2021 NFL Draft Rankings: WR 1-9

That is the third installment of my 2021 NFL Draft prospect rankings collection, following quarterbacks and operating backs. We’ll be again subsequent week with tight ends.

Earlier than we hop into the column, I wish to encourage everybody to take a look at NFL Draft Struggle Room with Thor & Lindsay, a reside NBC Sports activities EDGE unique Twitch present I will be doing each week from now by way of the draft with NFL agent Lindsay Criminal. The present will usually be on Wednesday nights, however this week might be Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Should you be a part of us reside, Lindsay will reply any questions you might have. This week, one of many matters up for dialogue is the Isaiah Wilson saga, of which Lindsay is aware of a lot.

1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU | 6’0/210
Comp: Roddy White

The title-winning 2019 LSU Tigers had one of the best offense in school soccer historical past. Heisman-winning quarterback Joe Burrow would go on to turn out to be the primary decide within the NFL Draft. His slot receiver caught 111 balls and went within the first spherical of the NFL draft, the place he had the most effective rookie seasons in NFL historical past.

However Justin Jefferson was not one of the best receiver on that staff. The 19-year-old that performed exterior of him, breakout star Ja’Marr Chase, caught just a few much less balls (84), however for extra yards (1,780) whereas setting an SEC file for receiving touchdowns (20) en path to the Biletnikoff award.

Chase enters the NFL younger, however inexperienced, having opted-out in 2020. He isn’t the most important, and he isn’t the quickest, however he’s nearly inconceivable to cease. That begins on the line of scrimmage, off the snap, the place you might quantify Chase as downright particular.

A muscular, bodily participant, Chase comes with dancer’s toes, and he is aware of what to do with them. You’re not going to jar him off steadiness within the first 5 yards, and also you’re going to have a very arduous time both matching his toes or getting a bead on what they’re telling you.

The following step of the method is without doubt one of the issues he grew to become identified for throughout the 2019 title run, which is silly downfield acceleration. Blessed with 4.4 pace, Chase reaches it in a flash. Constructed like a operating again, Chase is frightening when he will get trucking like that.

Joe Burrow dialed his quantity usually. Chase is a human-highlight reel on the catch level. He’s a basketball-style jumper, and boy does he have a pure knack for timing the high-point — it’s arduous to stick with Chase on the bottom, however it might be more durable to take action within the air.

He can soak up contact, he has fabulous fingers, he can get greater than you, he timed the time leap higher — Chase is a hound-dog deep ball tracker that cheats as a result of he separates so easily early on in vertical routes that he can peak again early — and, most instances, he arrived first, having gone to the appreciable work of separating from his man upfront.

In order that’s the particular sauce. However I haven’t talked about but that Chase can also be only a actually, actually sturdy route runner typically. Technical, nuanced, under-control, however, in fact, as his type, that fixed mix of sturdy/explosive.

Chase is admittedly to cope with vertically. He had 24 receptions of greater than 20 yards in 2019, with eight of his 20 landing catches coming from a distance of fifty yards or extra, whereas averaging 21.2 YPR. However if you happen to play off him, he’ll beat you within the intermediate sector and bully you after the catch (broke 22 tackles in 2019).

Chase is a 6-foot-1 receiver that lacks elite pace, solely had one nice season, and hasn’t performed soccer in over a yr. However his danger is mitigated by his utter dominance in 2019, and the best way by which he gained, which is able to translate.

Chase was an equal-opportunity boogeyman as a sophomore. He lit up unhealthy corners, respectable corners, and first-round NFL corners — all-comers. As an example roasting AJ Terrell within the nationwide title sport and Trevon Diggs within the common season (curiously, Cam Dantzler was one of many few corners that slowed Chase in 2019).

His profession might find yourself wanting so much like four-time Professional Bowler Roddy White, one other 6-foot receiver that might deal with heavy utilization and lived within the opponent’s deep sector.

2. DeVonta Smith, Alabama | 6’0/172
Comp: Keenan McCardell

Separation is the secret at receiver. Smith performs like he filed for an annulment earlier than the sport. No receiver on this class enjoys extra free area roaming the intermediate sector. Smith put a number of future NFL corners in a blender in school, with a dizzying array of footwork, altered tempo, head motion, joystick cuts and burst.

It’s that talent that ought to kick off each dialog about Smith. However his slender 172-frame is a well-liked speaking level, as Smith’s dimensions make him a historic Spherical 1 proposition. Within the final 10 years, solely two receivers over 6-foot and beneath 180 kilos have been drafted, Snoop Minnis (a 2011 third-rounder) and Paul Richardson Jr. (a 2014 second-rounder).

Mockingly, I believe Smith’s body really offers him a hidden benefit. At 6-foot-1 with a 78 ½ wingspan (Senior Bowl measurements), Smith has a deceivingly large catch radius for his dimension. And that completely sneaks up on defenders.

From final yr’s receiver class, Smith has the very same wingspan as Collin Johnson (6’6/222), Denzel Mims (6’3/207) and Austin Mack (6’2/208), and Smith’s wingspan is longer than 6’4 receivers Antonio Gandy-Golden and Dezmon Patmon. So what we’ve here’s a receiver with the size of a taller receiver, who catches all the pieces you set inside his distended catch radius. And I imply all the pieces. The final two years, on 233 targets, Smith had 184 catches and simply 5 drops.

Smith’s ball abilities play in any respect three ranges of the sector. For all of the variations of their play type and bodily statures, Smith and Ja’Marr Chase primarily posted equivalent 90.0-plus PFF grades on contested targets over the previous two seasons.

And once I discuss ball abilities with DeVonta Smith, I’m not simply speaking about downfield throws, and I’m not even simply essentially speaking concerning the constancy of his fingers. Smith is one of the best in his class at hiding his intentions from the defensive again till the final attainable second, not placing up his fingers to catch the ball till he completely has to.

Devante Adams is a present receiver this evokes. Simply one other trick that provides a receiver a small benefit on a play. And what they are saying concerning the compound energy of small wins over time.

I consider, due to Smith’s Stretch Armstrong arms and human contortionist physique, that he finally ends up enjoying larger than he’s. Or, verify that — corralling balls you’d assume a receiver his peak has no enterprise hauling in.

Equally, due to his burst and instincts with the ball in his fingers, he performs sooner than his 40 time too. Like CeeDee Lamb from the final glass, he’s a hang-glider within the opener discipline, slicing out and in of visitors and operating annoyed defensive backs into one another like keystone cops.

So, certain. You set him on a monitor with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle and he finishes fourth in a race. However in 2019 when these 4 had been on the identical staff, it was Smith that led the staff with 1,256 receiving yards and 14 receiving touchdowns. This earlier than he had one of many nice fashionable receiver seasons in school soccer historical past final season after Waddle went down with harm en path to the Heisman.

Smith is 175 kilos and he gained’t get a lot larger. He got here to Tuscaloosa weighing 157 kilos and has needed to work fairly arduous simply to get right here. And if there’s one space of his sport the place he might be zapped of his magic, it’s by gifted press-man corners slowing his magical toes by placing fingers on him. Smith noticed that on a regular basis at follow (Patrick Surtain) however not a lot in video games, each as a result of Pat Surtains are uncommon in school, but in addition since you don’t press Bama.

However the excellent news is that sturdiness wasn’t a difficulty in school, and his skinny body scarcely appeared to trouble him. Not solely does he run with conviction and deal with excessive quantity as a receiver, however Smith was additionally a returner and gunner on particular groups at Alabama.

Keenan McDardell appears a really cheap end result to me. Calvin Ridley is a newer, extra Alabama-centric comp I can get on board with as nicely. And if Smith hits his ceiling, we’re wanting on the subsequent Marvin Harrison. He’s that distinctive.

3. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama | 5’10/182
Comp: Joey Galloway

You assume Chase, you assume sturdy/explosive. You assume Smith, you assume clean operator/reliability. While you consider Jaylen Waddle, you assume pace/twitch. These are two buzzwords that make evened seasoned evaluators lose their minds in late April.

When teammates Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs got here out in final yr’s draft, there was discuss that Waddle was a souped-up hybrid of the 2 of them — with Jeudy’s acceleration, twitch, and physique management, and Ruggs’ speed-of-sound wheels. Coming into this previous season, it was Waddle, and never eventual Heisman-winner DeVonta Smith, who was drew essentially the most hype from pundits.

However Waddle broke his ankle returning a kickoff towards Tennessee early within the 2020 season. This brings us to a energy of his eval I didn’t know I’d be writing final yr right now: Grit. Assumed by everybody on the planet to be out for the season, Waddle rehabbed like a banshee throughout the wonky COVID season when many different perfectly-healthy first-round prospects had been opting out.

He did it to offer himself an outdoor likelihood to take part within the nationwide title sport if Alabama had been to make it. They did. And miracle of all miracles, Waddle was cleared to play. He was badly compromised within the sport, hobbling, wincing in ache, however Ohio State, as with all opponents who face Waddle, had to pay attention to his whereabouts on the sector on every play.

This tends to open up area on the sector typically and alternatives for teammates in a manner we haven’t but discovered a strategy to quantify in soccer analytics (we’ll get there) in the identical manner they’ve basketball.

Both manner, the harm took Waddle off the sector for many of 2020. And as a substitute of Waddle getting an opportunity to lock down a case for WR1 on this class, DeVonta Smith was funneled utilization and submitted the most effective collegiate receiver seasons we’ve ever seen. So we’ve to do some extra projecting with Waddle based mostly on his 2019 tape and first 4 video games of 2020.

I talked about Smith’s capacity to separate as a particular trait. However in reality, Waddle separates extra naturally, and maybe in addition to any receiver we’ve seen come into the league within the final three years. It is because, athletically, Waddle is aware of few equals.

Off the snap, he’s at prime pace instantly. Tyreek Hill-level pace, with the power to swivel and pivot and reduce at full speeds with out dropping a lot velocity. Waddle can throttle down from cease and are available again for the ball instantly, and he can reduce a 90-degree nook at Ferrari speeds that will rip the gears out of different automobiles.

One shocking side about Waddle’s sport is that, regardless of his body, his tape features a catalogue of ridiculous circus catches the place he makes use of the freak momentum he’s generated from his pace to loft himself into the air downfield and high-point balls over surprised corners who’re two or three inches taller than him (Waddle went six-of-eight in contested conditions during the last two seasons).

Waddle stays uncooked and unseasoned (971 profession snaps). However he proved a lot in school. Waddle has proven that he can win each on the within and out of doors, and he’s a ridiculously harmful return man. We all know all of that may translate.

It’s true that collegiate defenders by no means pressed him. He’s going to must learn to cope with that within the execs. However it’s additionally true that professional corners are going to must learn to cope with Jaylen Waddle’s athleticism.

4. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota | 6’2/210
Comp: Miles Austin

There’s a consensus across the top-three receivers on this class. Everybody has a unique WR4. Mine is Rashod Bateman, a prospect who for my part has been unnecessarily nit-picked early within the course of.

Bateman got here to Minnesota as a ballyhooed four-star recruit out of Georgia, a two-sport star that additionally performed basketball. One in all HC PJ Fleck’s first main recruiting wins after becoming a member of the Gophers from Western Michigan, Bateman instantly flashed as a real freshman, posting a 51-704-6 line. He broke out as a nationwide star in 2019 as a sophomore, posting a 60-1219-11 line as the skin “X” receiver on a staff that additionally had an NFL slot receiver (Tyler Johnson).

As with each different human being alive, issues obtained a little bit bizarre for Bateman heading into 2020. As a substitute of making ready to turn out to be Minnesota’s undisputed WR1, with a ridiculous variety of targets coming his manner, COVID-19 struck, briefly canceling the Huge 10 season. That prompted Bateman to opt-out.

Bateman finally opted back-in after the convention introduced it might maintain a fall season — to his credit score, by the best way, he wasn’t beneath contract — and posted a good 36-472-2 line in 5 begins, opting-out (for actual this time) in late November when a rash of COVID instances hit the Minnesota program and prompted two sport cancelations (the Gophers later resumed, enjoying two extra video games).

It’s inconceivable to understand how a lot Bateman’s low season preparation was effected by his preliminary plan to sit down. However it couldn’t have helped. Notably when you think about that Gophers coaches requested Bateman, upon his return to the staff, to shift from WR-X to the slot — Tyler Johnson’s previous place.

You’re going to learn scouting studies that ding Bateman’s athleticism, scouting studies that decision him a slot receiver. I assume these writers are basing their observations on a quick perusal of 2020 tape. That tape ought to virtually be tossed within the rubbish — it it indicative of a failure of creativeness of the Gophers’ offensive teaching employees, which has an intractable offensive system going again to Western Michigan that feeds the slot heavy targets.

The Gophers had a number of high-profile offensive lineman opt-out or get injured this fall, so maybe there was additionally a thought that shifting Bateman nearer within the alignment to to erratic QB Tanner Morgan would enhance Morgan’s odds of finishing the cross, thus rising the offense’s total utility.

However, the transfer was not in Bateman’s finest curiosity. Bateman can perform within the slot, however it’s not his finest place. And he completely didn’t have time to acclimate to his new publish throughout the truncated COVID offseason, a lot of which he spent believing he wouldn’t have the ability to play in 2020.

Bateman’s finest match within the NFL is on the skin, the place he brings a deep bag of route-running methods and is inconceivable to cease off the road. The previous basketball participant participant is a crossover artist off the snap, releasing with an array of strikes that will squeak on the hardwood.

He’s a used automotive salesman operating routes, continuously pitching the nook on attractive concepts that turn into lemons, getting them to chew on double strikes, or rotated on false breaks, or skidding alongside the turf making an attempt to slam on the breaks stopping with him on the prime of a route, or getting their exterior foot turned exterior so he can flip on the jets downfield within the different path, issues of this nature.

His footwork is admittedly superior, sure. However I imply for my praise to increase past that — Bateman, as a route-runner, appears to have a knack for manipulation, understanding what the cornerback is considering, that’s superior (impartial of his bodily abilities).

He’s a well-built, sturdy child who performs by way of contact effectively with out the ball. And fights by way of it with the rock, breaking 36 tackles on 147 profession catches. Bateman has a listing of a few of the craziest circus catches we’ve seen from any prospect the previous few seasons. His focus degree whereas retaining spacial consciousness and physique management is phenomenal, and people traits present up in additional mundane contested conditions.

Bateman can lose focus, or, conversely, attempt to do a lot, resulting in 19 drops on 166 profession catchable targets. That is an space he wants to wash up. However simply to be clear: It is a focus situation, not a “fingers” situation. Should you’ve seen his spotlight reel, his fingers are phenomenal.

Bateman has at all times been dinged as good-but-not-great athlete that lacked nice pace. I at all times thought that stuff was a bit overblown, as with J’Marr Chase. However even I used to be surprised when it was reported that Bateman had run a 4.39 hand-timed 40 on the EXOS mix final month.

Bateman’s professional day exercise is about for April 1. If he runs a 4.39 once more, or a time near it, Twitter goes to blow up. I’m not precisely certain why Bateman isn’t at the moment seen as a consensus first-rounder. However I believe he might flip the tide on that narrative rapidly with a time within the mid 4.4s or under.

5. Elijah Moore, Mississippi | 5’9/184
Comp: Antonio Brown

Soccer participant. Lane Kiffin’s first Ole Miss offense was shockingly explosive, and Elijah Moore was a giant motive why, posting an 86-1193-8 line out of the slot (in solely eight video games!). Moore is a feisty, darting, artful, extremely-reliable slot receiver that’s open as a lot as Wal-Mart.

Moore’s particular sauce is that combo of athleticism and craftiness out of the slot, as a result of it makes him an especially deceiving route runner that’s arduous to maintain up with apart from. However what makes him an particularly tough proposition is that he hangs onto each ball he touches (solely 10 profession drops on 200 catchable targets), even if you happen to completely rock him, and he’s filthy after the catch (No. 6 in nation with 18 damaged tackles after catch in 2020).

Fearless on the sector, the negatives of his analysis have a tendency to return from his depth or balls-to-the wall type. As an example, as you may be conscious, Moore famously celebrated a late Egg Bowl landing towards hated Mississippi State by pantomiming urinating like a canine (I suppose as a result of they’re the Bulldogs?).

Or, as an illustration, on the sector, although he does such a devilish job tying slot defenders’ legs into knots in man, you’ll typically see him, in lieu of dropping into a pleasant gentle spot in a zone quick, slicing upfield towards sectors which are manned. Now, to Elijah Moore, he would let you know that Matt Corral could make the throw, I could make the catch.

Truthful sufficient, younger fella. However there are performs after we want Moore to know it’s not in our greatest curiosity as a staff for him to beg Corral to throw him a hospital ball for a attainable 22-yard completion down the seam over a freebie seven-yarder that might flip into extra. Simple arithmetic, actually.

Moore ought to be a robust beginning slot receiver from Day 1.

6. Rondale Moore, Purdue | 5’9/180
Comp: D.J. Moore

Two years in the past, when Rondale Moore was single-handedly destroying the Huge 10 for a 114-1258-12 receiving line (2,215 all-purpose yards), I might have sworn to you that he was going to be a top-10 decide. After I noticed Rondale Moore take the sector for Purdue as a freshman, I believed I used to be seeing school soccer’s reply to Tyreek Hill.

It’s attention-grabbing, fast-forwarding to immediately, that Rondale Moore isn’t even the receiver in his personal draft class getting the Tyreek Hill comps. A lot much less getting mocked into the primary spherical anymore.

Rondale stored proper on dominating into the primary 4 video games of 2019 (29-387-2 receiving line) however — ominous narrator’s voice — that is the place our story turns. Moore was knocked out for the remainder of the season with a hamstring harm. He initially opted-out for 2020, however then opted back-in, however then was held-out at first of the yr resulting from a mysterious “lower-body” harm that was by no means actually defined.

The three video games he performed had been disjointed from the remainder of Purdue’s season. They featured an ungainly offensive technique, transparently force-feeding touches to Rondale in such a manner that made him a sitting duck for the protection. Notably as a result of he nonetheless didn’t seem 100-percent healed from his mysterious lower-body ailment.

Moore ended up posting a 35-270-0 receiving line (a ghastly 7.7 common) and dashing six instances for 32 yards and one TD. Moore’s 2018 movie catalogue offers you a greater concept of his NFL utility.

When Moore signed with Purdue, we knew, on the very least, that he was an athletic freak. He ran a 4.33 in highschool and ranked No. 1 in his class in SPARQ ranking. Each little bit of that athleticism translated with the ball in fingers. Accelerates to 4.33 sooner than it took you to learn this half-sentence and one of many few guys on earth that may make a pointy reduce at that pace.

However what was surprising about Moore as a freshman was how dang powerful he was with the ball in his fingers, operating with the imaginative and prescient within the open discipline of the stud returner he’s and the toughness, energy and fearlessness of a operating again. Moore broke 37 tackles as a real freshman in 2018. He’s now bulked up much more, incomes a Mini-Saquon” moniker from the Motion Community’s Matt Freedman.

However, like a mini operating again, you’ll be able to consider Rondale as a man who has, thus far, principally solely confirmed he can take prolonged handoffs down the road of scrimmage and every now and then convert them into crazy-explosive performs. In Moore’s one full season in 2018, 47-of-his-117 catches had been screens.

Within the NFL, you’d like to see Rondale ripping defenses on crossers and shallow posts over the intermediate space, the place he would possibly get himself into area with a head of steam behind him. However he had solely 11 catches within the intermediate space in 2018. None of that is to say he isn’t battle-tested (12-170-2 vs Ohio State in 2018) or succesful. However he’s going to must be taught. And he’s going to have to remain wholesome.

A rather-smaller DJ Moore looks like an inexpensive comp to me. Each had been explosive, tackle-breaking machines on undermanned Huge 10 groups that confirmed admirable chippiness when enjoying the large boys. If Moore finally ends up busting, he’ll most likely look so much like Curtis Samuel. Whereas, if he finds the proper scenario, stays wholesome, and has a bonanza of a profession, he’s Steve Smith.

What I’m saying is the man is destined to play for the Panthers. It’s science.

7. Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU | 6’3/203
Comp: Courtland Sutton

A consensus five-star recruit popping out of highschool and an early declaree after his true junior season, Terrace Marshall Jr. is a child. He’s a year-and-a-half youthful than DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Kadarius Toney. Actually, among the many prime guys on this class, the one man as younger as him is Rondale Moore. Moore and Marshall had been born on the very same date, June 9, 2000.

Moore and Marshall’s ages ought to be stored in thoughts throughout their evaluations, as a result of there may be nonetheless uncooked parts of their video games that will have been addressed had they performed one other season or two on the school degree. In Marshall’s case, that has to do with physique composition and focus.

Marshall is fabulously gifted, an athletic legacy, the good nephew of former NFL RB Joe Delaney, who heroically drowned in 1983 making an attempt to save lots of three youngsters on the backside of a pond. Marshall’s calling card is his lengthy body, authentic deep pace, and hops downfield to clown you on the catch level.

In 2019, in LSU’s aforementioned “best offense in school soccer historical past”, Marshall was the fourth possibility on the offense, a chosen deep risk — and that was simply so patently unfair. He’s gone 25-of-41 on contested targets the previous two years, largely downfield.

Final yr, with Justin Jefferson and Clyde Edwards-Helaire off to the NFL and J’Marr Chase opting out, Marshall grew to become the first receiver within the offense. However as Minnesota did to Rashod Bateman, LSU pressured Marshall inside to the slot, possible to assist its younger, struggling quarterbacks who had taken over for Joe Burrow.

Marshall did simply effective on this function, posting double-digit touchdowns once more and averaging over 100 receiving yards per sport. However his function within the NFL is as an outdoor pop-the-top man. What Marshall struggles with proper now could be operating crisp, convincing routes that don’t finish downfield.

He’s a tall drink of water, a long-strider that chews up grass. He grew to become higher, working within the slot, at selecting up methods to extend his utility within the beneath and intermediate areas. However he nonetheless is jarred by contact resulting from his skinny body, a quirk press corners will decide on mercilessly till he fortifies himself within the weight room.

He’ll must proceed to work on these areas, because the distinction between Marshall being a distinct segment deep-ball receiver and a difference-maker lie right here. If nothing else, we all know that Marshall is at all times going to be harmful downfield and within the crimson zone, along with his Indian God catch radius and skill to get deep at will.

Focus drops additionally bubbled up in 2020 and have to be nipped within the bud ASAP. Marshall dropped solely 4 balls in his first two seasons however flubbed seven of them in 2020. Invariably, virtually all of those drops can be categorized “focus” drops. Ala Bateman, Marshall was enjoying out of place in a brand new spot after a truncated offseason on a tire-fire staff with poor quarterback play in a historically-wonky season final yr, so I’m keen to chop him a little bit slack.

Marshall is a 6-foot-3 former five-star recruit with 4.4 wheels that constantly makes performs downfield and had a 46.5% school dominator (92nd percentile) and a 19.2 breakout age (86th percentile) at a blueblood faculty that gained a nationwide title his sophomore yr — these profiles don’t develop on timber. Regardless of the danger, I can’t rank him decrease than this. The upside is just too excessive.

8. Tutu Atwell, Louisville | 5’9/165
Comp: Hollywood Brown

A stick-thin slot with blazing pace (reported 4.27 previously), Louisville coaches preferred to both hit Tutu with a quick-hitter and let him make a play (28.6% of his profession catches had been screens, and greater than one-third got here behind the road of scrimmage over the previous two seasons), or ship him screaming deep on nine-routes.

Not many gamers in NFL historical past possess this sort of pace (John Ross holds the NFL file with a 4.22 forty; Tyreek Hill ran a 4.29). Atwell not solely does, however has confirmed he can win down the sector. That instantly makes him extraordinarily intriguing when it comes to the NFL Draft.

However his drafting staff takes him understanding that he’s comically skinny, which makes Atwell reluctant to work the center of the sector (maybe one alternate principle for his utilization) and averse to contact typically. So whereas Atwell has the athleticism to recommend he might turn out to be a extra assorted participant, it’s attainable he’ll largely stay a display screen/go/gadget-type man.

Atwell completely lit up the ACC in 2019, with a 69-1272-11 line (18.4) in 13 video games. That’s a greater season to evaluate than 2020, which featured worse quarterback play and Atwell’s eventual opt-out.

Atwell dropped 5 balls on 49 catchable targets as a freshman, an abysmal fee. However over the previous two seasons, he caught 116-of-175 targets with six drops. Contemplating he’s a 5-foot-9 slot man who noticed a ton of deep-sector targets over these two years, that’s a wonderfully cheap drop fee. Particularly for a man who has proven to be a robust tracker of the ball over his shoulder downfield.

Atwell is tiny, however he has a deceivingly giant ceiling due to these world-class wheels and his capacity to catch the deep ball.

9. Kadarius Toney, Florida | 5’11/194
Comp: Curtis Samuel

In contrast to Rondale Moore, Toney had a number of years to develop a more-complete sport and simply by no means did. In three seasons at Florida heading into this fall, essentially the most yards from scrimmage Toney had ever posted was 500. As talked about earlier, Toney, ostensibly additional alongside developmentally than Moore, can also be a year-and-a-half older.

When you may get Toney the ball in his fingers in area, he can do injury. He alters instructions as violently as any participant within the class, reducing corners at excessive speeds and remaining in-sprint. He matadors surprised defenders, disappearing out the again door. He stops and begins like a water-bug, sending errant defenders on their manner.

Toney broke 32 catches on 80 catches the final two seasons, largely by way of motion. In 2020, he averaged practically seven yards after the catch and ranked No. 5 within the nation, per PFF, in pressured missed tackles.

A lot of Toney’s manufacturing was manufactured. He completed with the second-least yards per route run among the many top-40 receivers when it comes to receiving yardage within the FBS final season. Solely 10 of Toney’s 120 profession catches, 8.3%, had been contested. A lot of them got here inside 5 yards of the road of scrimmage.

Although it’s true that Toney wants area to corral the ball, he at the very least would not drop the ball (solely three on 123 profession catchable balls). Toney started to enterprise into the intermediate sector extra final yr, and I can report he confirmed the constant capacity to separate, however right now he is largely getting by on an athleticism benefit.

I’m wondering if he’ll ever purchase a really feel for the broad receiver place that Paris Campbell and Curtis Samuel have searched the globe for (Samuel lastly began to indicate flashes final season).

Toney might be a slot within the NFL (the place he lined up 83% of the time final season). We all know he’ll be nice enjoyable on gadget performs, be an superior returner, and supply an offense worth on schemed touches. However for Kadarius Toney to be price a top-40 decide, he must turn out to be a authentic route-runner with the intention to obtain the ball in any respect ranges of the sector. The extra the ball is in his fingers, the higher.

I simply surprise if he can get there. Toney had 4 years in school, and he comes with an harm wrap sheet. Accidents restricted him to 239 snaps within the 2017 and 2019 seasons mixed. His one superior season got here enjoying subsequent to Kyle Pitts and Trevon Grimes in Dan Mullen system quarterbacked by Kyle Trask.

He’s a terrific athlete, possessing all-world motion and burst if not world-class pace, and an attention-grabbing prospect, however we’ve been burned by area prospects too usually previously, and Toney is a very dangerous one — I’d let another person take the gamble.

Click on right here for Half 2, my WR 10-50 rankings……


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