The Senior Bowl has a rich history of wide receivers. From NFL Hall of Famers like Lynn Swann and Steve Largent to recent superstars like Cooper Kupp and Terry McLaurin, a wide receiver pipeline has emerged in Mobile. Only three wide receivers who were at the 2020 Senior Bowl were not selected in the NFL Draft. However, players like Chase Claypool, Brandon Aiyuk, Denzel Mims, and Michael Pittman had promising rookie seasons. Who are my picks for the top wide receivers in the Senior Bowl?
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Top 2021 Senior Bowl Wide Receivers
Devonta Smith, Alabama
What more needs to be said about the Heisman-winning receiver? Smith makes it look easy out there. He doesn’t need to practice at the Senior Bowl to earn a high draft grade. He’s done it all. Weigh-ins and interviews will matter the most for Smith here, but Smith will be the first of all of these Senior Bowl wide receivers to be drafted.
Kadarius Toney, Florida
Kadarius Toney broke out onto the scene this year with Dan Mullen at the helm. Toney has the elusiveness in the open field to turn any play into a big threat. He’s what I would call a “springy” athlete. He’s not a true speedster in the sense of a Jaylen Waddle, but he’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball.
Toney’s ability to drop, cut, and accelerate produces some jaw-dropping plays in every game. He should be a walking highlight reel on the 1-on-1s in the Senior Bowl practices. As a result, I’d expect Toney to be the second of these Senior Bowl wide receivers to be drafted.
Amari Rodgers, Clemson
A co-worker of mine at PFN, Dalton Miller, drew up some similarities between Amari Rodgers and Deebo Samuel. Standing at a rocked up 5’9″ and 215 pounds, Rodgers is a bowling ball to tackle. Rodgers is one of the best playmaking receivers in this draft when combined with his speed and elusiveness. He was Trevor Lawrence’s favorite target this season for a reason.
I remember Deebo Samuel outmuscling DBs at the Senior Bowl just a couple of years ago. Amari Rodgers might have the same impact and same draft rise.
Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State
Tylan Wallace could have opted to declare for last year’s draft but stayed for another season at Oklahoma State. Whether that was the right call or not is debatable. It seems like Wallace’s draft stock has slipped from where it was even at the beginning of the season. Wallace’s skill set has always been as a reliable possession receiver for the Cowboys.
Wallace possesses only average speed but has a knack for making ridiculous contested catches. His route tree at Oklahoma State was fairly limited, so showing an ability to run these routes in Mobile will be key. Recent Senior Bowl wide receivers like Collin Johnson, Zay Jones, and Allen Lazard have made a lot of money with similar skill sets.
Nico Collins, Michigan
Perhaps the most intriguing wide receiver from a draft stock standpoint, Nico Collins is in a precarious situation. Collins opted out of the 2021 season, so the last time teams got a look at him, he was catching passes from Shea Patterson. Analysts have him rated fairly high, but could Collins slip down some boards in a talented receiver class?
A good Senior Bowl performance would do wonders to quell those doubts. Collins is a similar player to Tylan Wallace with how he plays, and both can answer several question marks down in Mobile.
Marquez Stevenson, Houston
This is the speedster who will turn heads in Mobile. Marquez Stevenson‘s been limited by a couple of injuries and inconsistent QB play, but his speed and explosiveness cannot be denied. Stevenson will likely run a 4.3 at the NFL Combine and might leap out of the building too. With more than a few contested-catch receivers in Mobile, guys like Stevenson will stand out.
Speedsters like Terry McLaurin, Andy Isabella, and Devin Duvernay have increased their draft stock at the Senior Bowl in recent years.
Cornell Powell, Clemson
It’s rare in the days of the transfer portal to find a story like Cornell Powell. Powell stuck it out, waiting behind guys like Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross for years before breaking out this season. Powell is a “smooth” receiver who has a knack for getting open. He’s not the biggest or the fastest, but he’s an easy separator. He can win downfield in contested situations and has excellent toughness. I got some Michael Gallup vibes when watching his tape.
Powell should make some money in Mobile. Teams will love his football intangibles, and his ability on the field is an even bigger plus.
Honorable Mention: Frank Darby, Arizona State
Frank Darby had a bit of a disappointing season in terms of what he wanted. The playmaker entered the season with high hopes. Brandon Aiyuk and N’Keal Harry were gone. Finally, it was Darby’s turn this season. Unfortunately, the Arizona State season had health issues and Darby only appeared in four games. Out of all these Senior Bowl wide receivers, Darby might have the most to prove.
Darby is an intriguing option as a slot receiver with his agility and quickness. He isn’t an elite burner, but he separates downfield against man coverage. His route-running and awareness against zone coverage stand out on tape.
Honorable Mention: Austin Watkins Jr., UAB
The cousin of former first-round pick Sammy Watkins, Austin Watkins has “blazed” (pun fully intentional) his own path at UAB. Watkins is another explosive playmaker at the receiver position. He moves well for his 6’3″ frame and uses that length fully in contested situations. Watkins beat up on some of the poor C-USA DBs who had to line up opposite of him the last few seasons. The UAB offense didn’t utilize the passing game a ton, but he made plays when called upon.
Denzel Mims had a fantastic Senior Bowl last year, and Watkins is a similar player. I’d expect the buzz around Watkins to skyrocket once he gets to Mobile.
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