2021 Rookie to Pro Comparisons - WR Edition
By: Keith Sheeran
Chase flexing his talent / www.si.com
Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
Ja’Marr Chase is the best wide receiver in this year’s draft class, in my opinion. Chase sat out the 2020 season, but he was a dominant playmaker in 2019. Chase reminds me of DeAndre Hopkins, a big-bodied receiver that is great at contested catches and has great hands. Chase can be a top playmaker for any team as he’s the type of receiver you can throw the ball up to in tight coverage, and most of the time, he will come down with it, similar to Hopkins. Chase doesn’t have lightning speed, but he can use his physical play style to create space to get down the field and be a deep threat. Chase isn’t the best route runner in this class, so that would be something for him to work on, but with the right coaching, he could be a wide receiver one in the future. Chase should be the first or second wide receiver off the board, so hopefully, he lands with a team that can bring out the best in him.
Player Comparison: DeAndre Hopkins
DeVonta Smith, Alabama
DeVonta Smith, the winner of the Heisman trophy, is a player that seems to divide opinion. People think he’s going to be the next great receiver, and other people think he’s going to be a total bust. Smith has the potential to be like Calvin Ridley. Both have similar athletic frames, are quick but not electric, and are great route runners. Smith’s route running is one of the main reasons he did so much damage last season. He has shown he can get into space and find the endzone, which Calvin Ridley is very good at doing. Smith isn’t the quickest receiver, so the team he lands with may need to be creative if they want to feed him the ball constantly. The biggest question mark hanging over Smith is his size. At 6’1” and 175lbs, Smith will need to bulk up if he is to compete with the bigger and stronger corners in the NFL. Many teams need a receiver, so with some luck, Smith ends up with a team that can use him to good effect and brings out the best in him and the offense. I’m a big Calvin Ridley fan, so if he can be just as good as him in a couple of years, Smith would have a big future in the NFL.
Player Comparison: Calvin Ridley
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
My favorite Alabama wide receiver is Jaylen Waddle. Waddle is an explosive receiver who can play on the outside or in the slot. He has exceptional speed, and I think he compares well to Tyreek Hill. Like Hill, Waddle can easily take the top off a defense or break a long run for a touchdown. Waddle has great vision, and with his quickness and agility, he can make defenders miss all day long. This is what Tyreek Hill has been known for in recent years. Much like how Hill started his NFL career, Waddle plays on special teams, and there’s always a chance of him going to the house right from the kickoff. Waddle is an exciting talent and one I can’t wait to see where he ends up. Teams could have a lot of fun with Waddle and use him as that swiss army knife type of receiver. I hope he lands with a team like Detroit or Washington as I think he could be a stand-out performer.
Player Comparison: Tyreek Hill
Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
An interesting wide receiver in this year’s class is Rashod Bateman. Bateman is another receiver who can play in the slot or on the outside. He’s a physical receiver, and with his size and strength, he reminds me of Michael Thomas. Thomas plays in the slot or on the outside, and he’s a physical pass-catcher who has great hands. Bateman has similar attributes, but he can be too physical at times and initiates too much contact, which he won’t get away with within the NFL. Bateman’s not a guy who will outrun most defenders, but he does have good route running ability that helps get him into space. If Bateman can land with a team that has a good quarterback, he could become a pivotal part of the offense as his reliable hands could make him a safety valve for the quarterback.
Player Comparison: Michael Thomas
Rondale Moore, Purdue
The hype train recently has been all about Rondale Moore. At 5’9”, Moore is a freak athlete. He has explosive speed similar to Jaylen Waddle, but he mostly played in the slot. I think he could be used as a deep threat in the NFL and could be like Brandin Cooks without all the injuries. Both are explosive and have the raw pace that can burn any defender. Moore would be more physical, which should bode well in the NFL. Like Cooks, Moore is a small target, so he would need to have a good quarterback throwing his way. Moore would also need to improve his hands as he dealt with some drops in college. Cooks had similar issues at one point in his career. It’s hard to tell where Moore could end up, but he does provide big-play upside, so it will be interesting to see who takes a chance on him on draft night.
Player Comparison: Brandin Cooks