Unlike this years running back class, the 2021 WR class is doing its best to help us fantasy football players out. This years class seems like it could rival last years class of Justin Jefferson, Ceedee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, Brandon Aiyuk, Jalen Reagor, and Tee Higgins. The top five receivers that we are looking at today, we’re all drafted in the first round! So let’s dive in!
1. Ja’marr Chase – With the fifth pick of the NFL draft the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Ja’marr Chase to reunite him with quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow and Chase played on one of the best college football teams of all time in 2019 and set the world on fire. That season Chase put up one of the greatest receiving seasons of all time. He had 84 receptions, 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns! He then decided to opt out of his junior season and prepare for the NFL draft, which it appears was the right move. Chase was my WR1 in this class, as he was for most people. It’s hard to say where Chase will end up in redraft leagues, as far as ADP goes. But in dynasty leagues, I’ve seen him ranked in peoples top ten WRs, and I’ve seen him in the 20-24 range. Either way I think it’s safe to say Chase, should finish around the WR2 range, with potential to be a WR1 this season. I haven’t done any rankings so far this year but in my opinion, I expect him to finish in the 18-24 range for receivers. He has all the potential in the world to have a rookie season like his former college teammate Justin Jefferson did last year, although I wouldn’t put money on it. I will admit when I watched his film he didn’t blow me away but he did everything extremely well. He just knew how to win most battles against the defender with or without the ball in his hands. I’m very excited about the Joe Burrow and Ja’marr Chase connection this season and in the future.
2. Jaylen Waddle– With the 6th pick of the NFL draft the Dolphins selected Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle. Unfortunately, Waddle missed a majority of the 2020 season due to an injury but returned in time for the national championship game. Waddle might be the most electric WR in this draft class. He has blazing speed and has big play ability every time he touches the ball. I have heard the comparison of Tyreek Hill, which I don’t agree with, but he could potentially be the closest thing to a player like Hill. Waddle will likely be third fiddle on the WR depth chart to start the season after newly signed WR Will Fuller and veteran DeVante Parker. However, Waddle will get the opportunity to prove he has what it takes in week one while Will Fuller finishes his suspension that carries over from last season. As much as I love the talent, I don’t expect Waddle to be much more than a WR3 this season. He will be fighting for targets with the other receivers and he has to rely on Tua taking a big step forward this year. I’m not the biggest Tua believer but he does already have a connection with Waddle from when they played at Alabama together. I do love Waddle for dynasty leagues because speed will always finds a way to be successful in the NFL. He is an absolute matchup nightmare for defenses with his speed, and ability to make plays after the catch. He is the perfect target in the back end of the 1st round in your rookie drafts.
3. DeVonta Smith– In 2020, DeVonta Smith had one of the best receiving seasons in the history of college football. He was the first receiver to win the Heisman trophy since Desmond Howard in 1991! Smith got a lot of flack throughout the draft process for his size. He came into the NFL standing six feet tall but only around 175 pounds. I absolutely love the skill set of DeVonta Smith, he does everything extremely well and always seems to find a way to be wide open. The most exciting thing about Smith’s outlook this year is he won’t have much competition at the WR position in Philadelphia. He will have 2020 1st round pick Jalen Reagor to battle for the WR1 for the Eagles. Other than Reagor he will only have to beat out guys like Greg Ward, and Travis Fulgham for the opportunity. If I had to put money on the most successful rookie WR for the 2021 season, I would place my bet on DeVonta Smith. I love the opportunity he has to be Jalen Hurt’s number one option. For dynasty, I’m happy to take any and all shares I can get my hands on. In rookie drafts, Smith is going in the same area as Jaylen Waddle towards the back end of the first round. Smith will have a wide range of outcomes this season. He has the skill set and potential to finish as a WR1, (top 12). A lot of what Smith will do this season will rely on the progression of Jalen Hurts. We saw a lot of flashes from Hurts at the end of last season but it was a very small sample size. I personally think Hurts is plenty capable of getting his weapons the ball so I’m not too worried about Smith. My gut tells me he will be a very special NFL player. And my number one rule in fantasy football is to trust your gut!
4. Kadarius Toney– Admittedly, I have been very critical of Kadarius Toney over the last few months. Yes, he had an outstanding senior season at Florida, I’m not discounting that. But what scares me with Toney is that he only had production in his senior year. Now to be fair, he was listed as a utility player his first three years of college. His senior year, he moved to receiver and he had a great season. Some things I really like about Kadarius Toney are his ability to make plays after the catch, his speed and quickness. Toney can stop on a dime, change direction, and accelerate past a defender extremely well. He was a human highlight reel this last season but it makes me nervous that he didn’t breakout until his senior season. On top of that, there is a lot of unknown on the Giants offense. They have a QB who looked solid his rookie season but was not very good last season in Daniel Jones. Toney will also be fighting for targets with recently signed free agent Kenny Golladay, and also players who have been on this team for a while including Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. In redraft leagues I’m probably going to pass on Toney this year and see what happens. For dynasty, I loved that Toney fell in rookie drafts, going somewhere in the mid second round. I’m not the biggest fan but at that value I’m willing to take a shot.
5. Rashod Bateman- It was bitter sweet on draft night to hear Rashod Bateman get drafted. You love to see him get first round draft capital, but nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted Bateman to go to Baltimore except for maybe Ravens fans. With as much as Lamar Jackson runs the ball, or how much the team runs in general, it just feels like we might not reach the ceiling on Rashod Bateman. With all that said, I’m refusing to fade him because of his landing spot. We have seen this situation before a few years ago with AJ Brown when he was drafted to the Titans. He was toward the top of every analyst’s WR rankings and when he went to Tennessee people faded him and AJ Brown made them pay. I could see a very similar situation happen in Baltimore with Bateman. In my opinion, Bateman is the WR1 on this team. I like Hollywood Brown but I never viewed him as the WR1. Bateman does everything very well and was one of my highest ranked receivers out of this draft class. Like I stated before I’m not fading Bateman by any means and neither should you. In rookie drafts he was going mostly at the back end of the first round and I love that value. His situation may not be the best but talent outweighs situation almost every single time. For your redraft leagues, I’m willing to take a flyer on him and see what he does in the first week or two of the season and then gauge his value from there. With Jackson at QB his ceiling will be capped but I also think his floor is very safe with the lack of pass capable pass catchers in Baltimore.