ideal height, but otherwise, he is a complete wide receiver with first-round ability.
5. Jaylen Waddle – Alabama
The final 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver prospect on this list is Jaylen Waddle, a former five-star recruit as rated by Rivals.com and an elite prep prospect that joined Alabama’s absurd receiving core before the 2018 season. Thus far, Waddle has used his tremendous speed and agility to become a dangerous receiver and arguably the top returner in college football. Following the departures of first-round candidates Jeudy and Ruggs III, Waddle should assume an every-down role in the receiving core next season. A starting role in this Alabama offense as the sidekick to Smith could reap huge rewards for both Waddle and the Crimson Tide.
Although he totaled only 33 catches for 560 yards and six touchdowns receiving during the 2019 season, he could be heading for a real breakout in an expanded role. Like Ross, this pick is a bit of a projection because we have not seen a full year of work as a receiver for Waddle. Regardless, Waddle will continue to wow scouts and fans with plays like this one below.
— Logic Sports (@LogicSports3) November 25, 2018
Waddle is another Alabama speed demon, and he will likely be ranked as one of the top 2021 NFL Draft wide receiver prospects available. He has an excellent chance to garner a first-round grade and potential top-15 consideration.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him at @sgormanPFN on Twitter.