Is Chase The Top WR in the Draft?
By: John Vogel
Wide receivers are oftentimes the pulse to an offense. The athletic playmakers who go down the field and put their bodies on the line to catch the football, oftentimes while taking contact from safeties playing downhill trying to obliterate them. Big plays are created by some of the top receivers in the league, as well as throughout NFL history. After all – someone has to catch the ball at the end of the play.
Here are the top five guys entering the 2021 NFL Draft and where I believe that they end up.
5. Kadarius Toney, Florida
Kadarius Toney is a mad man when it comes to route-running and getting open, a versatile option out of the slot. He will make a lot of money in the NFL doing what he does best – destroying defenses underneath. He’s insanely quick and agile, capable of winning off of the line of scrimmage and dominating throughout his route.
Toney’s best fit is with a versatile play-caller – no better place (in my opinion) than the New Orleans Saints. Sean Payton doesn’t really have that slot receiver in his offense right now. Between Michael Thomas, Marques Callaway, and Tre’Quan Smith, the Saints don’t have that explosive ability to plug into the slot. Toney could potentially add an insanely fast element to the team and put the offense where it needs to be.
4. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Rashod Bateman broke out during the 2019 season as a bigger-bodied receiver who had the athleticism to make magic happen after the catch. The 2019 Minnesota offense was a special unit, and Bateman was one of the star receivers. However, when Covid-19 became a major part of the world, Bateman initially opted-out shortly after the Big Ten canceled their football season.
Bateman still took the field in 2020, after the conference opted back in. He was, unfortunately, a shell of his previous self. He opted back out with a few games left to go and moved on to focus on the NFL Draft.
The best place that Bateman fits according to me is the New England Patriots. Bateman won’t be a number one receiver right away in the league – but he can certainly develop there very quickly. The Patriots need that big, physical guy on the outside – and Bateman certainly fits that better than anyone on this list.
3. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
Jaylen Waddle is arguably the fastest prospect entering this NFL Draft class. He’s got the killer speed that people have always wanted in wide receivers and is capable of outrunning any NFL cornerback. His deep threat ability is extremely impressive too.
I like the idea of Waddle with the Baltimore Ravens, paired on the other side of Marquise Brown. The Ravens love to win football games with pure speed and athleticism, and I have to wonder if having two burners wouldn’t be in the best interest for Baltimore. His NFL potential is through the roof.
2. DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Often referred to as the “slim reaper” in college, DeVonta Smith is estimated at a whopping 6’0″ and 175 pounds – very lean for an NFL player. Regardless, Smith proved his toughness this past season as he won a Heisman Trophy in the toughest conference to play in college football.
Smith’s claim to fame started when he caught the game-winning touchdown in the National Championship game against Georgia. His ability to create separation with his athleticism and reliable hands make him an intriguing option in this class – but if I am an NFL team, there are still concerns to me about his size. I don’t think that he can be relied on to continuously take hits from NFL defensive backs. I like him because of his versatility, he’s a wide receiver, running back, kick and punt returner, and just won the Paul Hornung Award this year.
My favorite fit for Smith is the Miami Dolphins. Not only is he reunited with former Alabama teammate Tua Tagovailoa, but I think that the Dolphins need a solid number two. While Smith has the capability to be a number one receiver, he’s much better suited to be a number two. Pair him with DeVante Parker, and that’s a killer duo. I think that would be the best place for Smith to advance his NFL career.
1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
I initially had Chase at the second spot in my wide receiver rankings, but after grading these guys, Chase graded slightly higher than DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle. It makes sense. I don’t think Chase is as fast or as athletic as Smith or Waddle, but he has some of the best hands in the class. Chase’s superpower is contested catches because of his lack of ability to separate a lot of the time.
I really like the idea of Chase in Cincinnati. AJ Green is starting to get old, and Tee Higgins is an excellent complimentary receiver, but not someone that I think is capable of being the star. Add Chase to the quarterback who made his magic happen in college, Joe Burrow, and Chase prospers in the NFL with production and a long NFL career.