Just one year after an absurdly strong wide receiver class that saw six wide receivers selected in the first round, the football gods blessed us with a class that’s just as strong, if not even better.
The 2020 class that took the NFL by storm from day one with players like Justin Jefferson, Ceedee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Brandon Aiyuk quickly cemented their status as the best receiver class since 2013.
While college offenses saw an abundance of talent leave after the 2019-2020 season, their successors crushed all expectations and have, in my opinion, surpassed them as a class.
Although it is seemingly impossible to correctly rank all of these guys, here is how I see the hierarchy of the top-ten shaping up after watching hours of film on each of them.
1) Jaylen Waddle | Alabama
While everyone’s debating whether Ja’Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith should be the highest ranked wide receiver, I decided to go a completely different route with the Waddle pick. Waddle isn’t the most polished receiver but he is a threat to score every time he is on the field. Legit 4.3 speed that flashes every time he takes off. No CB can run with him stride-for-stride and defenses have to game plan their entire scheme around guarding him. A true field-stretcher with insane athleticism, strong hands, and underrated route running ability. If he can refine his routes he will be truly untouchable at the NFL level.
NFL Comparison: Santana Moss
2) Ja’Marr Chase | LSU
Chase lit college football on fire as a 19-year-old in 2019 playing alongside Justin Jefferson and Joe Burrow and was pretty easily the best wide receiver in the country. After deciding to forgo his junior year due to COVID concerns, Chase slots in as a sure-fire top ten pick in this draft. Extremely physical release allows him to beat all types of coverage. Athleticism is off the charts to go along with good route running, strong hands and insane body control. If I had to take a guess as to which receiver is the best in this class after their rookie years, Chase takes the cake.
NFL Comparison: A.J. Brown / D.J Moore
3) DeVonta Smith | Alabama
It is now going to be back-to-back years where two Alabama receivers get selected in the first round, and Smith might be the cream of the crop. Through his years at Alabama, despite all of the talent surrounding him it was pretty clear (at least to me) that he was the best out of all of them. After an insane statistical year led to him winning the Heisman trophy, Smith slots in as an easy top ten selection for me. Smith wears the crown for best route runner in a class littered with them, and showed some things on tape that NFL receivers can’t even do. What impresses me the most with him is how nuanced he already is which points to his greatest asset; football intelligence. Some people are worried about his 6’1 175-pound frame and his ability to hold up against NFL competition. To that I say, it hasn’t been a problem to this point and it’s not enough to overshadow all of the INCREDIBLE things he does. Smith is going to be a star.
NFL Comparison: Marvin Harrison / Calvin Ridley
4) Rashod Bateman | Minnesota
Bateman is probably my favorite receiver in this class because he is flying under the radar. He has enough pure talent to be compared to any of the aforementioned guys but due to playing in a lack-luster offense in Minnesota he isn’t getting enough attention. Standing at 6’2 and 210-pounds you would think he is strictly a deep ball / contested catch guy, but you would be wrong. Bateman has one of the smoothest releases in the class and possesses top-tier route running prowess. Can get open at all levels of the field against all types of coverage and 50/50 balls are more like 90/10 balls with his leaping ability and strong hands. Can quickly develop into a true #1 receiver in any scheme.
NFL Comparison: Allen Robinson
5) Elijah Moore | Ole Miss
I had zero expectations when flipping on Elijah Moore tape, and frankly I was blown away. His natural ability to separate is uncanny and I have zero doubts that he will continue to do so at the next level. Extremely fast and efficient route runner that shows nuance to get open at a very high level against all types of coverage. Teams are slightly worried about his stature, only standing at 5’9 185-pounds, and how he will perform against more physical corners. Well, it’s hard to be physical against a guy when you can’t even get hands on him. Seriously though, I think if Moore bulks up a couple pounds and gets better with his hand usage on releases he will dominate at the NFL level.
NFL Comparison: Steve Smith Sr.
6) Cornell Powell | Clemson
Cornell Powell is being criminally underrated due to his “lack of elite traits” to go along with the fact that he is already 23 years old, but this dude can flat out play. Clemson had some offensive line issues in 2020 that probably took away over 1000 yards and 6 touchdowns from Powell alone. Very physical receiver who can run crisp routes at all levels of the field. While his athletic profile is probably maxed out which lowers his ceiling, it is still more than sufficient enough to succeed at the NFL level. Whatever team takes an early chance on this guy is going to be very, very happy.
NFL Comparison: Jerricho Cotchery
7) Amari Rodgers | Clemson
Much like Powell, Rodgers is going to make whatever team drafts him very happy. Efficient short-intermediate route runner with the speed and shake to win deep if not given the respect to do so. He’s what I like to call a “dirt-dog” that fits the mold of a Julian Edelman or Golden Tate role too a tee. He does the dirty work for an offense and has insane run-after-catch (RAC) ability. Has underrated competitiveness at the catch point despite only being 5’10. Can be moved all around the formation and offensive coordinators can get creative with his usage. I tweeted it before, but he is what people think Kadarius Toney is. Will come in and be a difference maker from the start.
NFL Comparison: Golden Tate
8) Amon-Ra St. Brown | USC
St. Brown is nowhere near a finished product, but with what he showed at USC he is absolutely someone that teams should take a chance on. Has solid burst and deep speed to go with fluidity as a route runner. If he learns how to manipulate his routes and releases correctly, he has a very high ceiling as an NFL receiver. His flashes are great and depending on draft position could end up being the steal of the draft.
NFL Comparison: Robert Woods
9) Kadarius Toney | Florida
A lot of people are very high on Toney, and for good reason, but I am a little hesitant on him. He possesses all of the physical traits to be a highly-efficient slot receiver at the NFL level with insane shake and good top-end speed, he just needs to be taught how to do so. I think Toney has the tools to be great, just don’t think you can expect him to walk in day one and be that guy. He is a project, but a project that put in the right hands could end up being an A+.
NFL Comparison: Curtis Samuel
10) Dyami Brown | UNC
Brown doesn’t blow you away athletically, but is as sure-handed as any receiver in this draft. It seemed like he came down with every contested catch that was thrown his way, and some of those balls absolutely shouldn’t have been hauled in. Still has some work to do as a route runner at the next level but he certainly has the tools to make strides in that area. I can see Brown carving out a nice role in an offense that utilizes his strengths correctly off the bat.
NFL Comparison: Michael Gallup