Overvalued NFL Draft Targets: Wide Receiver (2021 NFL Draft)
The wide receiver class from the 2020 NFL Draft got a lot of love as one of the best in recent memory, but thanks to some juniors returning to school for their senior seasons, the 2021 class may be even stronger and deeper. With so many talented prospects to analyze, some may get lost in the shuffle. At the same time, others are often get discussed too high vis-a-vis their superior counterparts. To qualify for this list, the prospects in question must be discussed as potential top-10 receivers in this class.
Tape watched: Senior Bowl week, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, Utah State
Sage Surrat is a talented receiver who had an excellent redshirt sophomore season when he posted 66 receptions, 1,001 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns. He missed four games but still crossed the 1,000 yard barrier thanks to recording 111.2 yards per game. Surrat has the skill to play inside and out and is a physical receiver who excelled in 50/50 situations at Wake Forest. So why is he on this list?
Surratt is blessed with good size at 6’2 5/8, 215 lbs, and plays to it. He is a physical receiver who can win downfield and use his size to be a factor as a run blocker. Surratt has some exciting tape, at least when he is winning in contested situations. His tape also helps one identify athleticism concerns. He does not play very fast and has issues separating from cornerbacks. Surratt too often won with size and physicality as opposed to separation, something that likely will not translate consistently enough against the talent of the NFL.
— Kyle Yates (@KyleYNFL) June 7, 2020
Surratt needs to refine his route running skills to become anything more than a situational deep threat and red zone weapon. He could flash as a big slot as it would allow him to take on linebackers and safeties in some packages, but that would help to limit the impact of his physicality even more. Surratt looks like a Day 3 pick as he can still win when given cushion. He is raw from a refinement standpoint and will need to work on his release to avoid ending up on a practice squad.
You can’t teach size, so if he can learn to stack defensive backs better and to use route stem to create leverage, he can become a number three in time. He is a project receiver but has upside for a team willing to overlook potential speed issues. He does what he does well but may get some love for a transition to a move tight end. He will need to add some weight, but a move to tight end would allow him to take on safeties and linebackers on a more consistent basis, something that could help extend his NFL career. There is a lot to like about Surratt, but there is also a lot he has to work on to be a success in the NFL. Without some serious polish, he will not be one of the top-10 receivers in the class.
Tape watched: Pittsburgh, Miami, Florida State, Boston College (2019), Clemson (2019)
Tutu Atwell is one of the most exciting players in the entire 2021 NFL Draft class, but there remain questions about his floor and ceiling in the NFL. Listed at 5’9 and 165 lbs, Atwell is a converted quarterback who made the successful college transition to wide receiver. His best season came in 2019 when he posted 69 receptions, 1,272 receiving yards, and 11 touchdowns. He remained productive in his nine 2020 contests, recording 49 receptions, 625 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns.
The number one thing everyone notices about Atwell is his elite speed and acceleration. He has reportedly been timed as low as 4.27, so what he runs on his Pro Day will help determine his draft ceiling. A burner who can run solid enough routes, Atwell can get open once he gets a clean release. He is clearly better against off-man and zone, as his lack of play strength causes him issues with press and bump and run.
Tutu Atwell is a fast 2021 riser! True sophomore season he had 1272 yards on 69 receptions. Averaging 18.4ypr & 11TDs
He accounted for 42% of his team’s receiving yards & had a 40% dominator rating.
Questions around his size are valid, production & playmaking ability ZERO! ???????? pic.twitter.com/1djK5MLCnN
— Ray G ???? (@RayGQue) August 13, 2020
Atwell has the speed to be a vertical threat, but inconsistent hands may lead to him being utilized more as a gadget player who has his touches manufactured for him. He could still see the situational deep shot as he can win downfield when he successfully stacks the opposing corner, but he will have trouble winning when he is forced into 50/50 ball situations.
Atwell needs to improve his route running and hands in order to reach his potential, but the most important factors to his NFL success will be team and scheme. He needs an offense creative enough to make use of his skillset on a weekly basis to avoid being a Tavon Austin type who sees his obvious skills wasted.
Atwell will need to get with a strength and conditioning coach and hit the JUGS machine on a daily basis, but his upside is palpable. However, his floor is a fifth receiver or a game day inactive. He should be able to find a role on special teams, but if he is drafted by one of the 25 or so teams who will waste his talent, he may not last past his first contract.
Depth chart will also be key, as he will need to land somewhere where the coaching staff has a plan for him or where he can stake a legitimate claim to a third wide receiver role, even if it is in a rotation. His lack of size is going to be a significant issue, as opposing corners will be able to knock him off his route too easily. However, once he gets a step, he can take it to the house. There is a lot to like about Atwell, but he does not belong in the top-10 wide receiver or Day 2 conversation, never mind the Day 1 discussion. Elite speed will draw teams to him, but his floor may see him fall out of the top-100 picks on draft day.
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