The 2021 NFL Draft has a strong group of wide receivers poised to break out at the next level, but three stand out as viable players to be selected as the first. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, and his counterpart Jaylen Waddle all have a good case for hearing their name called before the other two.
Last season many believed CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy might get that call, but it ended up going to Henry Ruggs, who the Las Vegas Raiders grabbed as the No. 12 pick. This season, the odds heavily favor Chase, but could we see another upset? Below you can see how the odds currently stand at DraftKings Sportsbook for the No. 1 wide receiver taken.
Ja’Marr Chase -1000
Jaylen Waddle +700
DeVonta Smith +900
DeVonta Smith +900
Chase is the no-doubt favorite, and it would be an upset if he wasn’t the first pick, but if he makes it past the Cincinnati Bengals, who could easily take an offensive lineman at pick No. 5, the chances for an upset increase slightly. Many believe that sophomore quarterback Joe Burrow wants his No. 1 receiver from LSU to get the nod. It makes sense, as Chase and Burrow hooked up for 84 receptions, 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019. But, if the Bengals go in another direction, the next team to likely go after a wide receiver are the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins could easily take Chase, but their sophomore quarterback also has a good history with a wide receiver in this draft. Tua Tagovailoa played with DeVonta Smith at Oklahoma and has expressed interest in playing with his old teammate. The two arrived at Oklahoma in the same class and spent three seasons together.
The biggest concern for Smith right now is his weight. After weighing in at 166 pounds, many draftniks worry about his ability to take on the physicality of the NFL. But, at 6’1”, his frame will allow more weight, while he is the best route runner in the draft and should be successful despite his current size.
Waddle makes for a good hedge bet as well. His speed and explosiveness are missing on the Dolphins and maybe the chance of getting Tyreek Hill 2.0 is in their plans. It’s always difficult to know what teams are looking for in a wide receiver. It will be tough to pass on Chase, but I was amazed the Raiders went with Ruggs over Lamb and Jeudy.
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