We have yet another great group of pass catchers in this year’s draft class just like the last few years. Alabama once again has two first round talents. Ranking them comes down to personal preference and what kind of role the player can have in an NFL offense.
To be a top tier pass catcher in the NFL a player needs to be able to run good routes, have great hands, and be able to make an impact at all three levels of the field. In addition to film, both traditional and advanced stats will be used in the evaluation. Wide receivers and tight ends will be grouped together. Advanced stat ranks for wide receivers are among only wide receivers. Tight ends are ranked among wide receivers to show how they compare.
1. Kyle Pitts, Florida 6’6” 245lbs. TE
Traditional stats: (8 games) 43 receptions on 65 targets; 770 receiving yards; 12 receiving TDs; yards per reception: 17.9
Advanced stats: (8 games) PFF grades: Overall: 96.2 (1st); Receiving: 96.1 (1st); Yards Per Route Run: 3.26 (T-20th)
Pitts is an absolute monster and headache for defenses. His combination of size, length, athleticism, talent, and speed (4.44 unofficial 40 at pro day) make him a rare prospect. Linebackers are too slow while corners and safeties are too small and not strong enough to handle him.
He had 148 (35%) of his snaps come as a receiver (79 slot, 69 wide) showing his versatility for any offense. He was a solid pass blocker as well, registering a 77.1 (2nd) Pro Football Focus (PFF) pass blocking grade among tight ends. Any offense will be better by having him and he should be a long time superstar. Players like him don’t come often. Being able to move the way he does at his size in addition to great hands and good route running makes him a matchup nightmare. He’s a great wide receiver in a tight end’s body.
His PFF overall grade was 96.2 (1st) and Pitts’ receiving grade of 96.1 (1st) led wide receivers and tight ends. Pitts should be the no brainer best pass catcher in this class. Registering elite grades like those helps to show just how good he is. In a strong class of pass catchers he looks the best on film and the numbers back it up.
2. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU 6’0” 208lbs. WR
Traditional stats: (2019 stats; 14 games) 84 receptions on 121 targets; 1,780 yards; 20 TDs; yards per reception – 21.2
Advanced stats: (2019 stats; 14 games) PFF grades – Overall: 91.1 (4th); Receiving: 91.3 (4th); Yards Per Route Run: 3.52 (T-7th)
Chase opted out of the 2020 season because of COVID-19 concerns. His 2019 sophomore season however was absolutely incredible. He, just like the 2019 LSU Tigers offense as a whole, made plays every single game and that’s what he does best. It’s scary to think he put up 1,780 yards and 20 TDs while sharing targets with Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall. His high rank in yards per route run shows that not only did he rack up a high receiving yard total, but he was also efficient on the field. Chase will be a team’s number one option for a long time because of his speed, great hands, ability to track the ball, and play strength.
3. Elijah Moore, Ole Miss 5’9” 178lbs. WR
Traditional stats: (8 games) 86 receptions on 101 targets; 1,193 yards receiving; 8 TDs; 14 carries for 64 yards
Advanced stats: (8 games) PFF grades – Overall: 91.2 (3rd); Receiving: 92.4 (3rd); Yards Per Route Run: 3.85 (10th)
Moore is another dynamic playmaker with crazy speed (4.35 40 yard dash) that can be a game changer at the next level. As seen above, he graded in the elite territory in PFF’s overall receiving grade and yards per route run. He had an average depth of target of 10.9 yards and he is an incredible deep threat. In the right offense he can be your Tyreek Hill, with the added bonus that Moore only abuses coverages.
Moore can also make contested catches as he had a contested catch rate of 73.3%, making the already impressive numbers look even better. Especially for a small receiver, it’s important that he can come down with tough catches. He already has a year of experience being the go to guy by being an all around playmaker that can do exactly what his teams needs. He will be a great weapon for an NFL offense by year 2 or 3.
4. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama 5’10” 182lbs. WR
Traditional stats: (6 games) 28 receptions on 32 targets; 591 yards and 4 TDs
Advanced stats: (6 games) PFF grades – Overall: 82.6 (T-22nd); Receiving: 84.7 (19th); Yards Per Route Run: 4.38 (4th)
Waddle has been making plays since his true freshman year when he had 45 receptions for 848 yards and 7 TDs. He followed that up with a sophomore season of 33 receptions for 560 yards and 6 TDs. Both of those seasons he was a role player behind other NFL caliber wide receivers. This season was his chance to be a top two weapon for the Crimson Tide, but an ankle injury limited him to just six games.
He has a chance to offer an NFL team a Tyreek Hill like impact, even more so than Moore, but Waddle has never offered a year of crossing 50 receptions or 1,000 yards at any point in his career. He should offer a great deep threat at the least if he can’t become a number one guy due to his game breaking speed and ability to track the deep ball. Waddle had a 100% contested catch rate. That’s absurd and shows he is worth trying to develop into a lethal deep threat with a quarterback that can do a better job of hitting him in stride.
5. Kadarius Toney, Florida 6’0” 193 lbs. WR
Traditional stats: (11 games) 70 receptions on 84 targets; 984 receiving yards; 10 TDs; 14.1 yards per reception; 19 carries for 161 yards and 1 rush TD
Advanced stats: (11 games) PFF grades – Overall: 84.0 (16th); Receiving: 84.8 (T-17th); Yards Per Route Run: 2.62 (T-43rd)
Kadarius Toney doesn’t have eye popping numbers or spectacular grades, but they’re still able to show he was at least good if just looking at the above numbers. The Gators should’ve used him differently given he has great speed (4.39 at pro day), but they didn’t utilize his strengths appropriately, as his average depth of target was only 7.7 yards. With his speed he should get more deep shots in the NFL. He needs more work than Moore now but has the potential to be similar. With his versatility and athleticism he could be an absolutely electric playmaker for whichever team drafts him.
6. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota 6’0” 190lbs. WR
Traditional stats: (5 games) 36 receptions on 55 targets; 472 yards; 2 TDs; 13.1 yards per reception
Advanced stats: (5 games) PFF grades – Overall: 81.1 (26th); Receiving: 81.9 (26th); Yards Per Route Run: 3.45 (15th)
Minnesota isn’t known for their wide receivers, but this is a player to get familiar with. Bateman’s advanced stats are ugly, but he played for a Minnesota team that had a bad year (3-4) and was going through the process of bringing in a new offensive coordinator during the unique offseason of 2020. Finishing fifteenth in yards per route run shows that he made the most of the routes he did run this year.
His 2019 was a better indication of what he is when he had 60 receptions on 95 targets for 1,219 yards and 11 TDs. He has the hands, smooth route running, and experience in contested catch situations to become a QB’s favorite target. He posted a contested catch rate of 63.2% in 2019 and 40% in 2020. If he gets a good QB and a competent offense overall to play in he can easily become a reliable and productive number one wide receiver.
7. Terrace Marshall, LSU 6’3” 205lbs. WR
Traditional stats: (7 games) 48 receptions on 67 targets; 731 yards; 10 TDs; 15.2 yards per reception
Advanced stats: (7 games) PFF grades – Overall 78.9 (34th); Receiving: 81.1 (T-27th); Yards Per Route Run: 2.91 (T-29th)
Marshall didn’t have consistent quarterback play as three different QBs threw him the ball this year, and the LSU offense in general wasn’t nearly as good. Even with three quarterbacks throwing him the ball, he still had 731 yards and 10 touchdowns in only 7 games. Marshall has great hands and knows how to make contested catches as he had a contested catch rate of 81.8%.
Marshall got his taste of being a number one target. On a better offense he could’ve exploded. He’s a bigger bodied playmaker with the floor of a good number two wide receiver and has the ceiling of a star number one. Terrace Marshall is expected to be a late first or early second round selection and could be a huge steal.
8. Rondale Moore, Purdue 5’9” 180lbs. WR
Traditional stats: (3 games) 35 receptions on 44 targets; 270 yards; 7.7 yards per reception
Advanced stats: (3 games) PFF grades – Overall: 80.9 (27th); Receiving: 79.7 (35th); Yards Per Route Run: 2.25 (T-69th)
Moore has all the talent, speed and athletic ability to be a superstar, as suggested by his spectacular freshman year where he had 114 receptions for 1,258 yards and 12 TDs. He has great hands and route running to go with proven number one wide receiver capabilities.
The problem is he’s played in just seven games over the last two years. I wouldn’t be concerned for his long term outlook as it was just a hamstring injury that plagued him and not a torn ligament or anything like that.
He had an odd offseason to prepare for after initially opting out and then changing his mind. It’s likely he just simply wasn’t ready to handle the workload again. In only three games he was targeted an incredibly high 44 times and had 35 grabs. In 2020 his usage was terrible as he only had an average depth of target of 2.6 yards. Get him somewhere that knows how to play offense and he’ll be the go to guy for your team.
9. Devonta Smith, Alabama 6’0” 166lbs. WR
Traditional stats: (13 games) 117 receptions on 145 targets; 1,856 yards; 23 TDs; 15.9 yards per reception
Advanced stats: (13 games) PFF grades – Overall: 94.9 (1st); Receiving: 95.6 (1st among receivers); Yards Per Route Run: 4.39 (3rd)
A good amount of people are pissed at me right now, but in a class so loaded with talent at the position I don’t like chancing a guy who’s only 166 pounds in the NFL. Everyone is bigger, faster, stronger, and hits harder. His route running, hands, and all around receiver skillset would make him the top receiver off the board no questions asked if he had a bigger body. But again, Smith is very light and has a skinny frame. Receivers around his height are typically at least 185 pounds.
I wish Smith success in his career but I’m worried he’s just a great college receiver. I’d rather someone else be right about him in the pros than me be wrong. Smith is better suited in a situation where he’s the number two or, even better yet, number three in an offense trying to load up on playmakers.
10. Pat Friermuth, Penn State 6’5” 258lbs. TE
Traditional stats: (4 games) 23 receptions on 37 targets; 310 yards; 1 TD; 13.5 yards per reception
Advanced stats: (4 games) PFF grades – Overall: 83.0 (28th); Receiving: 80.9 (40th); Yards Per Route Run: 2.33 (69th)
Friermuth isn’t super athletic but he doesn’t need to be. He can catch and block at a level that shows his high ceiling. He has the potential to be strong at both in the NFL. He’s like a poor man’s Gronk. This last season he had a 66.7% contested catch rate showing he has experience in those situations. In 2019 he had 43 receptions for 507 yards and 7 TDs. If the receivers above are off the board, and a weapon over the middle of the field and in the red zone is needed, Friermuth is a good match. In year 2 or 3 he could become scary with the right coaching.