College Position Battles: Wide Receivers – Part 1 (2021 Devy Fantasy Football)
The fantasy off-season means preparing our rosters for the 2021 season and getting our draft boards ready for our upcoming drafts. This is an exciting time for dynasty and devy players because we get to dig into our film and analytics research to find those hidden gems in our drafts to set up our teams based on whichever strategy we have chosen.
Maybe you are the “win-now” player and are ready to make a run at that ‘ship. Maybe you are the “contender” and have a solid mix of veteran players and rookies, or maybe you are the “rebuilder” and are having a fire sale with your roster to set yourself up for the future. This series will dive into the positional battles of college programs for the 2021 college football season to help you make those decisions. Hopefully, the information here will help you prepare for your devy drafts so you can get a leg up on the competition. You can check out my first edition of this series on quarterbacks here. Next up… wide receivers!
Alabama Crimson Tide
John Metchie III vs. Agiye Hall vs. Jacorey Brooks
Let us start every college football article with Alabama. They have a roster full of five-star prospects. Their third-string squad could compete for a bowl game. We are going to start this article with the incumbent junior wide receiver John Metchie. In his sophomore season for the Tide, he had 55 receptions for 916 yards and six touchdowns. He was top-10 in the SEC in almost all receiving categories and was second to DeVonta Smith in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns on the team. He had eight receptions for 81 yards and a stellar 10.1 yards per catch in the National Championship game versus Ohio State. At 6’1, 195 lbs., he should be Bama’s WR1 entering this season.
Behind Metchie on the depth chart are two incredibly talented freshman wide receivers. The first one is Jacorey Brooks, the #2 ranked wide receiver in the 2021 class. He is a five-star prospect out of Bradenton, FL, and the IMG Academy. At 6’3″, 190 lbs. he is a big target. He has an incredible physique, and he can stretch the field. Even though he did not set the track on fire with his 40-yard dash, he looks to have all the intangibles needed to earn the hype of a WR1 in Tuscaloosa. I think this could be Bryce Young’s number one target in the future.
Also, there is Agiye Hall, who was the 5th ranked wide receiver in the 2021 recruiting class. A 6’3″ 195 pounds wide receiver from Florida, he also has the solid frame and physical ability to be a great wide receiver in the SEC. He is a very raw athlete, and he needs to improve in some aspects of his route running, but once he gets into that Bama program, I do not see any issues. And if you have not seen it already, do yourself a favor and look at the catch that he made in the Alabama spring game. Unbelievable body control and excellent hands.
Ohio State Buckeyes
I could not even come up with a battle between a few prospects for Ohio State because they have about six wide receivers who all have WR1 potential. So I will go through their names and will highlight a few. Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Julian Fleming, Marvin Harrison Jr., and Emeka Egbuka. If there is such a thing as six wide receiver sets, then Ohio State needs to be running it.
My WR1 for this team is Garrett Wilson. At 6’0″, 175lbs. he was the #2 ranked wide receiver in the 2019 class, as a 5-star prospect out of Austin, TX. As a backup so far in his Ohio State career, he had 30 receptions and 432 yards with five touchdowns in his freshman year, and last season in only eight games, he had 43 receptions for 723 yards and six touchdowns. During the first four games of the 2020 season, he averaged eight receptions and over 128 yards per game on, but then defenses started to game plan against him, and he only averaged three receptions for 50 yards the rest of the season. However, I still think he comes out as the Buckeyes WR1, and he is also my WR1 for the 2022 NFL draft class.
I think the guy I believe will compete for that WR1 slot with Garrett Wilson is wide receiver Chris Olave. He made some news this season as he did not declare for the 2021 NFL Draft and decided to return for his senior season. In his sophomore year, he had 48 receptions for 840 yards and 12 touchdowns, and in a COVID-shortened season last year, he had 50 receptions for 729 yards and seven touchdowns. He has outstanding speed, thinking he had to sit behind some names like Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, and KJ Hill; you can see why it took him a minute to pop. However, he led the Buckeyes in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns in both 2019 and 2020. Now he may not be much of a run after the catch threat, but he has an excellent opportunity to get better, and if he can do some speed training, he could get his 40-yard dash into the 4.4’s.
Julian Fleming and Jackson Smith-Njigba are sophomores who could also take a big step forward. They both had limited playing time last season, but they are both highly recruited five-star players. Julian Fleming was the #1 overall wide receiver recruit in the 2020 class, and Smith-Njigba was the #5 ranked wide receiver. And if that was not enough, the Buckeyes also have the #1 ranked wide receiver in the 2021 recruiting class in Emeka Egbuka. Everybody remembers Marvin Harrison’s name as his son joined the Buckeyes team this year as a four-star prospect out of Philly. This wide receiver core is a spoil of riches, and it all comes down to who CJ Stroud becomes most comfortable with.
Arik Gilbert vs. Jermaine Burton
When we talk about the Georgia Bulldogs wide receiving corps, you must start with George Pickens. Unfortunately, the junior wide receiver tore his ACL this spring and will be out for what could be the entire college football season. At the start of the spring, he was my WR1 for this draft class as he was coming off two great years. His freshman year, he had 49 catches for 727 yards and eight touchdowns, and then in the COVID-shortened season last year, he had 36 catches for 513 yards and six touchdowns. He will be missed, but it is time for others to step up. Enter in former LSU Tiger TE Arik Gilbert. The 6’5″ 250 lb. tight end was a five-star prospect and the #1 tight end in the nation in the 2020 class. He has already said that he will be making the change to wide receiver for the Bulldogs, and I do not think it will be too much of a stretch for him to do so. He has a ton of height, is a mismatch against DB’s, and has excellent high point athleticism. He should become an instant impact player for head coach Kirby Smart. The biggest issue will be his speed. At that size, even though he is athletic, he is not quick. He ran a 4.91 40-yard dash, so I do not see him playing in the slot.
Jermaine Burton is the sophomore wide receiver of the Bulldogs. He had 27 catches for 404 yards last season and is a four-star prospect out of Calabasas, California. Burton will play on the outside opposite of Arik Gilbert. Burton was always JT Daniels’s second look if Pickens was not available last year. He also had a ridiculous game where he had 197 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Alabama. He did hyperextend his knee this spring which kept him out of Georgia’s Spring Game, but all signs point to him being ready for the season. Most of Pickens’s target should go Burton’s way, with Kearis Jackson owning the slot for the Bulldogs.
Thanks for reading my article. Check back soon when I analyze Part 2 of the key positional battles for wide receivers in the 2021 college football season!
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