1. Ja’Marr Chase, LSU, 6-foot-1, 208 pounds (first round): Chase had a 41-inch vertical and 11-foot broad jump which points to the explosiveness of his lower body. The sure-handed receiver played as a true freshman and caught 23 passes for 313 yards and three touchdowns in 2018. The following season, he combined with quarterback Joe Burrow to help lead the Tigers to the national title. He caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns, which included that stellar title-game showing. “This is a big-time pure No. 1 wide out,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
2. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama, 5-10,182 (first round): Dynamic wide receiver suffered a broken ankle while returning a kickoff against Tennessee. Waddle was out for six games. He suited up for the national championship game against Ohio State and caught three passes. Waddle, who’s from Houston, played as a freshman and caught 45 passes for 848 yards and seven touchdowns. He caught 33 passes in 2019.
3. Devonta Smith, Alabama, 6-1, 170 (first round): As a true freshman, Smith had the game-winning touchdown in Alabama’s 26-23 national championship overtime victory over Georgia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He followed with 42 catches for 693 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018 and 68 catches for 1,256 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior. Last season, he caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns.
4. Rashod Bateman, Minnesota 6-2, 210 (first round): Bateman played in 13 games as a freshman in 2018. He caught 51 passes for 704 yards and six touchdowns. In 2019, he caught 60 passes for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns and was named an All-American and the Big Ten’s receiver of the year. In Minnesota’s epic upset of Penn State, Bateman had 203 receiving yards and helped the Golden Gophers finish ranked No. 10, their highest ranking since 1962. Bateman, who has asthma, opted out of the 2020 season at first. When the Big Ten went to every day testing, he decided to play. He played in five games and made 36 catches for 372 yards and two touchdowns.
5. Kadarius Toney, Florida, 6-0, 193 (first round): He was the Class 6A back of the year as a senior quarterback at Blount High in Mobile, Ala. He turned in a big 2020 season for the Gators with 70 catches for 984 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had 19 rushes for 161 yards and a touchdown. He also returned kickoffs (22.1 average) and punts (12.6 average). He was voted second-team All-American as an all-purposed player by the Associated Press.
6. Rondale Moore, Purdue (5-9,180) (first round): He was the 2017 Kentucky Gatorade player of the year after leading Louisville Trinity High to the state title. He’d committed to Texas, but followed his high school coach Jeff Brohm to Purdue. He caught 114 passes as a freshman. He was slowed by a hamstring injury in 2019 and initially opted out of the 2020 season before playing in three games.
7. Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU, 6-3, 200 (first/second round): Marshall, Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson each caught more than 10 touchdowns during LSU’s historic run to the national title in the 2019 season. He played in seven games in 2020 before opting out. He finished with 48 catches for 731 yards and 10 touchdowns.
8. D’Wayne Eskridge, Western Michigan, 5-9, 185, (second round): Played some cornerback over his career with the Broncos. He returned to receiver full time in 2020 and was named first-team All-MAC and was the MAC special teams player of the year. He led FBS with 213 all-purpose yards per game.
9. Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State, 6-0, 190 (second round): In 2018, Wallace had 86 catches for 1,491 yards and 12 touchdowns and was named second-team All-American by the Associated press and first-team All-Big 12. In 2019, he suffered an ACL injury. Last season he caught 59 passes for 92 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games.
10. Sage Surratt, Wake Forest 6-3, 215 (second/third round): In 2019, Surratt caught 66 passes for 1,001 yards (15.2 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns over nine games. He also returned punts. He opted out of the 2020 season.
Best of rest: Mississippi’s Elijah Moore, North Carolina’s Dazz Newsome, Clemson’s Cornell Powell, Clemon’s Amari Rodgers, Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry and Louisville’s Dre Fitzpatrick.
Teams in need: Eagles, Bears, Lions, Bengals and Chiefs.
Need area for Falcons: Yes. Julio Jones turned 32 in February. Calvin Ridley is set to takeover at No. 1, but if Jones is not healthy a young receiver from the middle rounds of the draft could find some playing time. Russell Gage is solid in the slot.
Top 5 seniors for the 2022 draft: Ohio State’s Chris Olave, Clemson’s Justyn Ross, Georgia’s George Pickens, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Oklahoma’s Jadon Haselwood.
D. Orlando Ledbetter, Esq is the award-winning Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the newspaper, has been on the staff since 2003. Every day D. Orlando strives to provide inside in the Falcons and the NFL. He finds the most joy in providing insight into the team, the coaching moves, the offseason business moves, the draft and the games.