Throughout this year’s NFL draft process, we prospect analysts fell in love. With CeeDee Lamb. With Jerry Jeudy. With Henry Ruggs. With Justin Jefferson, Denzel Mims, Tee Higgins, KJ Hamler, Michael Pittman Jr., Jalen Reagor … the list goes on and on and on. This year’s wide receiver class has the potential to be one of the greatest in history, and in this modern era of passing-dominated offenses, it could not have come at a better time.
But as talented as the 2020 class is, the 2021 class could be even stronger.
At the top end of the group are Ja’Marr Chase (LSU), Justyn Ross (Clemson) and DeVonta Smith (Alabama). Chase was undeniably the best receiving threat on the Tigers’ National Championship team last season, despite playing next to first-round draft pick Justin Jefferson. His gravity, or ability to draw substantial attention from opposing defenses, is what allowed players like Jefferson, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and tight ends Stephen Sullivan and Thaddeus Moss to take advantage of one-on-one matchups.
In a similar vein, 6-foot-4 Justyn Ross was arguably Clemson’s best receiving threat last year, despite playing next to now-Cincinnati Bengal, Tee Higgins. His large frame combined with his freakish athleticism make him the Tigers’ undisputed No. 1 receiver, and a handful for any defense. Next season, with Trevor Lawrence delivering throws with pinpoint accuracy, Ross can put on a show worthy of contention for the first receiver off of the board come April.
DeVonta Smith could have easily been a first-round pick in this year’s draft. However, after a disappointing finish to the Crimson Tide’s season, he and many other potential early-round picks decided to return to Alabama for one last ride. Now, with Jeudy and Ruggs in the NFL, Smith will have an opportunity to be the guy for the Crimson Tide offense. His incredible route-running ability and hands will be on full display for NFL scouts to appreciate.
But three transcendent wideouts alone, talented as they may be, aren’t enough to differentiate a class as potentially one of the greatest ever. What makes this upcoming class so special is the absurd amount of depth. Granted, we don’t know who will declare for the 2021 draft yet, but should the majority of eligible prospects declare, we will be looking at an absurdly loaded class.
We saw teams such as the Raiders and Eagles become infatuated with speed after witnessing the success of the high-powered Chiefs offense. This bodes well for Rondale Moore (Purdue), Jaylen Waddle (Alabama), and Anthony Schwartz (Auburn): all players that can flat out move. Route running extraordinaires like Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC), Rashod Bateman (Minnesota) and Chris Olave (Ohio State) are always in high demand. And athletic marvels such as Tamorrion Terry (Florida St.), Seth Williams (Auburn) and Sage Surratt (Wake Forest) will have NFL talent evaluators salivating at the mouth.
Of course, there’s also Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma St.), Terrace Marshall Jr. (LSU), Tyler Vaughns (USC), Nico Collins (Michigan) and Damonte Coxie (Memphis) who will undoubtedly have a strong impact as well. Not to mention the small-school prospects that will have turned some heads by the season’s end. The talent is abundant.
The 2020 wide receiver class is undeniably amazing, possibly historically great. But the 2021 class? These boys could be even better.