With the first week of free agency about to wrap up, one of the biggest things that stood out was the wide receiver market- or, lack thereof. Instead, teams will look to add cheaper prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft on rookie deals, rather than shell out big money.
Many veterans who were expecting to land big contracts had to settle for one year prove-it deals or deals below market value. Will Fuller, considered by many as one of the top wide receiver free agents, only got a one-year deal for $10 million from the Miami Dolphins, allowing the former Houston Texan to hit free agency yet again next season. JuJu Smith-Schuster returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers on a one-year, $8 million deal due to the market as well. While some wide receivers were able to land solid contracts, the overall market was very poor considering the talent that was available.
Taking a look at the 2021 NFL Draft crop of WRs
While there are many reasons as to why the market is so dry for wide receivers, one of the biggest reasons is due to the draft class this season. There are three prospects that are all but guaranteed to go in the first round: LSU’s Jamar Chase and the Alabama star duo Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
Those three wide receivers could go in the top 15, something that hasn’t happened since the 2017 NFL Draft, when Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross were all selected in the top 10. In addition to the big three, there are other names that are worth first round consideration such as Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Florida’s Kadarius Toney, LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr, Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore. and Purdue’s Rondale Moore.
Looking deeper into the wide receiver prospects in this year’s NFL Draft, there are numerous players that can be quality NFL players that can be had in the back half of the draft. Finding value later in the draft is something that the elite NFL teams do regularly in order to fill out their roster. While there are many names that fit the mold of a sleeper prospect at wide receiver, let’s take a look at three names that really stand out.