NFL Draft: Smaller, faster, quicker becoming the trend at wide receiver

  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
  • icon
DeVonta Smith
Amite High alum join Springhill’s John David Crow, the 1957 winner for Texas A&M, and Billy Cannon of Istrouma, the 1959 winner at LSU, as Heisman winners who played high school football in the state of Louisiana (Photo: Kent Gidley).

A new trend is developing in the NFL at the wide receiver position. It is a copycat league.

Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill 5 at 5-9 ½ and 180 pounds is almost too fast and shifty to cover so the trend is going to smaller fast wide receivers.

The 2021 NFL draft is full of these type receivers.

No. 1 rated Ja’Marr Chase out of LSU is 6-0 with 4.40 speed so I would not say he quite fits the mold but he was the best receiver in college football in 2019 and then opted-out in 2020. He gets separation deep, has consistent hands and shows both excellent vertical ability and body control. Chase by no means plays small because of his impressive strength.

However, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith is a 175 pound receiver who was dominant during the 2020 season, using his great speed (4.45) with deadly run after the catch skills. He is also a dangerous punt return man similar to what Hill has been at times for Kansas City.

Jaylen Waddle (5-10,185), another small gamebreaker from Alabama with 4.40 speed, shows fluid hips. He is tough and hard to tackle. Waddle is a very good deep threat and return man as well. He plays with vision, agility and elusiveness that make his a scoring threat every time he touches the ball.

Florida’s Kadarius Toney had a solid week of practice at the Senior Bowl, displaying the speed and toughness we saw in college. He was explosive and got separation from good cornerbacks. A 6-foot athlete with run after the catch ability, Toney projects as an electric slot receiver.

Rondale Moore (5-9,180) from Purdue has 4.40 speed and the ability to make tacklers miss in the open field. Making yards after the catch is where Moore excels. He can also get separation on side-line routes with his speed and quickness.

Elijah Moore (5-9, 185; 4.48 speed) from Ole Miss is productive, savvy, tough and athletic. A slot receiver who can beat press coverage even with his small size, Moore is dynamic and willing to go over the middle to make plays. He is also a deep threat who can make the long reception as well.

Tutu Atwell (5-9, 165, 4.40) is another  productive slot receiver. He had 46 catches and seven touchdowns for Louisville in 2020. Another undersized electric receiver, Atwell fits the new prototype of the small fast receiver in today’s game. I can see him as a draft slot bargain.

Shi Smith (5-10,190), another Senior Bowl standout, is a scrappy prospect with reliable hands. HE had 57 catches and four touchdowns for South Carolina in 2020.

Amari Rodgers, a 5-10 wideout with 4.46 speed from Clemson, helped his stock in Mobile as well. He is explosive with great start-stop ability and enough speed to get deep. He is thick in the lower body and shows toughness. His skill set lends to playmaking in space.

These receiver prospects in the 2021 NFL draft are rated in the top 12 at their position.

The Saints already have this type of receiver and return man in Deonte Harris (5-6,175) who only needs to get more playing time at the position next season. However, durability is a question mark here so maybe one of the above prospects winds up in New Orleans.

  • < PREV LSU eliminated from SEC Women's Basketball Tournament by No. 2 Texas A&M
  • NEXT > No. 1 LSU Eunice grinds out series-opening win over Murray State