The 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with talented wide receivers, which should give teams plenty of options to get fantastic value in the middle and later rounds.
One player who has the skills to make a big jump at the next level, no matter where he’s drafted is former Tennessee wide receiver Josh Palmer.
Palmer is an explosive receiver with the vertical speed and ball skills necessary to make big plays. He spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about falling in love with the game as a Canadian, his experiences in Rwanda during the summer of 2019, how he attacks defensive backs, and what kind of player he’ll be at the next level.
JM: As a fellow Canadian, I’m always curious to hear how another Canadian fell in love with the game. What are your earliest footballing memories?
JP: I always played the game growing up. I played basketball, football, and soccer growing up. I played every sport. I stopped playing soccer right before I went to high school, but I continued to play basketball alongside football of course.
Going into my junior year, I decided that I wanted to pursue my dream of playing professional football someday. I moved across the border to the United States. It was something I felt like I had to do in order to continue pursuing my dreams. It really became a matter of where I was gonna go. My parents and I came across St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I visited the school and fell in love with it. I had an aunt that lived nearby. She was just 30 minutes away from St. Thomas Aquinas. That’s why I made the move. I picked up and moved in with my aunt while my parents continued living in Brampton, Ontario.
JM: That’s awesome. You were part of a group of Tennessee students that traveled to Rwanda in the summer of 2019. That sounds like a life-changing experience. What was that like?
JP: Going to Rwanda was a great experience. My biggest takeaway from that was they don’t realize what they don’t have. They just make the best of what they do have. It was truly inspiring. When you come back here, you realize that we’re all a little spoiled. We complain about things that maybe we shouldn’t complain about. We complain about minor things that really aren’t a big deal. You go to Rwanda and kids don’t even have clean water to drink, yet they’re running around while playing and smiling. They don’t even have drinkable water yet they continue to smile. They make the best of what they have. That’s the biggest thing I took away from that trip.
JM: It sounds like you really learned something from that trip. How do you reflect on your time at Tennessee?
JP: I like to tell people that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t go to Tennessee. I learned so much from so many different coaches. I played for three position coaches and two head coaches. Some people may look at that and call it unfortunate, but I would say that I was fortunate enough to learn from so many different coaches.
Every coach I’ve ever been around taught me something different. I’ve learned so much from every coach I had at Tennessee.
JM: That’s a great way to look at it. When I turn the tape on, I see a receiver that pairs vertical speed with great ball skills. How did you develop those aspects of your game?
JP: I worked on them every single day. I still hit the JUGS machine, but when I was at Tennessee, I used the JUGS machine every single day after practice for two years straight. I worked on high pointing the ball and catching the ball over my shoulder. Two of our equipment managers at Tennessee would come out there with me every single day after practice. They would shoot the ball to me routinely. I’ve had so much help and support along this journey.
Everything you see me do on film, I worked at it. I'll keep that same attitude as I continue to work on my game in the future.
JM: You clearly have an excellent work ethic. Do you have a favorite route to run?
JP: I’d probably have to go with a post route. I feel like I gain a lot of speed once I come out of my breaks. When I’m able to set that break up, plant, and dig for like five yards, I create that separation and have a beautiful ball coming for me over my shoulder. That’s one of the greatest things about playing the position.
JM: I love that answer. You run a great post route. We’ve touched on your vertical speed, but what do you think is one strength of your game that doesn’t get talked about enough?
JP: I would have to go with my ability as a blocker. I’d also point to my ability to stop on a dime and get a defender to keep running (laughs). I just go on and run by him. I take pride in those things.
JM: Which receivers did you admire growing up, and do you model your game after anybody?
JP: I’ve always watched a lot of film on Davante Adams and Julio Jones. I watch a lot of Antonio Brown. I try to watch film on a different receiver every single week. I watch some Keenan Allen as well. I definitely try to model my game after Davante Adams and Julio Jones.
JM: Those are some great receivers to study and learn from. What’s your favorite part of playing the receiver position?
JP: I love making a defender do something they don’t wanna do (laughs). When I create separation, it’s like a force pulling them in a different direction. I love moving the defender where he doesn’t wanna go. I move them out of the way and beat him. The best feeling is when you can get a defender out of position. Watching him move his hips in the wrong direction puts me in a position to make a play.
JM: That’s a terrific answer. We’ve been seeing a lot of numbers on social media lately. Prospects are starting to run through drills. Have you done anything like that, and if so, what numbers are you putting up?
JP: I haven’t gone through anything like a mock combine yet. I’m saving that for my Pro Day. Of course, I’ve been training for it, but we haven’t held anything like a mock combine yet. My Pro Day is on March 25th, and I plan on being a full participant.
JM: We can’t wait to see what you do. A lot of predraft events are happening virtually right now. How is that going for you, and have you met with any teams lately?
JP: The process has been great to me. I met with all 32 teams at the Senior Bowl back in January. That was a great opportunity for everybody involved to get to know one another. We were constantly talking to teams in Mobile, [Alabama]. You’re always being watched at the Senior Bowl (laughs). I was around the Carolina Panthers a lot seeing as they were the team that coached me. I was able to interact with their coaches every single day. It was great. Matt Rhule is a terrific head coach and he has an excellent staff. Meeting with every team at the Senior Bowl was a great experience.
JM: We’re so happy that you had that opportunity. If you could catch a pass from one NFL quarterback, who would you choose and why?
JP: It would be an honor to catch a pass from any professional quarterback. If I had to pick one, I would probably go with Tom Brady. That’s the GOAT right there. His knowledge of the game is just incredible. There’s a reason he’s been so successful. He throws a beautiful ball.
JM: He sure does. I’ve really appreciated your time. In closing, what kind of impact is Josh Palmer gonna make at the next level?
JP: I’m gonna show everybody that I belong in the NFL. I’m gonna be an incredibly reliable receiver at the next level.