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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: WR Josh Palmer

  • The Draft Network
  • January 9, 2021
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Josh Palmer enjoyed a flashy career at Tennessee where he made some spectacular plays but never could become an overly productive piece of the Volunteers offense. After being the third option in the passing game for most of his career behind Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings, Palmer was expected to have a breakout campaign in 2020. However, erratic quarterback play and a bumbling Tennessee offense prevented that. As it would turn out, 2020 was very similar to 2018 and 2019 for Palmer. Palmer brings good size, athleticism, hands, and ball skills to the table. With that said, he has notable room for growth when it comes to developing his route-running technique, expanding his route tree, and implementing more variance with his release packages. Palmer is a gifted receiver but he suffered from poor coaching and quarterback play at Tennessee. There is a learning curve ahead from Palmer, but he very well could end up being a more impactful NFL receiver than he was in college. 

Ideal Role: Developmental outside wide receiver.

Scheme Fit: Any.


Written by: Joe Marino 

Games watched: South Carolina (2020), Georgia (2020), Florida (2020), Auburn (2020), West Virginia (2018), Indiana (2019)  

Best Game Studied: South Carolina (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Auburn (2020) 

Route Running: Palmer was tasked with a simple route tree at Tennessee with most of his work coming between the right hash and sideline, featuring primarily outs, comebacks, flat routes, digs, curls, slants, and the occasional go ball. Palmer is ordinary when it comes to running deceptive routes and manipulating coverage. He would benefit from executing his routes with better leverage and not being so tall in his stems. 

Hands: Palmer has firm and plucky hands and he routinely extends to catch the football firmly away from his frame. The erratic quarterback play at Tennessee gave him plenty of chances to showcase his ability to adjust in all directions for the football and it often looked natural for Palmer. He had just nine drops for his career on 190 targets.  

Separation: Palmer has the speed to get open down the field but his modest route-running skill set presents some challenges getting open underneath. Between that and the lack of timing the Tennessee quarterbacks played with, so many of Palmer’s targets were tightly contested. Palmer has the traits to become a sufficient separator, but developing his route-running technique will be critical. 

Release Package: Palmer illustrates good physicality at the line of scrimmage when tasked with clearing contact. His hands are active and he has good body control. Palmer is fluid and springy out of his stance, but there is certainly room to develop more variance in how he gets off the line. 

Run After Catch: Averaging just 2.6 yards after the catch per reception for his career, post-catch production was nearly nonexistent for Palmer in college. So much of that has to do with the routes Tennessee asked him to run and inaccurate quarterbacks, however. Palmer was flashy at times with how he would take on defenders, but he is quite unproven overall when it comes to yards after the catch. 

Ball Skills: Palmer is outstanding at tracking and adjusting to the football with exceptional body control at the catch point. He was terrific at working the sidelines at Tennessee and coming down with receptions. Palmer is above average when it comes to winning in contested situations. 

Football IQ: Watching Palmer play, it seems like he is more gifted than he is nuanced when it comes to technique. The coaching hasn’t been great at Tennessee and with players like Palmer, it shows. He seems to have good spatial awareness, but the Vols offense limited him.  

Versatility: Palmer is flashy at all levels of the field but it’s difficult to confidently say he’s a legitimate threat at any of them. He has almost no experience on special teams, which will be an important part of his initial role at the next level. He does have experience working from the slot and out wide.  

Competitive Toughness: Palmer is a competitor. He battles as a blocker and brings the fight. He can be trusted to hit key blocks on the perimeter and is willing to be physical as a ball-carrier, at the catch point, and as a route-runner. While unproven on special teams, he has the type of play demeanor that suggests he will fare well. 

Big-Play Ability: Tennessee liked to take deep shots down the field with Palmer, but they weren’t consistent with the results, primarily because of the erratic quarterback play. At the next level, he does have some appeal as a vertical target and he can make some acrobatic plays along the sideline. Palmer is unproven after the catch and has no experience with returning kicks or punts. 

Prospect Comparison: Charone Peake (2016 NFL Draft, New York Jets) 


TDN Consensus: To Be Determined

Joe Marino: 67/100

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