Grading each rookie receiver’s landing spot – From perfect to poor

Ja’Marr Chase fits well in Cincinnati

By: Alan Parker

Talent is key, but so is one’s landing spot. There are a few exceptions, like Calvin Johnson, but those types of players are always the exception not the rule. Would Justin Jefferson have dominated in Las Vegas like he did in Minnesota? Would Ruggs have burst on to the scene in Minnesota?

Ja’Marr Chase – Cincinnati Bengals

Very little to say here. Chase is reunited with his best friend Burrow who he shared an outstanding connection. I personally prefer Alabama’s Smith over Chase as a receiver, but it’s hard to argue against playing with a quarterback you know who just so happens to be an elite passer.

Only knocks here are the crowded receiving room, which he should lead of course, and the Bengals’ leaky offensive line. If Cincinnati can’t protect Burrow, and he gets injured again, Chase won’t be able to produce catching balls from – checks notes – Brandon Allen.

Grade: A

Jaylen Waddle – Miami Dolphins

Waddle reuniting with Tua, along with the aforementioned dynamic duo, continues the theme of college pairs continuing on into the NFL. Despite saying he prefers Mac Jones, Waddle should enjoy targets in Miami. However, it will be tough to be seen as he plays with Devante Parker and Will Fuller, two legitimate WR1’s, as well as the uber-athletic Mike Gesicki. Playing in the slot, Waddle should get fed but don’t expect any Rookie of the Year numbers, especially considering he is best served as a deep threat and Tua possesses only league-average arm strength.

Grade: B+

DeVonta Smith – Philadephia Eagles

If Smith had prime Carson Wentz, or most of the other twenty-something starting quarterbacks (no way there is 32 genuine starting quarterbacks in the NFL at the minute), this would be an A+ everyday. With a crystal clear path to opportunities as being Philadelphia’s best weapon from day one, Smith should get fed weekly. However, I don’t trust Hurts yet, he may surprise us, but there’s a reason he transferred to Oklahoma and went late in the second round.

Smith should get every opportunity possible in Philadelphia considering only two players had over 500 receiving yards last season, barely. He’ll be the WR1 even if Arcega-Whiteside breaks out or if Travis Fulgham turns into superman.

Grade: A-

Kadarius Toney – New York Giants

Unsurprisingly, the Giants are livid the Eagles jumped them for DeVonta Smith. He’s a superstar, who wouldn’t be? As a consolation prize they picked up Toney, who was electric at Florida. However, after playing second fiddle to Kyle Pitts, he will have to earn his targets behind Golladay, Slayton, Shephard, Barkley, and Ingram. If this was before they signed Golladay, it would be respectable as he would create a three-headed attack in New York, but this offense is too crowded with stars for Toney to stand out. Plus Daniel Jones is his quarterback, the man who has had more career fumbles than games so far.

Grade: B-

Rashod Bateman – Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson’s accuracy is the only issue here. Andrews and Hollywood Brown will provide enough of a distraction to open up some room for Bateman, but not to the extent that they’ll extinguish his flame. Listed at 6-2, though he was apparently 6 foot in college, he is easily the Ravens largest receiver. He’ll need every last inch of his frame as he tries to catch balls at his ankles, behind him, and/or above his head. Jackson is an elite player, but his accuracy needs work, despite massive improvements since entering the league.

Grade: B

Elijah Moore – New York Jets

How many slot receivers does it take to change a lightbulb? Two? Three? How about the Jets receiver room with five of their top six receivers not playing primarily in the slot (either in general or last season). Trivia question, Mims was the only one to play primarily on the outside last year.

Whilst Wilson should be a good quarterback, and Saleh’s team in New York should turn things around, it will be tough for Moore to beat out incumbent Jamison Crowder on the inside or Denzel Mims and Corey Davis, two men with distinct size advantages, on the outside.

Grade: C+

Rondale Moore – Arizona Cardinals

Speed, speed, and more speed. With a blazing 4.32 time in the 40-yard dash on his pro day, probably closer to 4.4 in reality, Moore brings an ability to stretch the field that we thought Andy Isabella had already brought.

AJ Green and DeAndre Hopkins will dominate most of the targets, but with Kyler Murray’s arm and Moore’s speed, expect some exciting deep balls as well as screens taken to the house, or close to it. However, yet again we see that Moore’s ceiling here is third-fiddle, maybe even fourth considering Murray came close to catching balls himself as he did everything for Arizona last season.

Grade: B-

D’Wayne Eskridge – Seattle Seahawks

Until Russell Wilson is really let cook, and DK Metcalf as well as Tyler Lockett cease to exist, Eskridge has a long way to targets. As the third man last season, David Moore barely surpassed forty targets. Eskridge is pencilled in to be number four on the receiver depth chart. He brings some speed, and age, to the Seahawks receiver room but opportunities will be few and far between.

Grade: C

Tutu Atwell – Los Angeles Ram

At 5-9 and 155 pounds, Atwell looks more like a high school receiver than an NFL one but he’s intriguing, and surprising. With 4.4-speed and great agility, he brings something to the table but he will be hard pressed to beat out Van Jefferson for the fourth spot on the depth chart, let alone any of DeSean Jackson, Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. This draft pick was for the long haul, and don’t expect Rookie of the Year numbers, or even 20-plus targets, this season for Atwel..

Grade: D+

Terrace Marshall Jr. – Carolina Panthers

Who let this happen? Outside of helping confuse opposing defensive co-ordinators when they see two D. Moore’s on the depth chart, there is very little that Moore adds that Marshall doesn’t do just as well, if not better. Curtis Samuel got nearly 100 targets last season, and whilst McCaffrey’s return may lower that number, expect Marshall to get at least 80 targets this season as he helps Sam Darnold prove he’s a quality 2022 second-rounder, what the Panthers paid for him.

Grade: A

Josh Palmer – Los Angeles Chargers

I am genuinely dumbfounded that LA took Palmer. As an avid member of the Jalen Guyton fan club, I am shocked. Slower than Guyton both in straight-line speed and quickness, as well as being smaller, Palmer is the fifth name on the depth chart. Unless LA goes five wide regularly, and even then Ekeler will probably be one of those five, don’t expect to see Palmer on the field often. What were they thinking?

Grade: D-

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