While quarterbacks have been the talk of the 2021 NFL Draft, one can easily conclude that the wide receiver position is just as stacked. Projections conclude that at least four pass-catchers at this position will go in Round 1.
The group is headed by record-breaking former LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase as well as Alabama teammates Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. There’s also a good chance that Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman will find himself as a first-round pick and an underrated star will slip into the top-32.
Checking on the top-five wide receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft, we look at the best potential fit for each player.
Cincinnati Bengals nab Ja’Marr Chase with fifth pick
Prior to opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ja’Marr Chase was seen as one of the best receivers in the entire nation. Catching passes from then-teammate Joe Burrow at LSU, the 6-foot Chase was absolutely dominating in 2019. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards with a resounding 20 touchdowns against elite-level SEC defenses.
What better way for Cincinnati to help Burrow grow as a franchise quarterback than to team these two up together once again? It really just makes too much sense at this point. The upside is unlimited. Chase already boasts a pro-ready skillset and could step in immediately as Burrow’s No. 1 target ahead of impressive youngster Tee Higgins.
Carolina Panthers surprise with Devonta Smith in 2021 NFL Draft
New Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer is apparently willing to go all in with Sam Darnold after acquiring the struggling former No. 3 pick for three NFL Draft selections. Whether that proves to be foolish moving forward remains to be seen. What we do know is that Darnold needs more weapons on offense to go with running back Christian McCaffrey and stud young receiver D.J. Moore.
The loss of last season’s breakout star, Curtis Samuel, also adds to the belief that Carolina will go receiver early in the draft. If Smith were to land on their laps at eight, there’s absolutely no reason to believe the Panthers would pass up on the reigning Heisman winner. Much like Chase, he dominated solid competition in the SEC. The 6-foot pass rusher is as polished as they come from a route-running perspective and could replace Samuel in the slot immediately.
Philadelphia Eagles add speed in Jaylen Waddle for Jalen Hurts
After moving on from Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson this offseason, it’s rather clear that the Eagles need help at wide receiver. Sure there’s been talk of the team pulling off a blockbuster trade for a quarterback. But that makes no sense a calendar year after Philadelphia took Jalen Hurts in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Why not get Hurts an absolutely dynamic playmaker who can make an immediate impact? The 5-foot-9 receiver has multiple gears to his game. He’s quick out of the break and can create almost immediate separation at the line. He’s a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. It’s something the Eagles have been missing since the aforementioned Jackson was in his prime. Nabbing him with the 12th pick would be ideal.
New York Jets shock everyone with Elijah Moore in first round
Let’s preface this by indicating that the Jets are going to take Zach Wilson No. 2 overall to be their franchise quarterback. Even after adding veteran receivers Corey Davis and Keelan Cole to the mix during free agency, wide receiver is a major need. That’s especially true when it comes to the slot. New offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur values a specific type of wide receiver dating back to his days under Kyle Shanahan with the San Francisco 49ers.
That’s where a fast-riser in Elijah Moore comes into play. The 5-foot-9 receiver hauled in 86 passes for nearly 1,200 yards in just eight games for Mississippi a season ago. He’s similar to 49ers first-round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft in Brandon Aiyuk in that the receiver gains separation and gives his quarterback huge windows to throw through. That would loom large for Wilson as a rookie in 2021.
Green Bay Packers select Rashod Bateman in 2021 NFL Draft
Davante Adams might be the best receiver in football right now. That’s not hyperbole. It also doesn’t mean that Green Bay is going to avoid wide receiver early in the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s a major need for the Packers as the Aaron Rodgers’ situation continues to play out behind the scenes.
As for a fit, Bateman couldn’t ask for a better landing spot. He’s already a fluid route runner and boasts a pro-level route tree with some tremendous hands. While there’s a limitation when it comes to taking the top off the defense, getting a possession-type guy to team up with Adams just makes too much sense. Adding Bateman with the 29th pick would also be a major steal.