During the offseason, there is always a lot of chatter about players moving and players in the draft. 2021 is shaping up to be no different. With so many quarterbacks on the move, some of the other positions can get forgotten about but they really shouldn’t be. Quarterbacks need weapons, and there are plenty of them available this year. With this year’s Heisman winner a wide receiver and plenty of free agents at the position it is a good time to be in the market for a pass catcher. The ten best wide receiver options should be urgent reading for all teams.
Whether teams want a fresh young face at the position or a league veteran they have a plethora to choose from. The 2021 Free Agency and draft period are shaping up to be like no other. We have already seen a blockbuster trade between the Detroit Lions and the Los Angeles Rams and there may be more on the horizon. With so many wide receivers available it would be impossible to rank them all. Here are our top ten options for the position.
Ten Best Wide Receiver Options
Best Wide Receiver Options From The 2021 Free Agency Period
ALLEN ROBINSON, CHICAGO BEARS
The former second-round pick has consistently been a top threat in the league despite not having the pleasure of playing with great quarterbacks. In Jacksonville, he had Blake Bortles, and then in Chicago, he had a combination of Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. In 2021 alone he had to deal with the indecision of the head coach as Chicago continually swapped quarterbacks. Despite that, he was still a top ten receiver in the league. Finishing with over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns showed that he can be productive with mediocre quarterbacks. Imagine what he could do with a good quarterback throwing him the ball?
Before he decides on which team he wants to play for he has to decide if it’s money he wants or a shot at a championship. After the year he has had he is one of, if not the best option at wide receiver. With a few teams all after a new deep threat, Allen Robinson will need to decide on what is more important to him.
CHRIS GODWIN, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
After having a huge year in 2019 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chris Godwin was rewarded by getting to catch balls from Tom Brady in 2020. In 2019 Godwin finished with 1,333 passing yards and nine touchdowns. He grew into the number one receiving threat for the Buccaneers. When the Buccaneers announced that Tom Brady was going to be the new man under center, Godwin was in line for another big year. Despite the plethora of talent on the offensive side of the ball for Tampa he still put up big numbers.
He wasn’t Brady’s favorite target, but he was his most consistent. Godwin was targeted 84 times and made 65 catches for 840 yards. Both are a bit of a drop-off from the previous year but with the number of options available, this isn’t a surprise. When it mattered Chris Godwin was the option. His ability to take the top of a defense and win contested catches has made him a fan favorite in Tampa Bay. This wasn’t on show more than in the Conference Championship against the Green Bay Packers.
On their way down the field for their second touchdown, Godwin caught a 52-yard pass from Brady despite the two defenders near him. Tampa scored on the very next play. Then to end the game, the Buccaneers dialed up a wide receiver run and Godwin picked up the necessary six yards to send his team to the Super Bowl.
Chris Godwin can become a true number one receiver wherever he ends up and can transform any offense into a threat. His catch success rate is constantly above 60% and he has averaged over 12 yards per reception since he entered the league. A young talent who will be in the league for years to come.
JUJU SMITH-SCHUSTER, PITTSBURGH STEELERS
When JuJu Smith-Schuster came into the league he had the benefit of playing with Antonio Brown. Being able to work away whilst all the defenders focussed on Brown meant that Smith-Schuster had a huge rookie year. He finished with 917 yards and seven touchdowns. He went even better in 2018 when he surpassed the 1,000 receiving yard mark. After the 2018 season, he became the number one receiver in Pittsburgh after the departure of Brown. Unluckily for JuJu, he didn’t get a chance to show his ability as the number one guy.
When Ben Roethlisberger went down injured in Week 2 of the 2019 season Smith-Schusters stats went down with him. Having to play with two back-up quarterbacks meant that his numbers took a huge hit. He only just reached 500 receiving yards and was only able to find the end-zone on three occasions. Much like Antonio Brown did, Smith-Schuster would have to contend with the arrival of new receiving talent in 2020.
Chase Claypool entered the league and was an instant success and Diontae Johnson continued to develop into a reliable option. With Claypool and Johnson lining up on the outside, Smith-Schuster was utilized in the slot more and forced to do the dirty work. Unlike Brown, he didn’t let the rise of the newcomers affect him. He took to the role of blocking more and fighting for the contested catch better than anyone could expect. Over the last two years, he leads the league in touchdowns from the slot position with 11.
Having to take a step back and do the dirty work could pay off when it comes to getting a contract with a team. His selflessness and team-first mantra are exactly what head coaches are after. With his stats improving again in 2020 he is in line to earn some big money in 2021.
KENNY GOLLADAY, DETROIT LIONS
The 2020 season wasn’t what Kenny Golladay was hoping for. After having two seasons in a row with over 1,000 yards the injury bug plagued his most recent campaign. Despite that, he is still one of the best options available at the receiver position. His size and raw athleticism make him a top threat on the outside. His size makes him one of the best in the league at bringing in contested catches.
Despite only having 20 receptions in the 2020 season he still racked up 338 yards and two scores. He averaged just under 17 yards per reception over that period. Since he entered the league in 2017 he has always averaged over 15 yards per attempt. Thus making him a very real and very dangerous deep threat. In 2019 he finished with 1,190 receiving yards and eleven touchdowns. Both of which are career highs for the talented receiver.
With Matthew Stafford having left Detroit Golladay will likely be looking to follow him out the door. Jared Goff is unlikely to be able to utilize Golladay in the best way and the wideout would do well to find a new team where he can get back to his 2019 form.
WILL FULLER, HOUSTON TEXANS
The former first-round pick played in eleven games through the 2020 season before some off the field issues ended his season early. Through the first eleven weeks of the season, Will Fuller set career highs in receiving yards (879), touchdowns (8) and averaged 16.6 yards per catch. His explosive speed is what makes him one of the best free agents in 2021. After DeAndre Hopkins left the Houston Texans, Fuller became the main man.
He excelled early in the season and was able to show how dangerous he can be. At only 26 he has plenty left in the tank and after his substance misuse issue in 2020, he could be available on the cheap. Set to miss the opening game of the season in 2021 any team that signs Fuller is taking a gamble. He has already missed time in his short career after an ACL injury and has only managed 11 or more games in three of his five seasons.
Fuller’s potential and his likely lower value means he could be the fancy of a few teams when free agency opens up. A young speedy receiver who would shine in just about any offense will more than likely have his choice of destination.
Best Wide Receiver Options From The 2021 Draft
DEVONTA SMITH, ALABAMA
After seeing what Ja’Marr Chase did in the 2019 season, Devonta Smith decided to do one better in 2020. On his way to a national title with Alabama, he racked up 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns. In his final year with Alabama, he became the first wide receiver since 1991 to win the Heisman Trophy. Then just three days later he suited u in the Championship Game and set the record for catches in a title game (12), touchdowns in a title game (3) and he also racked up over 200 receiving yards. He did all this despite leaving early in the third quarter. In his time with Alabama, he broke numerous school receiving records.
At 6 foot 1 and 175-pounds, he is not the strongest wide receiver to enter the NFL draft. If he wants to excel in the league he will need to muscle up in order to compete with the strong defensive backs he will be facing up to. His ability to create separation with quick footwork will serve him well of the line of scrimmage. If he then gets into space his ability to make a defender miss will allow him to light up the stats board.
Going into the NFL he is going to see a lot of press coverage at the line of scrimmage and he will need to learn how to beat it or he will be bullied out of the game.
JA’MARR CHASE, LSU
Ja’Marr Chase did enough in the 2019 season that even if the pandemic didn’t exist he could have sat out 2020 and still been the best wide receiver in the class. On his way to a national title in 2019, he was a unanimous All-American as his LSU Tigers went undefeated. He finished with 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns from 84 receptions.
His explosiveness and route-running ability made him a nightmare to cover. Even when defenses were able to stay with him his physicality when catching the ball meant that he was still successful catching the ball in traffic. At only 6 foot 1 and 208 pounds he isn’t the largest receiver in the draft but don’t let his lack of play in 2020 fool you, he is the best receiver in this class. If his name isn’t called inside the top five picks then something has gone seriously wrong.
TERRACE MARSHALL JNR, LSU
Despite playing the 2019 season behind Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, Terrace Marshall Jnr was able to put up some impressive numbers. He finished with 671 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns. After Jefferson was drafted and Chase opted out for the 2020 season he found himself as the number one receiver in LSU. Until he opted out in November he brought in ten touchdowns and ranked third in the SEC in receiving yards with 731.
The 6 foot 3, 200-pound wideout has the size and physical attributes to line up against just about anyone on the defense and win. Cornerbacks won’t be able to pressure him on the line, and if they try to his speed will make them pay for it. Some fine-tuning will be required on his route running and run blocking but with physical traits like his he will be highly sought after come the draft.
JAYLEN WADDLE, ALABAMA
Prior to his ankle injury, Jaylen Waddle looked like the best receiver in College Football. Through four games he had four touchdowns and had managed over 100 receiving yards in each game. In the season opener he had 134, he followed that up with 142 in Week Two, 120 in Week Three and, 161 in Week Four. An unbelievable start to the season. In those four games, his average yards per reception were 16.4, 28.4, 20.0 and, 26.8. His acceleration makes him one of, if not the best deep threat in the 2021 class.
His ability to pull in the deep catches and get to top speed almost instantly makes him an instant game-changer in the NFL. Just like his Alabama teammate, DeVonta Smith, Waddle knows what it takes to win after coming from the Nick Saban school of winners. As long as there are no lingering issues from his ankle injury he will be an early pick on the opening day of the draft and will be helping an NFL team win before he knows it, making him one of the ten best wide receiver options this off-season.
ELIJAH MOORE, MISSISSIPPI
At just 5 foot 9 and 185 pounds Elijah Moore is small even for a slot receiver. What he lacks in body mass he makes up for in athletic ability and game savvy. In 2020 Moore suited up for eight games before calling it quits and preparing for the 2021 draft. Through those eight games, he amassed 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns. In all but one game, he secured at least ten catches with goes to show how good he is at creating space.
His route-running and reliability make him one of the best slot receivers to come out of the draft. His willingness to make the contested catch will make him an instant hit in the NFL. With the passing windows a lot smaller than in college, quarterbacks love a receiver that will put his body on the line to bring in the catch for his team. A slot receiver who is quick and willing to do the dirty jobs could find his draft stock rise as we approach day one of the 2021 Draft.
Whoever head coaches decide to roll the dice on in 2021, the majority on this list will be big playmakers in the NFL for years to come.
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