Sports NFL Draft prospects 2021: The top 10 wide receivers, ranked from Ja'Marr Chase to Elijah Moore
NFL Mock Draft 2021: Here's what happens when we let Madden simulate the picks
What if we let the virtual GMs decide the outcome of the 2021 NFL Draft? Here's how our experiment went down.Experts will break down team needs, watch film of the top college prospects and predict (to the best of their ability) where players will get drafted. We're going to be doing none of that in this mock draft. Here, we're going to set everything up so that the virtual GMs and coaches in "Madden 21" will be making the picks for us.
Rookie wide receivers seem to be making bigger impacts in the NFL, and that trend should continue with the talented crop of WR prospects in the. What makes this year's top receivers so intriguing is several either didn't play (Ja'Marr Chase) or played limited games due to injuries or opt-outs in 2020 (Jaylen Waddle, Rondale Moore, Terrace Marshall Jr., Rashod Bateman). This could lead to some surprises as early as the first round, with sleepers being available as late as the third.
Eight wide receivers went in the first 34 picks of the 2020 draft, and it's likely this will remain a coveted position in 2021. There might not quite as many wideouts selected as early this year, but with three top-15 studs and several more pass-catchers with first-round talent, you can bet these elite athletes will tempt plenty of teams.
NFL mock draft 2021: Justin Fields, DeVonta Smith, Caleb Farley fall in final 3-round projections
Sporting News' final NFL mock draft for 2021 covers the first three rounds with the most updated information and rumors considered for every team's picks.The most recent SN editions were a full seven-rounder, followed by an updated three-rounder. We decided to go another three rounds one final time with the most updated information and rumors considered with all 105 picks through Days 1 and 2.
With that in mind, Sporting News takes a closer look at our top-10 WRs for the 2021 NFL Draft.
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NFL Draft 2021 wide receiver rankings
1. Ja'Marr Chase, LSU
Chase opted out of the 2020 season, but he left no doubt about his abilities in '19 when he caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 TDs. Chase isn't a monster specimen (a little over 6-feet, 201 pounds), but he's an elite athlete who can run every route and make every catch. He dazzled at his pro day with a 4.38 40-yard dash, 41-inch vertical jump, and 11-foot broad jump. He's a sure-fire top-10 pick who has "instant star" written all over him.
2. DeVonta Smith, Alabama
Last year's Heisman Trophy winner was particularly electric in the postseason, catching 34 passes for 529 yards and eight TDs in the SEC Championship game and two College Football Playoff games. His 12-catch, 215-yard, three-TD performance against Ohio State is all the more impressive when you factor in that he barely played in the second half because of a finger injury. There's no denying Smith's all-around talent and ability as a receiver, but some have expressed concern over his slight frame (6-0, 170 pounds). Durability and the ability to get open against more physical corners in the NFL are worries, but given Smith's speed and route-running skills, he figures to be a top-15 pick with as much upside as any receiver in this draft.
Green Bay Packers draft picks 2021: Round-by-round selections
Here is a 2021 NFL draft pick-by-pick breakdown for the Green Bay Packers.Round 1 (No. 29 overall) - Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia: No receiver here for Aaron Rodgers, who gets to further stew in his apparent unhappiness. Stokes blazed a 4.25 40 at his pro day and, despite some raw elements to his game, might soon be gunning for CB Kevin King's job after the veteran's disastrous performance in the NFC championship game.
3. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
An ankle injury ended Waddle's regular season after just four games, but he managed to return for the National Championship. The speedster was putting up massive numbers before his injury (25 catches, 557 yards, three TDs). Waddle reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash in high school, so even though he doesn't have great size (5-10, 180 pounds), he can fly past defensive backs, similar to former teammate and '19 first-round pick, Henry Ruggs III. Some like Waddle over Smith, while others have him a little lower. Either way, he figures to be a top-15 pick. He could be inconsistent (like Ruggs) early in his career, but the potential is there for big numbers.
4. Kadarius Toney, Florida
Toney was used all over the field last season, catching 70 passes for 984 yards and 10 TDs and adding another 161 yards and a score on 19 carries. He also returned both kicks and punts, where he averaged 22.1 yards per kickoff return and 12.6 yards per punt return. Toney is the type of all-around athlete NFL teams love, so despite measuring at just under 6-feet and 193 pounds, Toney seems like a no-doubt first-round pick. His 4.39 40 time only adds to his upside.
Miami Dolphins draft picks 2021: Round-by-round selections
Here is a 2021 NFL draft pick-by-pick breakdown for the Miami Dolphins.Round 1 (No. 6 overall, from Eagles) - Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: He's been compared to Tyreek Hill and will reunite with former Crimson Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa in Miami. Waddle and WR Will Fuller V will give Miami speed to burn on the outside, and Waddle could also greatly enhance the Fins' return teams. The AFC East better beware double moves from a player who averaged 10 yards after the catch.
5. Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU
Marshall opted out late in the 2020 season and wound up playing just seven games, but he averaged over 100 yards per contest and hauled in 10 touchdowns. The nearly 6-3, 205-pound receiver has good size and great speed (4.38 40-yard dash), and he had no problem working in a complementary role in '19 (671 yards, 13 TDs) or a featured role in '20. Marshall likely has first-round talent, but he could fall to the second round and be a real steal for whoever gets him. Either way, he profiles as a relatively "safe," productive pick.
6. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
Bateman played just five games in 2020 before opting out, and while his performance wasn't quite as good as his breakout '19, he still averaged over seven catches and 94.4 yards per game. Bateman's pro day wasn't overly impressive, save for his 4.39 40-yard dash time. That alone puts him in the second-round discussion. With adequate size (just over 6-feet, 190 pounds), solid route-running ability, and dependable hands, Bateman will likely go in the second or early third round, and he has plenty of upside if he lands with the right team.
San Francisco 49ers draft picks 2021: Round-by-round selections
Here is a 2021 NFL draft pick-by-pick breakdown for the San Francisco 49ers.Round 1 (No. 3 overall, from Texans through Dolphins) - Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State: A pick that's changed hands three times, the Niners made their bold acquisition of it last month ... and it was quickly followed by rampant speculation that they would take Alabama's Mac Jones. But going with Lance, who has far more upside than Jones given his physical skills, seems like the better option given the franchise surrendered three first-rounders to get him.
7. Rondale Moore, Purdue
Moore is one of the most interesting WR prospects in this year's draft class. He starred as a freshman, catching 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 TDs in addition to running 21 times for 213 yards and two TDs, but a leg injury in 2019 and knee/hamstring injuries in '20 limited him to just seven games as a sophomore and junior (64 receptions, 657 yards, two TDs; nine rushes, 35 yards, TD). Moore is also relatively diminutive for a wide receiver at 5-7, 180 pounds, but he reportedly ran a blazing 4.29 40 and had a 42.5-inch vertical. Put it all together and you have an undersized, injury-prone, elite athlete who can run, catch, and return kicks. What's that worth in the draft? Second-round pick? Third-round? It's hard to say, but chances are someone will pull the trigger on Moore early and bank on being able to keep him healthy and utilizing him in creative ways.
8. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC
St. Brown had an up-and-down career at USC, never quite breaking out as expected but always providing solid, steady production. He set a career high with seven TDs last season despite playing just six games, but his yards per catch was a career-low 11.7. At nearly 6-feet, 197 pounds, St. Brown's size doesn't stand out, and his 4.51 40 time is pretty average. However, he has good hands when locked in and impressive strength, and his overall potential should see him drafted in the first three rounds.
Los Angeles Rams draft picks 2021: Round-by-round selections
Here is a 2021 NFL draft pick-by-pick breakdown for the Los Angeles Rams.Round 2 (No. 57 overall) - Tutu Atwell, WR, Louisville: Welcome to the draft, L.A., which gave up its first-rounder in the Jalen Ramsey deal. Atwell may only be 5-9 while hovering near 150 pounds, but his speed could bring another dimension to an offense that already added DeSean Jackson. An all-ACC selection in 2019 when he led the conference with 1,272 receiving yards, Atwell should use every ounce of QB Matthew Stafford's arm strength.
9. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
Wallace broke out as a sophomore at Oklahoma State (86 catches, 1,491 yards, 12 TDs) and continued to post solid numbers despite tearing his ACL in 2019, catching 112 passes for 1,825 yards and 14 scores in 19 games over his final two seasons. At 5-11, 193 pounds, Wallace lacks elite size, but he reportedly ran a 4.39 40-yard dash during a pro day for his training company. That speed, coupled with his consistent production, should help Wallace land in the second or third round, where he'll likely be a part-time player this year but show glimpses of major upside.
10. Elijah Moore, Ole Miss
Moore was dominant during his eight-game junior season at Ole Miss, catching 86 passes for 1,193 yards and eight TDs. If that wasn't enough reason to be intrigued by him, he also ran a 4.32 40-yard dash and a 6.65 three-cone shuttle, which is the fastest of any wide receiver since 2018. Clearly, the speed and quickness is elite, but Moore's size (5-9, 178 pounds) could be an issue. Nonetheless, it wouldn't be surprising to see his name called in the second round, and he's the type of player who could star in a multi-faceted role if he's selected by the right team.
How Lions' pick of Alim McNeill led to awkward moment in Eagles' draft room .
The Eagles traded down from No. 70 to 73 for a sixth-round pick, and missed out on North Carolina State's Alim McNeill, chosen by the Detroit Lions.Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said Tuesday in a Philadelphia radio interview that the Eagles had two defensive tackles in mind when they traded down from No. 70 to 73 for a sixth-round draft pick: Louisiana Tech's Milton Williams and North Carolina State's Alim McNeill.