By: Lucas Kochevar
Back at it after a short break with the top five ranking of this class of receivers. This class is another deep one, similar to last year. You can find the many different types of WRs throughout this draft. In my eyes, this position is similar to how the RBs were ranked. There are three big guns and then you can make your arguments for the guys in 4th and 5th. The way I see this playing out is those top three guys drafted in the top 12 and then the later teens to late twenties will have WR4 and WR5 get drafted. With all this being said, lets rank these guys
1. Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
The number one WR on the board is Ja'Marr Chase. The LSU Tigers have a good reputation for delivering WR talent to the NFL and Chase is the most recent case study for that. Chase sat out the 2020 season to prepare for the NFL draft and for that reason people forgot about him with Devonta Smith having an all-time WR season. Chase was the shining star in the legendary 2019 LSU offense with Joe Burrow. You can pick out a number of games and watch Chase showcase all his talents. He has a terrific catch radius and can adjust to many passes that aren't specifically on target. Chase has strong route running skills and can excel with double moves and getting the defender to bite. Chase isn't the fastest in the class, but he can burst once he has the ball. He is just a man of many talents and has the best all-around game in the draft. He also just turned 21 this March so he will be fairly young compared to an older guy like Smith. It seems like the Bengals will draft him at 5 to reunite him with Joe Burrow. The WR corps of him, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd in the slot should scare a ton of defenses. Especially, if Joe Burrow gets time in the pocket.
2. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
There are two big WRs coming out of Alabama and they possess two different skillsets. Waddle is the speedster out of the two and he takes the top off of defenses. The 5'10 WR suffered a broken ankle in the 2020 season, but still managed to play in the 2020 CFP title game. He never totaled over 1,000 yards in college, but you have to factor in he was never the primary receiver. Jaylen Waddle has decent footwork with his route running and strong hands to haul in catches in coverage. Waddle can outrun virtually anyone if he breaks the containment. As many people say with evasive receivers, get him into space and let him work. Speed is the only reason I have him ranked over Smith. This scenario is eerily close to last year between Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy was always the better receiver and provided a much better all-around game, but Ruggs speed separated him and got him drafted before Jeudy. Same situation here with slightly worse receivers. Waddle should be a threat to any defense as he can take the top off.
3. Devonta Smith, Alabama
The Heisman trophy winner for the 2020 season had one of the best college seasons ever for a receiver. Smith was a four year player at Alabama and exploded this last season. He made spectacular play after spectacular play and blew away SEC defensive backs. Smith broke a number of records in the SEC and proved that he could be an X-factor. There is a huge difference between being a college star and an NFL star. Smith's best traits are his superb route running and hands. He has one of the widest route trees in the college game and the hands are excellent as I stated. The concerns with Smith start and end with his frame. He sits at 6'1 and around 170lbs. Smith is a much smaller frame than most typical NFL WRs. Smith should still be a top 15 pick for a team that needs a playmaker. I think he can slide to the Eagles and fit in very well there with a team that needs rebuilding.
4. Kadarius Toney, Florida
WR4 on my board is Kadarius Toney from Florida. This guy was the lighting to Kyle Pitts' thunder. Toney was an electric player as he turns on the burners. Toney lined up in the slot for a majority of his snaps and this is where he also projects in the NFL. Toney is smaller but has more mass than Smith. He had a very limited role with this Gators in his three years before and then exploded onto the scene. He had 10 TDs and was a big play threat on every play he was in. Toney could play a big role in elevating an offensive unit. Toney reminds me of a higher class Taylor Gabriel and could be a valuable weapon with a strong offensive mind. He holds a slight edge over WR5 on my board.
5. Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
Marshall Jr. was the premier wide receiver for the LSU this past year with Chase sitting out. He didn't play in all their games last year but played in majority of their games and produced touchdowns. He is the biggest receiver out of the bunch and offers the best potential out of the bunch for a big, physical, redzone target. Continuing my theme of 2016 Falcons WR comparisons, Marshall Jr. plays a lot like Mohamed Sanu would in the slot. He excels there similar to how Juju Smith-Schuster is in the slot. He is a master of none as he can do everything you need in a receiver, except he isn't very good at run blocking. That is the biggest area that he needs to work on and if he wants to get consistent snaps, this is the biggest task he has to work on. Other than that, he projects to be a solid starter.
Other Notable WRs: Purdue star Rondale Moore is an explosive athlete with sharp cuts in his route running, but his size and injury concerns could limit him at the next level. Ole Miss WR Elijah Moore motioned around the field a ton for Lane Kiffin and co. He makes tough catches in traffic at a smaller size and is one of the stronger route runners in the class. Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman suffered from a limited season with the Big 10, but he makes wow plays on film with a large catch radius.