The draft generally is regarded as having three truly elite receivers, along with an elite tight end who could line up a lot at receiver. Setting aside the question of where Florida tight end Kyle Pitts will land, let’s ponder the question of the order in which the top receivers — Ja’Marr Chase of LSU and Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith of Alabama — will exit the board.
With quarterbacks undoubtedly the first three selections and another deep receiver class, it’s not easy to peg when the wideouts will start to be selected, or where. The Falcons could go quarterback, trade down with a team that wants a quarterback, take Pitts or tackle Penei Sewell, or grab one of the best receivers.
The Bengals at No. 5 likely go Sewell if he’s there, which possibly makes the Dolphins the first team to take a wideout.
Miami, as some believe it, would be inclined to take Waddle over Chase and Smith. Chase’s case could be impacted (even though it shouldn’t be) by the fact that he opted out of the 2020 season over COVID concerns.
The question then becomes whether Chase would go before Smith, or Smith before Chase.
There may not be much of a gap between the first and second receivers taken, either. The Lions at No. 7 could go wideout after seeing Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones leave in free agency, and the Panthers at No. 8 are down a starter after the defection of Curtis Samuel.
Being the first receiver taken, especially in a draft deep with receivers, can carry a unique burden. The chip on the shoulder the drives so many wideouts (especially second rounders but also other first-rounders) isn’t there for the first receiver drafted. Time and again, that extra kick in the ass has helped receivers, both in their rookie seasons and beyond.
Last year, the Raiders made Alabama’s Henry Ruggs the surprise first receiver taken in the draft. He definitely wouldn’t be the first receiver if they re-drafted now.
We’ll find out in 12 days the order of the top three receivers — and whether there’s another Jalen Reagor surprise lurking on the board. In time, we’ll see which guys become the Justin Jefferson/Chase Claypool of the class, and which ones will be working into their second season and beyond to reach their full potential.