Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles Draft watch: Ranking the top 5 wide receivers in the 2021 class

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The Eagles have a lot of needs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, but it’s pretty clear they’re crying out for a standout wide receiver to help whoever the starting QB may be. So, here are my top 5 receivers in this years’ Draft. 

Jaylen Waddle – WR – Alabama 

I genuinely believe Jaylen Waddle is the best wide receiver in this draft and is the most electrifying playmaker I’ve seen in some time. The speed this man can achieve in such a short space is a straight cheat code and corners just can’t handle it.  

For a 5 foot 10, 182 lbs, receiver, he has a huge catch radius. The thing that I love about Waddle is that he’s such a disciplined player. He doesn’t rely on his nothing but his speed and is a nuanced route-runner who can burst out of his breaks with ease and gain separation through a multitude of methods.

The major talking point surrounding Waddle is the ankle fracture injury that cut his 2020 season short after just 4 games. I fully believe if the injury didn’t happen, a lot of people would be talking about Waddle as not only Alabama’s number one wideout, but the draft’s number one wideout.

I also don’t believe the talk about Waddle having durability issues or that the injury will hurt the way he plays. It was his first injury in his college career and it’s not like he tore an Achilles or ACL. 

Ja’Marr Chase – WR – LSU 

It was really tough to pick the order of the first 3 receivers in this draft class and Ja’Marr Chase has a real case for being the top dog. In 2019, Chase completely broke out as one of the best receivers in college football, setting multiple SEC records for receiving yards (1,780) and touchdowns (20). Chase is set to be a standout X receiver in the NFL and the Eagles have to strongly consider him. 

As a 19-year-old, his route running was a standout for me. Chase can sell any route he runs, and he already has an established route tree. Standing at 6 foot 1 and 208 lbs, Chase has the prototypical size and frame for the position, and his catch radius is great. Chase also really stood out as a willing blocker and that’s something new Eagles Head Coach Nick Sirianni loves to have in his receivers. 

The one thing that will always worry me with Chase is 2019 is the only year we saw him play, and you’re talking about one of the best college teams in history. We haven’t seen him in a team without Joe Burrow or Joe Brady etc and so I’d just love to have more tape to watch and see him outside of a historic college team. On the flip side though, you’re talking about a 19-year-old who forced Justin Jefferson to the slot, so I’m not that worried. 

DeVonta Smith – WR – Alabama 

Smith was just unstoppable in 2020 on his way to winning the Heisman trophy. A fluent route runner with solid hands, he possesses freakish body control that enables him to line up anywhere on the line of scrimmage and hold his own. He’d be fun to watch in a refreshed Eagles offense.

It’s really hard not to like Smith, especially after the outstanding season he just produced, but the main concern is his weight. At 6 foot 1 and 175 lbs, and it’s not like there’s a ton of bulk to add here. There will be questions about whether NFL corners will physically dominate him and his weight could lead to durability issues at the next level but you’re talking about the best receiver in the nation in 2020 and a Heisman winning one at that. 

Terrace Marshall Jr – WR – LSU 

The LSU and Alabama dominance continues at the wide receiver position as Terrace Marshall Jr enters the fray. Marshall had to wait for his opportunity at LSU to really show out with the likes of Chase and Jefferson there, but in 2020, he finally got his chance. Over 7 games, Marshall averaged over 100 receiving yards per game in an LSU team that was way below average.  

Marshall is a very versatile receiver who showed he can play either as an outside receiver or work his magic from the slot. At 6 foot 3 and 200 lbs, Marshall is a very physical wideout that corners struggle to re-route, and we know the Eagles have sought to add a big-slot receiver for a while.

His route running ability is similar to that of Chase and he’s clearly someone that focuses on the fundamentals of his game.

Whilst Marshall showed great skill and ability in 2020, he did have some drop issues that may be a little bit of a concern for NFL teams. He also needs to work on his blocking. He has the frame and physicality to be a really good blocker but he needs to work on his technique. 

Kadarius Toney – WR – Florida 

In a perfect world, I’d currently be writing about my one true love and Ohio State receiver Chris Olave, but he decided to return to college for another year. There were other names in contention for this spot, like Rashod Bateman and Rondale Moore but overall, I just love Toney and what he could offer the Eagles.

While the main talking points out of Florida were quarterback Kyle Trask and tight end Kyle Pitts, Toney put on a show in 2020 and established himself as one of the best receivers in the draft.

Toney can be used in so many ways. You can use him in the slot, on the outside, and even in the backfield as a runner. Toney has electric speed and is just a magician when he has the ball in the open field. Corners will struggle to handle Toney’s explosiveness and every defender will hate seeing him running at them with the ball, he just has this habit of making multiple defenders miss him. 

He’s shown that he can catch the ball well and run his routes to a decent standard, although not as crisply as the. He is just one of those receivers that you naturally like and never stop watching, even if he isn’t the focal point of the play.  

He’s also not the biggest receiver at 5 foot 11 and 189 pounds, so he may struggle if corners try to get physical with him. Overall, Toney is an exciting and electric playmaker, who can be used in multiple ways, I just hope he doesn’t end up with the Chiefs at the end of the first round. 

Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire

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