The 2021 NFL Draft featured some of the best receivers in the NFL. There were a few who had big rookie years and some who broke out in Year 2. With nearly two full seasons under their belt, we have a good idea of where these players’ careers are headed.
For the most part, knowing what we know now, which receivers were drafted in the correct spot, and which ones were overlooked and should have been drafted far earlier than they were?
For this exercise, we re-draft for the five teams that took a receiver in the first round, as well as the 10 that followed in Rounds 2-3.
5. Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase
Career Stats: 160 receptions, 2,415 receiving yards, 21 touchdowns
Bengals’ Original Pick: Chase
The Bengals hit a home run with Chase. What he’s been able to do since entering the NFL has been nothing short of amazing. In NFL history, he is the only player to put up 1,450 receiving yards in a season before his 22nd birthday. He’s stellar, a star from the moment he put on that uniform. Chase has repeatedly made big plays for the Bengals, and it is why he’s one of the best in the business.
6. Dolphins: Jaylen Waddle
Career Stats: 171 receptions, 2,275 receiving yards, 14 touchdowns
Dolphins’ Original Pick: Waddle
Waddle has been even more spectacular in his second season than he was as a rookie, when he set the NFL record for most receptions by a first-year player with 102. He has gone from a high-volume, short-game pass-catcher to one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league, averaging a league-best 18.8 yards per catch (for players this season with more than 50 targets). The pairing of Waddle with Tyreek Hill has opened up a whole new element for he and the Dolphins’ offense.
10. Eagles: DeVonta Smith
Career Stats: 143 receptions, 1,930 receiving yards, 12 touchdowns
Eagles’ Original Pick: Smith
Smith is on a tear right now for the Eagles. After he was drafted, he was put into a situation where he was going to be Philadelphia’s No. 1 option, but after the acquisition of A.J. Brown, it allowed Smith to operate more as a 1a, which is a much better fit for the type of player he is in this league. He’s been spectacular for the Eagles this season, with 79 catches for more than 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.
20. Giants: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Career Stats: 186 receptions, 1,962 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns
Giants’ Original Pick: Kadarius Toney
Although I love Toney, I had to move him out of the first round. There is another wide receiver who has been balling out all year, and that is Amon-Ra St. Brown, who was a steal of Detroit’s in the fourth round. If you talk to anybody who understands what the Lions have been able to do on offense this year — leading the NFL in total yards — he is the main reason they are so good offensively. He can run any route underneath, and he can take the top off a defense. He is a special player. I’m excited to see what he blossoms into next.
27. Ravens: Rashod Bateman
Career Stats: 61 receptions, 800 yards, 3 touchdowns
Ravens Original Pick: Bateman
Yes, he’s been hurt, but Bateman is a terrific young player when he is healthy. I’m a big fan of Elijah Moore, who was drafted by the Jets seven picks after Bateman, but with what I’ve seen from a healthy Bateman, knowing what he can do and how he fits in Baltimore, he’s just a better fit for what the Ravens need. Moore is — I hate to say it — more of a gadget guy, where you get the ball in his hands and let him do what he needs to do to make a play. Bateman is more of a route-runner and stretch-the-field type of player. I like the way he fits in Baltimore, and when he’s healthy, he’s a difference-maker for the Ravens.
34. Jets: Elijah Moore
Original: Elijah Moore
49. Cardinals: Nico Collins
Original: Rondale Moore
56. Seahawks: Josh Palmer
Original: D’Wayne Eskridge
57. Rams: Kadarius Toney
Original: Tutu Atwell
59. Panthers: Rondale Moore
Original: Terrace Marshall Jr.
77. Chargers: Dyami Brown
Original: Josh Palmer
82. Commanders: Amari Rodgers
Original: Dyami Brown
85. Packers: Ben Skowronek
Original: Amari Rodgers
89. Texans: Terrace Marshall Jr.
Original: Nico Collins
91. Browns: Tutu Atwell
Original: Anthony Schwartz
Greg Jennings is a former NFL wide receiver who played for the Packers, Vikings and Dolphins. A two-time Pro Bowl player, Jennings was a member of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV championship team and is inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame. Follow him on Twitter @GregJennings.