(AUDACY) Last year was one of the deepest wide receiver classes in NFL Draft history, with a record 13 wideouts being taken in the first two rounds.
While the class this year may not be as deep, there's still plenty of talented options, including the first receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in 29 years in Alabama’s DeVonta Smith.
Yet, Smith may not even be the first or second receiver taken in the draft. There's that much talent. With such an emphasis on the passing game, receivers are a hot commodity around the league, so we took a look at some of the ideal landing spots for the top wideouts in the 2021 class.
Ja'Marr Chase — Miami Dolphins
Smith may have won the Heisman Trophy, but LSU's Ja'Marr Chase is still considered to be the best receiving prospect by many scouts. There's a pretty strong chance Chase will be still be on the board when Miami makes its pick at No. 6.
Drafting Chase would allow the Dolphins to pair him with Devante Parker, Will Fuller and Preston Williams — giving quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a boatload of weapons in his receiving corps.
LSU has had quite a run at producing NFL receivers too. Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, D.J. Chark and Justin Jefferson are some of the notable LSU products in the league whose footsteps Chase could follow.
DeVonta Smith — Detroit Lions
The Lions could well take one of the quarterbacks with the No. 7 pick in the NFL Draft, or they could trade back. But after losing both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. in free agency, the team needs some receiver help.
Enter Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner who could immediately become the No. 1 target in Detroit and give Jared Goff a deep threat in the passing game. Smith would play opposite Tyrell Williams and join a solid, young playmaking corps that includes running back D’Andre Swift and tight end T.J. Hockenson.
Jaylen Waddle — Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles can go a number of different directions with the No. 12 pick, but at some point, they need to enhance their receiving corps and there's no better person to turn to than Jaylen Waddle.
His stock seems to be picking up steam as the draft nears, with some mocks even projecting him ahead of his Alabama teammate Smith. Many consider Waddle an elite route runner, and Alabama running back Najee Harris has compared him to Chiefs star Tyreek Hill.
Matt Bowen of ESPN recently wrote that Waddle could take on a T.Y. Hilton-like role in the Eagles' offense, running crosses, dig routes and slot fades. He may be just what the Eagles need to help young quarterback Jalen Hurts succeed.
Rashod Bateman — New England Patriots
A lot of people believe the Patriots will look to draft a quarterback in the first round, but what happens if four quarterbacks are taken with the first four picks? The Patriots could try to trade up, or perhaps they decide to address another area of need: wide receiver.
Alabama studs Waddle and Smith likely won’t fall to the Patriots at No. 15, but coach Bill Belichick has a tendency to trade back and get value. One potential prospect he could do that for is Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Bateman has great hands and can excel in press coverage. He's often lauded for his footwork and ability to make adjustments, which should get the attention of Belichick. Bateman has drawn comparisons to the Chargers' Keenan Allen and could prove to be a consistent, reliable receiver, which is something the Patriots currently lack.
Kadarius Toney — Chicago Bears
The Bears don't have a whole lot of reliable options outside of Allen Robinson in their receiving corps, so adding another playmaker will be a priority in the draft.
Kadarius Toney could very well be that player for the Bears with the 20th overall pick. The 5-foot-11, 193-pound Toney can be inserted into the slot and also used in a variety of ways — whether on special teams or designed run plays. He's still a bit of a work in progress with his route running but has the athleticism and playmaking ability to provide high-upside talent for an offense.
Terrace Marshall Jr. — Baltimore Ravens
The LSU wide receiver factory doesn't stop at Chase in this draft.
Terrace Marshall Jr. is also a first-round talent and proved he could be a WR1 after Chase opted out last season by reeling in 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns in just seven games.
A handful of teams drafting in the late first round could be looking at wide receivers, but the Ravens would be an ideal fit for Marshall, a 6-foot-2, 205-pounder who would be an excellent big-bodied option on the outside with a wide catch radius for quarterback Lamar Jackson to target. His size and skill set would also complement fellow receiver Marquise “Hollywood” Brown in the Ravens' offense.
Rondale Moore — New Orleans Saints
The Saints lost veteran Emmanuel Sanders in free agency, so it would be nice for them to find someone to fill that void and be a young, sparkplug receiver for Jameis Winston (or Taysom Hill) at quarterback.
Moore stands at just 5-foot-7, but his 4.33 40-yard dash time at his pro day grabbed everybody’s attention. His size, speed and athleticism has even drawn some comparisons to the Chiefs' Hill.
That may be quite a high bar to set for Moore, but he wouldn't have to carry the burden of leading an offense in New Orleans. He would fit into the slot and serve as a complement to Michael Thomas as the type of player who can turn a quick slant into a big play with his game-breaking speed.