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Jets Draft Preview | Three WRs Up Top, 'Tremendous' Quality Throughout

SEC Could See Ja'Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith & Jaylen Waddle All Go in Top Half of Round 1

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At touchdownwire.usatoday.com, they like to build 11-player predraft position lists, in an homage to "This Is Spinal Tap." But writer Mark Schofield said at wide receiver this draft season, "I needed to go past 11. This is a tremendous class of prospects and I wanted to include everyone who I personally would feel comfortable drafting in the first two rounds. That leaves us with 14 receivers who I truly enjoyed watching."

We've only included six names below, but with the Jets still seeking to build a formidable foundation around their still unnamed QB of the future, one of these or one of touchdownwire's 14 could be in the Green & White's near future:

Top of the Class
Ja'Marr Chase (6-1, 200), LSU

This Louisianan really had only one big season for the Bayou Bengals, but wow, how big it was. As a true sophomore in 2019, Chase led the FBS and set Southeastern Conference records with his 84 catches for 1,780 yards (21.2 yards/catch) and 20 touchdowns. He starred in LSU's national-title win over Clemnson (9-221-2) and was named a unanimous All-American and All-SEC performer, won the Biletnikoff Award as college football's best receiver. He opted out of last season to prepare for this year's draft, where some analysts think he'll go third overall and Daniel Jeremiah pegged him as the No. 2 player on his own big board behind only Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence.

"He is, to me, the best receiver in the draft ... just because of everything he can do," draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said in the Detroit News. "I love Chase's attacking style of play and see him as a faster version of three-time Pro Bowl selectee Anquan Boldin."

DeVonta Smith (6-1, 175), Alabama
If Chase weren't in this draft, the WR talk would be all about "Smitty." Smith led the nation with 117 catches — longball, screen, didn't matter — and 1,856 receiving yards and his 23 TD catches gave him 46 over all four 'Bama seasons, fifth-best all-time nationally. For that he won the Heisman Trophy and the Biletnikoff, Hornung and Walter Camp awards, not to mention he was first-team All-American and All-Southeastern Conference and the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. Only a dislocated finger kept him out of the second half of the unbeaten Tide's national title win over Ohio State.

NFL.com analyst Lance Zeirlein compared DeVonta not to an NFL player but to the NBA's Steph Curry: "Like Curry, Smith is thinner than you'd like and isn't the strongest player, but he has rare quickness, speed and change-of-direction fluidity, and he creates separation from defenders seemingly at will. He possesses an elite skill level for the position and can hit the defense from short, mid-range or deep."

Jaylen Waddle (5-10, 182), Alabama
Waddle's only the third of this wideout triumvirate in the first half of Round 1, but that's OK because he can jump out of the slot and surprise at any time. After all, he was part of one of college football's greatest WR corps, getting only three starts behind Smith (above), Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs, yet still was named AP All-America second team and SEC Special Teams Player of the Year with his 24.4-yard average on 20 punt returns. He also had three of the longest scoring receptions in UA history, for 94, 90 and 87 yards. Did we mention tough and focused? His ankle injury as a true junior last year looked to be a season-ender but he made it back for and contributed in the national title game.

Best of the Rest
Rashod Bateman (6-1, 210), Minnesota

An interesting prospect as the Georgia product had a monster senior year in HS, which attracted SEC interest, but stuck with his commitment to the Golden Gophers. He was named Big Ten Receiver of the Year as a freshman in 2018 (51 catches, 704 yards, 6 touchdowns), All-Big Ten and team MVP as a soph (60-1,129-11, with 20.3 yards/catch ranking 8th in FBS), and was all-conference third-team as a junior despite playing in only 5 games (36-472-2) due to a COVID opt-out. He has enough speed and multiple releases off press coverage to get open, but did struggle at times vs. top CBs.

Kadarius Toney (5-11, 190), Florida
Toney was a dual-threat QB (32 TD passes, 15 TD runs) his last two seasons at his Alabama HS, then continued as a utility standout in his four Gators seasons. He put behind him a suspension in 2018 and injuries in '17 and '19 to erupt as an all-purpose senior (before opting out of the Cotton Bowl) with 11 starts and a career-best and team-leading receiving numbers (70 catches, 984 yards, 10 touchdowns), plus 161 more yards on 19 carries and even some KO and punt returning. All that activity made him a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile college performer,

Day 3 Diamond
Tutu Atwell (5-9, 165), Louisville

Chatarius "Tutu" Atwell is the smallest player in this draft and one of the most debated. Big-play dimension? No doubt. From four years of high school QB in Miami he went to Cardinals WR. Last year as a junior he had 46 receptions for 625 yards (13.6 yards/catch) and a team-high 7 touchdowns. For his three seasons at Louisville his line read 140-2,307-(16.5)-21. He has speed to stretch the field and to bust out on sweeps and screens. But his size, catching skills in crowds and lack of special teams experience will be problematic for many teams, until someone takes a flyer on him on Day 3.

See the Top Wide Receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft Based on Rankings Provided by The Athletic's Dane Brugler

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