Breaking Down Mid-Round WRs from the 2021 NFL Draft

Nov 28, 2020; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; Louisville Cardinals wide receiver Tutu Atwell (1) runs against the Boston College Eagles during the second half at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Alright, it’s the third round Mr. GM; your offense sucked last year. You have plugged a few holes, maybe a tackle to shore up the trenches. That shiny half back with the good pad level that wore a single-digit number in college (all the studs wear single-digit numbers. It’s true, go look). Now we need to get the receiver to help out our fledgling star of a QB. We need to add to the room that keeps winning super bowls, check Tampa Bay and Kansas City for example.

In today’s game, it isn’t speed or skill that is winning games, though those don’t hurt! It is SPACE, and how better to make the opposing team’s defensive coordinator miss sleep the night before a game than four good pass catchers and a mismatch at tight end? Good question. There isn’t. It’s the way the game is moving, as schemes move up the rank in football from high school to the pros, it is the spread offense and space it provides that is changing the game. You know this though, you’re a general manager, right? So who is it going to be? What pass catcher are you taking here in the mid-round to move this offense to the next level? Let’s take a look at who is on the board.

Tutu Atwell

Louisville. 5’9 165 pounds. What he lacks in size he makes up for with speed. In 2019, Tutu averaged 18.1 yards per catch. He ran a 4.3 at his pro day, his conventional athleticism is at the top of this class. He had a grade of 87.1 vs man coverage, the knock on him is his lack of ability to sell routes. The knock is a fair one, 40 of his 190 catches at Louisville were at or behind the LOS. Now think of this with an optimist’s view imagine him in the slot; off play-action matched up against some poor sam linebacker…. In the words of Tyreek Hill “Deuces,” ‘let the road runner do his thing.’

Cade Johnson

SDSU. 5’10 180 pounds. Cade comes from an FCS school; the questions come easy, ‘how does he play against stronger competition?‘ He answered that at the Senior Bowl, leaving with the highest individual grade in one on ones. He is drawing comps to Tyler Lockett, and in the right situation could really excel. On tape, he gets to top speed and back to zero as quick as almost anyone in this class. His quick twitch abilities will be on display from day one. His biggest knock is catch radius, he isn’t the physical specimen that some are in this class. He is going to rely on change of pace and separation to win at the line of scrimmage in the slot. 

Simi Fehoko

Stanford 6’4 and 227 pounds. Simi is a freak, an absolute specimen. His size and speed combo (he ran a 4.39 40 yard dash) is at the top level in this class. He is also one of the most unfinished projects, he doesn’t have much of a route tree at the moment. There were some ugly drops in 2020 (6 on 43 catchable targets). He is going to be drafted thanks to an NFL-ready body and motor. Simi is the guy that someone will talk himself into because he really wants to hit on the next DK Metcalf. The problem is this DK may turn out to be Ditty Kong.

Josh Palmer

Tennessee 6’2 and 210 pounds. Josh reminds me of Jordy Nelson. When you watch the tape it is evident he is going to play in this league. He is great off the line, owning his route and dictating how the DB plays him. He will show well in an offense with more modern spacing, double moves were not a part of his tree in college. LOVE the explosiveness through his cuts, they are quick and he drives into the second phase of the route with a purpose. He will need to add a few additional moves coming off the line, he leans on his skip release heavily at this point. His tape shows much better than his PFF Grades. 

Alright Mr. GM, you’ve got some options here. Is it the burner? The project? Maybe the lower ceiling sure thing? That’s a decision you have to make. No big deal though right? Only your job depends on it.