The 2021 receiver class has a tough act to follow, and unfortunately we won't get to see the majority of the finest wideouts the 2021 class has to offer due to opt outs and conference's postponing play due to COVID-19. A real bummer. But we forge ahead with Wide Receiver Watch, because there are still quality pass-catching prospects set to play this season and there's better opportunity than ever for wideouts to ascend boards.
LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, Minnesota's Rashod Bateman, Purdue's Rondale Moore, and Wake Forest's Sage Surratt have opted out and have already declared for the 2021 draft. As it currently stands, Ohio State's Chris Olave, Michigan's Nico Collins, Illinois' Josh Imatorbhebe, Arizona State's Frank Darby, and USC's Amon-Ra St. Brown won't play this year as the Big Ten and the PAC-12 schedules remain postponed until the spring.
For article clarity, I'll keep those wideouts off the list this season. Therefore, the rankings you'll see below consist of receivers who'll be on the field in 2020.
Here's the first edition of the 2021 Draft WR Watch.
1. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: Stock Steady
Waddle is the most explosive receiver in college football. His combination of suddenness, vision, and top gear is that of a first-round pick. We just need to see him in a full-time role. The Crimson Tide begin their season on Sept. 26 on the road against Missouri.
2. Devonta Smith, WR, Alabama: Stock Steady
It almost seems impossible that Smith is as skinny as he is -- listed at 6-foot-1, 175 -- given that in his fourth season in Alabama's program. He's a smooth operator though, at the line, at the top of his routes, and after the catch. There's some moments of high-caliber speed and high-pointing talent too.
3. Tamorrion Terry, Florida State: Stock Down
Terry had six catches for just 52 yards in Florida State's disappointing home loss to Georgia Tech. Beyond such a pedestrian stat line for a downfield burner -- he wasn't helped by quarterback James Blackman at all -- Terry had Yellow Jacket cornerbacks glued to him for most of the afternoon. While not know for his route-running chops, the lack of separation-creation is a red flag to start Terry's 2020 campaign.
4. Dazz Newsome, North Carolina: Stock Down, Slightly
Newsome had two grabs for 25 yards in the Tar Hells' throttling of Syracuse and both came in the opening quarter. The second featured YAC across the field and ended with a huge hit to the wideout's lower half, as he didn't see a defender peeling back on the play. The high-flying Tar Heels actually were complacent pounding the rock. The Orange secondary is loaded with NFL talent -- Andre Cisco, Ifeatu Melifonwu, and Trill Williams -- but I would've liked to see more production from Newsome in this outing.
However, Newsome was absolutely dynamic as a returner and had one return called back by a clip that would've gone for a touchdown. His dynamic cutting, outstanding vision, and acceleration were on full display once he caught those punts.
5. Dyami Brown, North Carolina: Stock Steady
Brown was Sam Howell's favorite target on Saturday, as he led the team with six snags for 94 yards. However, early in the game, Brown had a defensive back in his hip pocket on a shallow route, which led to a tipped pick. In the second half, Brown was found on two in-breaking routes and helped to put the game away on a deep cross in the fourth quarter. On the latter grab, Brown was able to showcase his speed after the catch. Solid outing.
6. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
Wallace is a big-play waiting to happen, by way of bubble screen or the deep ball. He isn't experienced running a variety of routes and isn't overly twitchy but has dangerous accelerations and major speed. Wallace and the Cowboys kick off their season against Tulsa on Sept. 19.
7. Tutu Atwell, Louisville: Stock Steady
Atwell went for 78 yards on seven grabs in Louisville's season-opening win against a pesky Western Kentucky team. And Atwell's performance was as expected for the small but ultra-shifty wideout. Some of his production was schemed at the short level of the field, and he made a few grabs from the slot in which an incredible amount of separation was generated, partly because of Atwell's short-area quickness and partly because of the amount of cushion he was given before the snap. Not many YAC opportunities for Atwell though. Good start.
8. Seth Williams, Auburn
Williams is a chiseled, down-the-field rebounder with strong hands and natural ball-tracking abilities. Auburn begins its season on Sept. 26 at home against Kentucky.