Hub Arkush’s 2021 NFL draft positional preview: Wide receiver

The 2021 NFL draft is being billed as possibly the best wide receiver class of all time but they are small.

That’s not to say there won’t be a big bunch of guys who prove to be excellent pass-catchers at the next level. There will be.

The issue is due either to a lack of size, experience or both, almost all the top-rated wideouts project as either No. 2 or No. 3 receivers in the NFL.

It is concerning that only one of the top 10 prospects on my board is over 6 feet and only two touch 200 pounds.

They will face a lot more press and bump-and-run coverages in the NFL, and some guys never figure out how to beat them.

Still, there will be at least 10 to 12 taken in the first two rounds and all will come with attractive ceilings.

1. Ja’marr Chase, LSU (6–0, 201, Junior)

He was productive as a true freshman starting half of LSU’s games and was then voted the best wideout in college football (Biletnikoff Award) as a sophomore even before he had a monster national title game against Clemson. Chase is a phenomenal athlete and as graceful as they come, but he will have to prove he can defeat jams at the line of scrimmage. He has just one full season of tape as a starter.

2. DeVonta Smith, Alabama (6-0, 170, Senior)

Smith is another Biletnikoff Award winner, and unlike Chase after a huge 2019 campaign, he passed on an option to enter the draft and not only played in 2020, he won the Heisman Trophy. He was often the most dominant player on the field for the Tide and got better in each of his four seasons in Tuscaloosa. A big play waiting to happen, he is an extremely high character kid with only one red flag but it’s a big one. At 170 pounds he stayed healthy in college but...

3. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama (5-9 ½, 180, Junior)

This kid is an explosion waiting to happen with 11 TDs at Alabama going for 50 yards or more. On his first day in the NFL he’ll be a contestant for fastest player in the league and he will scare the daylight out of opposing special teams coaches as both a punt and kickoff return threat. The concern here is his size and the fact he hasn’t faced a lot of press and man coverage. He started just 12 games in three seasons and caught just 106 passes, but 17 receptions went for TDs.

BEARS TARGETS

4. Kadarius Toney, Florida (6-0, 193, Senior)

Injuries plagued him at Florida, but he had a huge senior year. His ceiling is sky high as a slot guy in the NFL, but he will need some patience.

5. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota (6-0, 190, Junior)

One of the most dominant players in the Big Ten in 2019, he played only five games last year after opting out initially, opting back in and then opting out again.

6. Elijah Moore, Mississippi (5-9 ½, 178, Junior)

Another kid with some special traits but is particularly small in a class full of little guys.

7. Terrace Marshall, Jr., LSU (6-2 ½, 205, Junior)

Better size with plenty of speed and athleticism, but focus and mindset may need some work.

DAY-2 POTENTIAL

8. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma St. (5-11, 194, Senior)

Productive, confident, tough and courageous in college, he’s a competitor that should start for someone.

9. Rondale Moore, Purdue (5-7, 181, Junior)

This little guy had a huge freshman campaign in 2018 but missed most of 2019 with a hamstring issue and 2020 after opting out before opting back in. Wish there was more tape.

10. Cade Johnson, South Dakota St. (5-11, 184, Redshirt Senior)

He’s an exciting FCS prospect with excellent traits, but can he make the huge step up in competition?

11. Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC (5-11 ½, 197, Junior)

12. Nico Collins, Michigan (6-4, 215, Senior)

13. Josh Palmer, Tennessee (6-1, 210, Senior)

14. Cornell Powell, Clemson (6-0, 204, Redshirt Senior)

15. Amari Rodgers, Clemson (5-9 ½, 212, Senior)

16. Tamorrion Terry, Florida St. (6-3, 207, Redshirt Junior)

17. Tutu Atwell, Louisville (5-9, 155, Junior)

18. Jacob Harris. Central Florida (6-5, 219, Redshirt Senior)

19. Demetric Felton, UCLA (5-9, 189, Redshirt Senior)

20. Austin Watkins, Jr., UAB (6-1 ½, 207, Redshirt Senior)

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush is a Bears/NFL Insider for Shaw Media