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Under the Radar NFL Draft Targets: Wide Receiver (2021 NFL Draft)

Under the Radar NFL Draft Targets: Wide Receiver (2021 NFL Draft)
cameraUnder the Radar NFL Draft Targets: Wide Receiver (2021 NFL Draft)

The 2021 NFL Draft wide receivers class is full of talent. The discussion usually starts with Ja’Marr Chase, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle in some order, but there are over a dozen of other prospects that could make impacts starting in their rookie seasons. The top-10 is usually rounded out by Rashod Bateman, Rondale Moore, Kadarius Toney, Terrace Marshall, Elijah Moore, and some combination of Tamorrion Terry, Tylan Wallace, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tutu Atwell, Dazz Newsome, or Seth Williams. However, there are a number of other prospects who should be in just about every top-10 discussion. This class is that deep. Let’s take a look at some of the names.

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Jonathan Adams (WR – Arkansas State)

Tape watched: Kansas State, Louisiana

Jonathan Adams is one of the most underrated receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft class. He posted his best season in 2020, recording 79 receptions, 1,111 receiving yards, and 12 touchdowns. Listed at 6’3, 220 lbs, Adams is an impressive physical receiver who excels in contested catch situations. 

Adams shines on 50/50 balls but is a good enough route runner to see immediate reps. His film is full of highlights, thanks in large part to great ball tracking. He does have some issues with his release, but once he gets some space, he can create leverage through route stem and can keep corners at bay through stacking. Separation skills will be what NFL teams pick through the most as he had a concerning lack of target separation on tape. 

Adams can win on all levels, and perhaps due to his lack of separation on some routes, he can become a pass interference drawing leader. Adams flashes incredible hands and consistently fights for the ball downfield. Depth chart will likely be key to him having early career success, as if he lands somewhere where he has a path to a top three receiver job, he can quickly become a household name. He rarely, if ever, gets any top-10 love, but his tape is arguably among the top-10 in this class. 

D’Wayne Eskridge (WR – Western Michigan)

Tape watched: Toledo, Ball State, Senior Bowl week

D’Wayne Eskridge is a talented wide receiver flying under a lot of radars due to playing for Western Michigan. He opened a lot of eyes during Senior Bowl week. He improved his draft stock with his strong showing and could buoy his stock even further if he tests as well as expected at his Pro Day. Eskridge has reported 4.3 speed that could push him into Day 2 if he can make good on his speed ceiling. 

Eskridge is a good route runner with great release. He has a variety of moves to out leverage his man in coverage and looks like a natural playmaker. He is a little raw due to being a former cornerback who played running back in high school, but his upside is palpable. A deep threat who can feast short or around the line of scrimmage, Eskridge could make waves as soon as his rookie season. 

Eskridge is a homerun threat but will need to land on the right team to realize his potential. Despite being only 5’9, 188 lbs, he can win downfield thanks to an understanding of how to attack the ball at its high point. He is good at stacking and boxing out corners and will be able to win downfield in the NFL even when he does not have much separation. The key for Eskridge will be landing on a team that runs three wide sets as its base formation. With a strong showing at his Pro Day, Eskridge should start appearing on more top-10 lists. 

Dez Fitzpatrick (WR – Louisville)

Tape watched: Miami, Senior Bowl, Wake Forest

Dez Fitzpatrick is a talented receiver from Louisville. He has been producing since his freshman season but failed to truly live up to his potential. After playing the number two to Jaylen Smith as a freshman and sophomore, he fell behind Tutu Atwell in the pecking order in 2019 but bounced back as a senior to lead the Cardinals in receiving yards. Fitzpatrick recorded 43 receptions for 833 receiving yards and three touchdowns in 2020.

Fitzpatrick had a chance to show off his wares during Senior Bowl week and did not disappoint. He helped to improve his draft stock thanks to crisp route running and good game speed. However, he also highlighted the inconsistency issues that may prevent him from hearing his name called on Day 2. 

Fitzpatrick has good size at 6’2, 215 lbs and is shaping up to be a priority target if he makes it to Day 3. His combination of size, speed, and route running ability will no doubt help endear him to some teams, making him someone teams who look to address other needs early should have their sights on. Fitzpatrick has all of the tools to far outperform his draft status if he lands with a good quarterback on a pass first team. 

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Brennan Eagles (WR – Texas)

Tape watched: Iowa State, LSU (2019), Iowa State (2019)

Brennan Eagles is a talented receiver from Texas who has some wow moments on tape. He is talented enough to be why Devin Duvernay got pushed to the slot in 2019 and should far exceed college production-based expectations. Eagles is another traits and film over production prospect, but that does not mean Eagles did not have productive outings. In fact, one of the best games of his college career game against the LSU cornerback duo of Kristian Fulton and Derek Stingley Jr. 

Eagles is a downfield receiver who tracks the ball extremely well. He can win on all levels but really shines when he can use his size and great body control to win contested catches. He has good hands, and at 6’4 and 229 lbs, he is a massive target for his quarterback. Eagles was plagued by inconsistency while at Texas, but some of that can be attributed to playing with current NFL players like Devin Duvernay, Collin Johnson, and Lil’Jordan Humphrey

Eagles is extremely athletic for his size and projects as a weapon after the catch. He has good speed and quickness, running a verified 4.51 with a 3.99 shuttle coming out of high school. Both times would profile as elite athleticism if he can still time that well at his current size. Eagles is already a solid route runner who is adept at stacking opposing corners. A Day 3 pick with Day 2 talent, Eagles should prove to be a draft day steal and will boast double-digit touchdown upside as soon as he ascends to starting in three wide sets. 

Jhamon Ausbon (WR – Texas A&M)

Tape watched: Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi State, Texas Tech

Jhamon Ausbon is one of the forgotten talents of the 2021 NFL Draft class. He opted out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft, but pre-COVID was hoping to finally have a true breakout season with Quartney Davis and Kendrick Rodgers both in the NFL. He did end up missing out as Kellen Mond finally showed more consistency under center. Ausbon was always viewed as the most talented receiver of A&M’s trio and should hear his name called sometime on Day 3. 

Ausbon is a talented receiver with good size. Listed at 6’2, 218 lbs, Ausbon is a downfield receiver who can win on all levels. He has shown good body control, something that aids him in contested catch situations. His tape is inconsistent due to playing with the shaky version of Mond, but the flashes of NFL starter-level talent are undeniable. 

Ausbon made what, in hindsight, was a massive mistake by withdrawing his commitment to LSU to go to Texas A&M. His junior season would have coincided with Joe Burrow‘s breakout season, likely pushing Ausbon to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft as a potential Day 2 pick. A likely Day 3 pick with Day 2 talent, Ausbon’s best game film came against a talented Georgia Bulldogs defense. His strong showing against them is a sample of his upside when he has consistent play under center. Ausbon will be a draft day steal for whatever team calls his name and could eventually be viewed as the steal of the 2021 wide receiver class.

Dyami Brown (WR – North Carolina)

Tape watched: Miami, Syracuse, Boston College, Clemson (2019), Wake Forest (2019), Virginia (2019)

Dyami Brown is a talented wide receiver from North Carolina who is consistently getting overlooked. For one reason or another, he is even behind teammate Dazz Newsome on more than a few analyst big boards. Brown had back-to-back 1,000 yard receiving seasons with Sam Howell at quarterback and took over as the true number one in 2020. He is a big play receiver who is a threat after the catch and averaged 20.27 and 19.99 yards per reception over the last two seasons. 

Brown has good size at 6’0, 185 lbs, and is capable of playing inside or out. A downfield receiver with good speed, Brown can win on all levels. He has a solid release and is good at stacking opposing corners. He is more inconsistent than one would like, specifically when it comes to drops, but that also means he has more room to grow than most of the receivers in this class. 

Dyami Brown has Day 2 talent, but due to the depth in this class, he may slip to Day 3. He will appeal to both pass first and run first teams thanks to his strong run blocking and, as a result, could end up surprising with his draft position. Brown, much like teammate Dazz Newsome no doubt got some extra exposure due to playing with 2021 NFL Draft hopefuls Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, and a player expected to be a 2022 NFL Draft first round pick in quarterback Sam Howell.

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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his profile and follow him @FantasyContext.

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