After two sleepy, melatonin-laced weeks for WR Watch, the potential 2021 draft class of wideouts provided a desperately needed injection of espresso over the weekend. The return of the SEC helped, a little (see: a lot), as Alabama's latest duo of dynamic weapons, Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith, were back on the field and did not disappoint.
But given the uncharted territory we're currently in with college football, there's ample opportunity for receiver prospects to rise from obscurity, and a few began their campaigns to do just that with gigantic performances over the weekend. On the structure front for WR Watch, I decided it was essentially pointless to provide specific rankings of the wideouts prospects each week because everything is so fluid during the season from a scouting perspective. Instead, I'll simply include "stock up," "stock steady," or "stock down" after receiver's name based on how well he played in the most recent contest.
And in this week's edition of WR Watch is littered with "stock ups."
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama: Stock Up
Waddle looked the part of one of the most electric receivers in college football -- he would own that label himself had Purdue's Rondale Moore decided not to opt back in -- in Alabama's opener against Missouri. Eight catches, 134 yards, and two scores. In the first quarter, Waddle elevated to snatch a post route between two defensive backs and took contact on his way to the turf. A few plays later he was found on a deep over for a score, a route that really demonstrated the juice in his acceleration. He also looked incredibly sudden on a creative misdirection swing pass in which he faked jet motion, stopped, then accelerated back the way he came and zoomed toward the front pylon. His second touchdown was a go route near the left sideline, and he tracked it perfectly over his shoulder. Waddle is speed, speed, and more speed. There were flashes of how immensely dangerous he is with the ball in his hands throughout the game. It couldn't have been a better start for the man stepping into the spotlight after the Jerry Jeudy-Henry Ruggs era in Tuscaloosa.
Devonta Smith, Alabama: Stock Steady
I started the season a little lower on Smith than most, and my thoughts centered around his tiny frame. He had eight snags for 89 yards in the rout of Missouri -- for him, an average outing. Smith's largest contribution came in the fourth quarter on a deep corner in which he created separation with a subtle inside move at the top of his route stem. Nothing special, nothing bad from Smith in the Crimson Tide's season-opener.
Elijah Moore, Ole Miss: Stock Up
The dynamic slot receiver who entered the season flying stealthily under the radar entering his junior season had a monstrous start to his third year with the Rebels, scorching the Florida secondary to the tune of 10 catches and 227 yards. After working over the middle to start the game and getting found deep down the seam with no one around him for a huge gain, Moore demonstrated his hops on another long ball with a defender tight. I loved how he continued to battle across the middle, taking punishment after the catch that didn't faze him. Moore was able to get a step on defenders on those shorter routes. He's a twitched-up, explosive wideout. I'll certainly be keeping tabs on him this season.
Tutu Atwell, Louisville: Stock Down
Atwell was held in check in Louisville's loss to Pittsburgh. He had four catches for 37 yards and a touchdown. What I'll be monitoring with him all season is how many of his targets are manufactured strictly by the scheme. Atwell has the elite athletic gifts to garner some schemed touches in the NFL, but if he's not much more than a (tiny) gadget player, it'll be very difficult for him to go early in the draft and, more importantly, thrive in the long-term on Sundays.
Osiris Mitchell, Mississippi State: Stock Up
Another relative unknown on the draft circuit before the season began, Mitchell's eruption against LSU was a microcosm of the rousing start to the Mike Leach era for the Bulldogs. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior recorded seven catches for 183 yards and two scores, an integral part in the 632 yards Mississippi State laid on the defending national champs. Ed Orgeron won't sleep the rest of the week. He's not a separator by any stretch and kind of lumbers down the field, but Leach's offense features everybody on screens, and Mitchell got upfield in a hurry early in the game before putting his rebounding skills on full display with snags downfield later in the contest. Mitchell doesn't look to have the athletic traits of an early-round pick, but he at least opened some eyes with his throttling of LSU's defensive backfield, and he plays to his size.
Terrace Marshall, LSU: Stock Up
LSU-Mississippi State was wild, and Marshall himself had quite an afternoon in his first game without Ja'Marr Chase or Justin Jefferson out there with him. The tall speedster had eight receptions for 122 yards with two touchdowns, the first of which showed a nice adjustment to throttle down on the slightly underthrown ball but still reeled it into despite getting hit right as he caught the football. In the fourth, he made a nasty one-hand grab for a score -- with his left hand while his right was being hooked by the cornerback. The 6-3, 200-pound wideout has an exquisite deep-threat frame and proved how explosive he is on Saturday.
Austin Watkins, UAB: Stock Up
After two pedestrian outings to start the season, Watkins was spectacular in UAB's win over South Alabama on Thursday. The full repertoire was there -- downfield speed, suddenness in his (intricate routes), and one hell of a back-corner touchdown grab in which he kept the ball above the cornerbacks head as they both fell out of bounds. Watkins went for 183 yards on seven catches with the score. Now is the time to cast a wide, draft-radar net, and Watkins is absolutely included in a large group of receiver prospects who intrigue me.
Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State: Stock Steady
Wallace finds himself in an unenviable spot -- Oklahoma State's quarterback situation, which is typically a strength of the program, is not very conducive to major passing production. The speedy outside receiver had just six grabs for 78 yards against West Virginia but displayed his acceleration on a hole shot against Cover 2 early in the game and hauled in an huge catch in a one-score game on third and long with Oklahoma State up one score near the sideline despite getting smacked once he caught the football.
Seth Williams, Auburn: Stock Up
Auburn's tall target was outstanding against Kentucky on Saturday, catching a few long balls on corner routes near the sideline before a crazy leaping touchdown late in the third quarter. The 6-5 Williams looked like his head was even with the crossbar on that reception. In a two-point game in the fourth, Bo Nix lofted a slightly underthrown fade to Williams from in close and the senior had no problem plucking the ball at its highest point with a cornerback underneath his frame, and even brought the ball away from the defender as they drifted near the sideline. To me, Williams is the premier "rebounding" wideout in college football. He had six catches for 112 yards and those two scores in the opener.