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NFL Draft

5 WRs Flying Under The Radar In 2021 NFL Draft

  • The Draft Network
  • February 1, 2021
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Following the conclusion of the Senior Bowl in Mobile, we are now officially less than a week away from Super Bowl 55 in Tampa Bay. With the conclusion of that game comes the official start of the offseason for the league's 32 franchises—and boy, does it look to be one heck of an offseason.

As the collegiate season has officially ended, the scouting trail has been hot with risers and fallers from “All-Star” events around the country. You’ve heard of the DeVonta Smiths, Ja’Marr Chases, and Jaylen Waddles of the world, but who should you keep an eye on as the draft progresses into its second and third days from the receiver position?

We got you covered.

Below are my top receivers currently sliding under-the-radar who could see themselves with a heavy workload from their first day in the NFL.

Cade Johnson, South Dakota State

The Senior Bowl was a perfect example of a prospect's exponential rise on league-wide draft boards. For Johnson, he dominated in Mobile at the Senior Bowl.

At just 5-foot-10, what Johnson lacks in “ideal” height, he makes up for in his artistic route-running, strong hands, and elite first step. He consistently is able to maneuver around opposing defenders, offering ample throwing lanes for his quarterback. Johnson also possesses outstanding speed and his ball skills continue to flash with his added ability to make the highlight catch.

The Nebraska native redshirted his first season at South Dakota State. In 2017, Johnson saw his first playing time with the Jackrabbits primarily on special teams as their primary kick returner. In that role, Johnson was able to showcase his speed, totaling 839 yards and two touchdowns. From that point on, his play paved his way to his newfound role within head coach Jack Stiegelmeier’s offense. 

His two seasons in Brookings, South Dakota were electric. Johnson totaled 67 catches for 1,332 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2018. The following season, Johnson paved the way for the Jackrabbits offense, recording 1,222 receiving yards and eight scores on 72 catches.

Following the cancellation of the 2020 Missouri Valley Conference season due to COVID-19, Johnson entered his name into the NCAA transfer portal. After receiving interest from multiple FBS programs, he declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. Following time off and an outstanding week among the top seniors in college football, Johnson’s play in Mobile has now placed him in firm discussion as a potential day-two selection. 

Amari Rodgers, Clemson

Don’t let the program fool you. Yes, he’s had Trevor Lawrence rifling passes to him the last three seasons, but the former 4-star recruit can flat out go and get it. Throughout his four seasons at Clemson, Rodgers has progressively worked up to become one of the country’s top slot options. He saved his best season for his curtain-call in Death Valley, hauling in 77 catches for 1,020 yards and seven scores. 

Rodgers, like Johnson, flashed throughout the week in Mobile. His yards-after-catch (YAC) ability is comparable to the class’ elite in Waddle and Rondale Moore (who I’ll get to later). Rodgers touts a strong frame that allows him to work both inside and out and his overall stature reminds many of a running back’s when focusing on his innate ability to power through arm tackles while maintaining outstanding contact balance.

“My guy before the game was Amari Rodgers,” NFL Network’s Terrell Davis said prior to Saturday’s matchup between the American and National squads.

“I think him displaying toughness with him catching the football and being hit to me was very impressive. He is not a big guy and for him to go out there and play physical like that was really impressive on his part.”

Along with his eye-popping work during individual drills and 1-on-1 work during the week, Rodgers recorded four receptions and a touchdown Saturday. Moving forward, Rodgers may have the safest floor of all wideouts in his class, further boosting his stock as April quickly approaches. He will be an impact player from Day 1 in the NFL.

Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois

A physically gifted wideout, the former Illini standout is one of the most athletic pass-catchers in his class. Just look at this.

Despite a down year in 2020—primarily due to the quarterback juggling act for Illinois—Imatorbhebhe’s stock has slipped for some. The former USC transfer was a star his first year in Champaign catching 33 passes for 634 yards and nine touchdowns. Following the effects of the pandemic, his senior season left much to be desired. However, Imatorbhebhe is a flat out stud whose game is best suited within a vertical passing scheme that would allow him to use his physical gifts in space. A project, sure, you could label him that, but if I’m a team in need of juice out wide, I’d be willing to risk a selection on the immense potential that lies within the 6-foot-2 Imatorbhebhe. 

Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa

If you have happened to stumble upon recent box scores of Iowa Hawkeyes games, you won’t be impressed with Smith-Marsette. Within an NFL offense, however, he could result in one of the biggest steals in the entire draft. How you may ask? Projection. The draft and it’s process is as much immediate help, as it is looking how an individual prospect could fare three to four years within an NFL facility. 

At 6-foot-2, Smith-Marsette provides a unique blend of size and speed that allowed a typical offense that lacked creativity to upgrade to one with jet-motion, tunnel screens, and reverses for him. Iowa used Smith-Marsette similar to how the Kansas City Chiefs use Tyreek Hill and the Carolina Panthers use Curtis Samuel—in the backfield, out wide, in the slot, on special teams, he did it all. 

Despite some off-the-field trouble and an unfortunate ankle injury ending his 2020 campaign, the speed-length combo he possesses is elite. A system that uses his skill set to his full potential could reap major benefits from one of my biggest sleepers in this year’s class. 

Rondale Moore, Purdue

OK, maybe he’s not a sleeper. But, he won’t be one of the top four receivers taken, and in my eyes, that’s enough to talk about the Dante Hall-esque Moore. He is flat-out the most electric prospect to enter the NFL in the last couple of seasons in my eyes at the receiver position. D.K. Metcalf is a physical freak, and lit up the combine with his herculean numbers in Indianapolis. Moore is 5-foot-9 and may weigh in under 175 pounds, but he can go the distance every single time he has the rock. 

Think I'm kidding? 

Despite some injury concerns, Moore’s ceiling, well, he may not have one. In a day in age where YAC ability is prominent, Moore fits the bill to a T. If he’s able to stay on the field, he will be a star from day one in the NFL, no matter the team that selects him.

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