If speed kills then Louisville wide receiver Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell may well be the most dangerous prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. He’s gained national attention after appearing in the first round of Daniel Jeremiah’s first mock draft. Nevertheless, how does the speedster stack up in a wide receiver class that is deep with talent?
Tutu Atwell NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Louisville
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 5’8 7/8″
- Weight: 149 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Tutu Atwell Scouting Report
Positives: Game-breaking skill player with home-run-hitting speed as a receiver and return specialist. Fluid releasing off the line of scrimmage, has a burst of speed that he turns on in a single step and beats opponents downfield in a foot race. Sells routes, uses his frame to shield away defenders, and extends his hands to pull the ball from the air.
Nicely adjusts to the errant throw at full speed and easily makes the downfield reception, looking the ball into his hands. Runs well laterally and easily makes the reception in stride. Lays out for the difficult catch. Plays faster than his 40-yard dash time.
Negatives: Small to the point of being tiny and struggles in battles. Rounds off his routes on occasion. Had lapses in concentration.
Analysis: Atwell is an undersized yet explosive skill prospect who plays with outstanding speed and quickness. Used in a variety of roles for Louisville, he was effective running reverses and on toss sweeps, and he comes with return ability. Size limitations mean Atwell will be best in the slot or even backed off the line of scrimmage, but his speed and big-play ability are attractive.
Tutu Atwell NFL Draft Player Profile
Tutu Atwell is one of the most explosive wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft. However, the quarterback position is where Atwell made a name for himself in high school. The Miami native was a four-year starter at Northwestern High School after winning his first game as an injury stand-in for their regular starter.
Over the four years, he would become an impressive dual-threat quarterback. Famed for his speed and agility, Atwell posted over 1,500 rushing yards in addition to his over 4,000 career passing yards. In his senior season, he led Northwestern to an FHSAA 6A Championship. His performances helped him to earn the 2017 Miami-Dade County Player of the Year.
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Despite the accolades and achievements, Atwell was under-recruited out of Northwestern. A three-star recruit, he was ranked as the 728th player nationally, the 110th high school prospect, and the 57th ranked athlete. The final part is pivotal. Despite being a dual-threat quarterback, colleges didn’t view him as such.
Not for the first — or last — time in his football journey, he was told he was too small. Although he received several small school offers, his only two Power Five offers came from Illinois and Louisville.
Tutu Atwell’s college football career at Louisville
As Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson headed to the NFL Draft, Tutu Atwell arrived on the Cardinals’ campus. The Louisville wide receiver made an immediate impact despite never before playing the position. Making his debut against Alabama, he caught his very first pass and turned it into a 30-yard gain.
With his speed and agility, he became a deep threat for the Louisville offense. As a freshman, he led all Louisville wide receivers in yards per catch, taking his 24 receptions for 406 yards at 16.9 yards per catch. Career milestones like his first touchdown, two versus Georgia Tech, and first 100-yard receiving game (Wake Forest) came as a freshman.
Although 2018 had been impressive, his sophomore season raised the bar
Atwell set the school record for receiving yards. Additionally, his 1,292 yards led the ACC and ranked 10th in the nation. Impressive performances against Western Kentucky and Syracuse saw him set career-high single-game touchdowns (3) and receiving yards (152), respectively. As a result of his performances, he was named to the All-ACC First Team in 2019.
In a shortened junior season, Atwell still managed to provide highlight-reel material. Atwell scored a touchdown in six of his nine games. Furthermore, he managed to add another two 100-yard games to his résumé. Over the course of his career as a Louisville wide receiver, he racked up ten 100-yard games.
Prior to the conclusion of the 2020 season, Tutu Atwell declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. He decided to forego his final game having seen limited action towards the end of the season with an injury.
Analyzing Tutu Atwell’s projection at next level
The keyword to describe Louisville WR Tutu Atwell in this 2021 NFL Draft class is speed. He figures to be one of the fastest receivers — in fact, players — in the class. Although the disruption in the process this year means he won’t be able to wow scouts at the NFL Combine, he will still get to show off that speed at the Louisville Pro Day.
What level of speed are we talking about? Well, he apparently has an official 40-yard dash time of 4.27 seconds. Given that the current record — set by John Ross — is 4.22, it gives you a picture of the speed he brings to the game. Atwell’s pro day time was a bit slower — 4.39 — but it’s still better than 95% of receivers ever to test.
That speed makes him a legitimate deep threat. He can take the top off a defense as a vertical threat, sneaking behind opposition defensive backs for a big gain. The Louisville offense is designed in a way that manufactures touches for him in the form of jet sweeps and screen passes. Basically, any way that he can utilize his speed.
Despite his diminutive size, Atwell attempts to play the game with physicality. He is willing to take on blocks and doesn’t shirk away from contact over the middle on slant routes.
What are some potential concerns with Tutu Atwell?
Unfortunately for Louisville WR Tutu Atwell, there are a multitude of concerns ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft.
There’s no doubting that his speed and agility make him an exciting prospect to watch. His production is also impressive. However, there’s also no doubting the issues that his size creates for him. For as willing as he is, sometimes he just isn’t able to physically match up to opposition defenses.
He is easily knocked off his route, and he offers very little in the way of contested-catch ability. There are multiple examples of him fumbling or dropping the ball on contact. Drops have been an issue throughout his college career.
His use at Louisville hasn’t prepared him well for the NFL. Atwell has a very limited route tree, used predominantly out of the slot or in motion out of the backfield.
Tutu Atwell’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Tutu Atwell’s speed and agility will make the Louisville wide receiver an exciting prospect for some teams in the 2021 NFL Draft. If he lands with an offense that manufactures touches for him to maximize his skillset then he could have a successful NFL career.
A team like the Kansas City Chiefs or Green Bay Packers would make an ideal landing spot. He wouldn’t need to be the focus of the offense and would make a nice gadget player.
Atwell might have been a Day 2 pick earlier in the offseason. However, after measuring in at just 149 pounds at his pro day, he might not go in the top four rounds. His dynamic ability is undeniable, but virtually no receivers at that weight have succeeded in the NFL.
In his latest big board for Pro Football Network, Tony Pauline lists Louisville WR Tutu Atwell as 11th wide receiver in this 2021 NFL Draft class. Pauline gives Atwell a third-round grade, ranking him as his 71st overall player.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.