Quarterbacks and running backs are in the books! Next up is my top five list of players to watch out for this upcoming season at the receiver position. All of these guys are draft eligible and have a chance at being drafted in 2021. Enjoy!
1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
Ja’Marr Chase had an incredible season in 2019. Not only was he a part of the reigning National Champions, the LSU Tigers, he also had a phenomenal year as a receiver. Chase caught for almost 1,800 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 84 receptions. He stands at 6’1” and 200 pounds, which is a decent frame for a receiver.
The first thing that stands out about Chase is his route running. Chase does an amazing job at finding holes in zone defenses. When a play begins to break down and his quarterback is in trouble, he has no issue finding holes in zones and getting open. Chase does not have an issue with dropping the ball. He is definitely a natural pass catcher and he can catch contested balls. This definitely will translate very well to the pros. His ability to track balls in the air is one of the best in the class.
2019 will be an important season for the former Biletnikoff award winner. With Justin Jefferson now in the pros, Chase will be the main guy for sure. However, there is no Joe Burrow at quarterback, leaving some questions about LSU in 2020. Chase does need to work on his separation this offseason. Some catches on tape were more difficult for him to make than they should have been, due to a lack of separation. He really needs to improve his hands and footwork to make that space happen; especially coming out of his breaks. This will be important for him to do should he want to put himself in a good position to be the first receiver off of the board in the 2021 NFL Draft.
2. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
When you are looking for a complete receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft, look no further than Rashod Bateman. Bateman is built for the part. He stands at 6’2” and 210 pounds. Bateman finished the 2019 season with over 1,200 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns, and 60 receptions. He had an incredible season, even with now NFL receiver Tyler Johnson on the team. Bateman is one of the best ball trackers in college right now. He does a great job of adjusting to the ball while it is in the air and finding a way to get the ball in his hands. His hands are super reliable and he does not drop passes. When the ball is contested, he finds a way to come down with it.
2019 should be an interesting season for Bateman considering he is the true number one receiver right now. He should definitely have a huge year with Tanner Morgan at quarterback. As of right now, Ja’Marr Chase is the main favorite at the wide receiver position, but no one needs to sleep on Bateman. He has all the tools necessary to make it as a true number one receiver in the NFL.
3. Devonta Smith, Alabama
In 2019 the Alabama Crimson Tide had quite the foursome of receivers. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, Devonta Smith, and Jaylan Waddle. All four of these guys were home run hitters, with Jeudy and Ruggs making their leap to the NFL. Smith and Waddle remain, and it is hard not to like either one. Smith is the better receiver in this case just because he has more playing time than Waddle. In 2019 Smith had over 1,200 yards receiving, 14 receiving touchdowns, and 68 catches.
When it comes to reliable hands, it is hard to find a receiver more dependable than Smith. He has black holes for hands. As soon as the ball hits his mits it disappears into them. Smith has great route running and decent speed for his size. He is a reliable receiver and should go off the board quickly should he decide to go into the 2021 NFL Draft.
The major issue with Smith, and the one thing that could keep him from being drafted is his size. He is 6’1” and only 175 pounds. There aren’t that many receivers in the NFL who have been that size and have done well. The list is pretty short. My hope is that during this 2020 season he eats a few more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to put on some weight. Even with his size, his talent makes him a sought after player and one worth keeping an eye on.
4. Chris Olave, Ohio State
Coming out of Ohio State is a wide receiver with some big shoes to step into. Chris Olave is coming into his third year of playing for the Buckeyes. Last season he had to share catches with Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin. They moved onto the NFL and Olave looks to be the number one receiver for Ohio State. Olave excels at being a vertical threat and creating windows for himself to catch passes. He has an insane amount of acceleration that causes him to go over the top of many defensive backs. As a route runner he is very savvy and he does a great job of adjusting angles to put himself in a solid position to catch the ball.
Corners are so wary of Olave’s speed, and as soon as they open their hips he pulls a move on them and they are lost in no man’s land. It would be nice to see him do more after the catch, especially on throws that are not deep passes. There is a lot to like about Olave and he is someone to definitely pay attention to should the college football season happen. There is no doubt he is a receiver to look out for in the 2021 NFL Draft should he declare.
5. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
Tylan Wallace is an intriguing wide receiver to watch. He is raw, but has plenty of gifts to make him a strong receiver for the next level. In 2019, Wallace’s season was cut short due to an Achilles injury. Even with his season coming to an early end he almost hit 1,000 receiving yards. In 2018, Wallace almost hit 1,500 receiving yards with 12 touchdowns, and 86 receptions. Oklahoma State’s offense is very much spread and shred. So the routes that Wallace runs are simple. He’s not taught much technical skill on how to create separation, so mainly he relies on speed to get free of defenders. However it works for him and it works for the Cowboys.
Wallace has an insane catch radius for being 6’0” and 185 pounds. Not to mention he has consistent hands whether in contested situations or being wide open. He has incredible top end speed using long strides to get to top speed. Wallace likely will not become a star receiver overnight in the NFL. He is probably going to be a second year breakthrough. With some work on the technical side of his game under his belt, there is no doubt that he can turn into a true number one receiver for a team.
Other Receivers to Watch
Sage Surratt, Wake Forest
Seth Williams, Auburn
Jaylan Waddle, Alabama
Rondale Moore, Purdue
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