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The Other Guys: 2021 NFL Draft Day 2-3 Wide Receiver Prospects

Taking a deeper dive into a few wide receivers who could be available for the Bears on Day 2 or 3 of the NFL Draft.

D’Wayne Eskridge NFL Draft
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

In honor of NFL Draft week, I will be putting a Chicago Bears-focused spotlight on a specific position of need each day, focusing on a handful of Day 2 and Day 3 prospects. Because first-round-caliber players get analyzed to death, I am going to focus on guys who are expected to come off the board beyond the first round. I am not going to take a look at QB’s, as I have already put an article out on scouting this draft’s QB’s which can be found HERE.

Yesterday, we looked at the Day 2-3 offensive tackles.

Today, we are going to take a closer look at wide receivers. Information on each prospect is summarized from multiple sources, including:

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Nico Collins

Nico Collins NFL Draft
Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Pre-College:

Collins grew up outside Birmingham, Alabama. He was a star athlete in baseball, basketball, and football. Basketball was his favorite sport, as he held one of the top ranks among AAU players through middle school. Prior to high school, he played either quarterback or running back in football.

By the time he hit high school, he was forced outside to wide receiver due to his size. Collins helped his team to a state title as a sophomore after missing much of his freshman season with a partially torn ACL. Collins earned first-team all-state honors as a senior. He was a four-star recruit out of high school and ranked as the #27 wide receiver in his class.

2017: 

Collins played in four games, starting just one of those contests.

2018: 

Collins played in all 13 games, starting in 11 games. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten while leading the team in receiving yards. Collins also received the team award for Most Improved Player.

2019: 

Collins played in 12 games and started ten of them. He once again earned honorable mention All-Big Ten while leading the team in receiving touchdowns. He was also named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year.

2020: 

Collins opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.

Personal:

  • Was the only player among the top-11 recruits in the state of Alabama to sign anywhere other than Alabama or Auburn
  • Chose Michigan because his dad is from Detroit and he fell in love with the Ann Arbor campus
  • Called his decision to opt out in 2020 a “business decision”
  • Majoring in general studies
Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths:

  • Deceptive vertical threat with overwhelming size
  • Agile foot quickness and powerful runner making for smooth route running
  • Very good vertical speed with ability to high point the ball
  • Quick to turn upfield after securing the catch, with a good feel for defenders and spacing
  • Physical in the middle of the field with toughness to match defenders
  • Was held down by sub-par quarterback play and team offensive identity

Weaknesses:

  • Inconsistent spacing and timing on routes in the first and second levels
  • Speed shows more after the catch than in routes
  • Can be squeezed off his route when pressed, inconsistent in 50/50 spots
  • Inconsistent blocker who looks dominant at times and uninterested at times
  • Guilty of pushing off too often
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D’Wayne Eskridge

D’Wayne Eskridge NFL Draft
Photo: Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Pre-College:

Eskridge hails from Bluffton, Indiana. In high school, he starred in football as well as track and field. As a senior, Eskridge earned honorable mention all-state honors in football. He also earned the title of Indiana’s Mr. Tack and Field in his senior year, winning the state title in the 200m as a junior and the 100m and 200m titles as a senior. He also finished second in long jump his senior year. Eskridge was a three-star recruit out of high school, ranked as the number 30 all-purpose running back in his class.

2016:

Eskridge played in 12 games but did not star any of them. He also missed two contests due to injury.

2017: 

Eskridge played in 12 games and started all of them. He led the team in receiving yards and did not miss any time.

2018: 

Eskridge played in 12 games, starting only seven games. He also missed two games due to injury.

2019: 

Eskridge played and started in four games, starting both ways for two games (WR and CB). He eventually redshirted due to clavicle injury. On defense, he tallied 14 tackles and four PBU’s in two games at cornerback.

2020:

Eskridge played and started in six games at wide receiver exclusively. He earned first team All-MAC honors at kick returner and wide receiver, MAC Special Teams Player of the Year, and second team All-American honors after leading the MAC in receiving yards and touchdowns. Eskridge was also a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award (awarded for versatility). He led FBS in all-purpose yards, averaging over 200 yards per contest.

Personal:

  • Eskridge was unable to continue running track at Western Michigan because the college does not offer the sport
  • Played some cornerback in the 2019 season, playing both ways for Western Michigan
  • Graduated with his degree in sports management in 2020
Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths:

  • Developed physically with mentality of a defensive player
  • Track runner speed to threaten downfield, draws penalties at a high rate
  • Ability to snag catches away from his body coordinate body to the catch point
  • Runs the full route tree, capable of playing inside or outside
  • Special teams contributor as return man and kick/punt coverage units
  • High-effort blocker with the strength to punish defenders
  • Doesn’t take plays off

Weaknesses:

  • Undersized, lacks ideal height, length, and potential for growth
  • While he runs a full route tree, the route details are still a work in progress
  • Takes too many steps to get into his route, can get caught dancing and off-balance
  • Small catch radius
  • Lacks size to get 50/50 balls, needs to operate in space
  • Durability questions paired with an aggressive mentality and high motor
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Amari Rodgers

Amari Rodgers NFL Draft
Photo: BART BOATWRIGHT/The Clemson Insider

Pre-College:

Rodgers is from Knoxville, Tennessee. He had always played running back until his junior year of high school when he switched to wide receiver and cornerback. After the switch, he was named Mr. Football in the state of Tennessee in each of his final two seasons. Rodgers was a four-star recruit out of high school and ranked as the #16 wide receiver in his class.

2017:

Rodgers played in 14 games with no games started.

2018:

Rodgers played and started in all 15 games. He earned honorable mention All-ACC and also earned All-ACC Academic honors in addition to being selected to ACC Honor Roll. He also logged one punt return touchdown.

2019:

Rodgers played in 14 games, starting ten contests. He earned honorable mention All-ACC. Despite tearing his ACL during spring practices, he was able to return by Week 2 of the regular season. Rodgers won Clemson’s Brandon Streeter Award, which is presented to the student-athlete across all sports who most overcomes injury to excel on the field.

2020: 

Rodgers played and started in all 12 games. He earned First-Team All-ACC honors as he led the ACC in catches. He also was a Biletnikoff Award semifinalist and was voted as a permanent team captain. Rodgers logged the eighth-most receptions in a single season in school history despite the shortened season (fifth-most receptions per game in school history). He also won the Tim Bourret Award, given to the player who best represents himself, his teammates, and Clemson University in the media.

Personal:

  • Rodgers’ Father, Martin, played quarterback for Tennessee, winning the 1998 National Championship. He would be a fifth-round pick into the NFL in the 2000 draft, and played four NFL seasons and two CFL seasons. Martin Rodgers has been a high school or college coach since 2006, spending time as a USC assistant coach, and recently joining the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff.
  • Younger brother, Kaden, is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the 2022 recruiting class.
  • Rodgers graduated with a degree in Sports Communication in 2020.
  • Graduated with a degree in sports communication in 2020.
Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths:

  • Compact and stout frame with good play strength
  • Ability to work all three levels of the field
  • Reliable hands catcher with ability to catch away from his body 
  • Fluid body control when playing the ball
  • Start/stop quickness to create separation and shake defenders
  • Considered to be a master of the details while still playing a physical brand of football
  • Tough competitor, living over the middle, and a more than willing blocker
  • Special teams contributor as a kick and punt return man
  • Prepares and works like a pro

Weaknesses:

  • Height and length may limit him
  • Contested catches will be capped due to size limitations
  • Route tree needs further development, most of his targets came on underneath and horizontal routes
  • Could be more consistent with challenged catches and high pointing the ball
  • Drops have been an issue at times relative to his hand strength
  • Lack of length limits his catch radius
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Jaelon Darden

Jaelon Darden NFL Draft
Photo: HELEN COMER/DNJ via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Pre-College:

Darden grew up in the Houston, Texas area. In high school, he became the starting quarterback as a sophomore. In his junior year, he split his snaps between quarterback and wide receiver while also returning kicks. He also ran track and field. Darden was a three-star recruit coming out of high school, ranking as the #237 wide receiver in his class.

2017:

Darden played in 14 games with no games started. He served as a standout on special teams (kick and punt return).

2018:

Darden played in 13 games with five games started.

2019: 

Darden played and started in 12 games. He earned first-team ALL-CUSA honors as he led the team in receiving yards and touchdowns. 

2020: 

Darden played and started in nine games. He earned first-team All-American, first-team All-CUSA, Texas College Offensive Player of the Year, and also earned the Conference USA MVP. He led the team in receiving yards and set the team record for single-season receiving touchdowns. Darden ranked second in the nation in receiving touchdowns, third in receiving yards, and fourth in receptions. He was named a finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award and was a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as well. Darden is North Texas’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. He ranks second in school history for total touchdowns (receiving/rushing/return).

Personal:

  • In his senior season, Darden transferred to a new high school in hopes of improving his recruitment but was forced to sit out the first half of the season due to transfer eligibility issues.
  • Darden originally committed to McNeese State as a junior before switching his commitment to UNLV. UNLV rescinded their offer after he was forced to sit during his senior season, so he was left waiting on an offer approaching signing day. North Texas gave him a last-minute offer.
Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths:

  • Accelerates to top speed with one step
  • A dynamic explosive threat vertically with slippery YAC ability
  • Gains separation with a strong plant foot on breaking routes
  • Hand-eye coordination to not show hands before the catch and track the ball in stride without wasted motion
  • Special teams contributor (punt and kick return)
  • Known for work ethic with impressive determination

Weaknesses:

  • Undersized with a thin frame and a slight build
  • May be maxed out in size with limited power, physical press corners stall his routes
  • Not much room for improvement with contested catches
  • Limited catch radius and simple route tree
  • Freelances routes too often
  • Despite strong effort in blocking, lack of size limits effectiveness
  • Size related durability concerns
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Josh Palmer

Josh Palmer NFL Draft
Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Pre-College:

Palmer was born and raised near Toronto. He grew up playing football but prioritized basketball. In high school, he was a basketball star and also ran track, joining the football team his sophomore year. Upon realizing that football was his future, he moved to Florida to live with his aunt and uncle while enrolling in football powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas High School. He helped his high school achieve a state championship while being recognized as second-team All-State for his senior season. He was a three-star recruit, ranking as the #121 wide receiver in his class. He originally committed to Syracuse but flipped his commitment to Tennessee after a big senior season.

2017: 

Palmer played in 12 games, starting six of those contests.

2018: 

Palmer played in 12 games and started eight of them. He finished first in the SEC and tied for fifth in the nation in yards per catch. He led the team with ten plays of 20-plus yards.

2019: 

Palmer played in 13 games, starting 12 of them. He finished second on the team in receptions and was named to the Fall SEC Academic Honor Roll.

2020: 

Palmer played and started in ten games while leading his team in receiving yards. He also led the team in catches and receiving touchdowns. 23 of his 33 catches went for first downs. Palmer ranked 13th in the SEC for 20-plus yard catches.

Personal:

  • Father, Keith, played football at Windsor and in the CFL
  • Played alongside Elijah Moore, Trevon Grimes, and Mike Harley in high school
  • Majoring in Management
  • Part of VOLeaders Academy Class that traveled to Rwanda in summer of 2019
  • Parents are of Jamaican descent
  • Recipient of the Emmon Love Athletic Memorial Endowed Scholarship
Via https://relativeathleticscores.com/2021/01/23/2021-draft-class-ras/

Strengths:

  • Ideal mix of size and speed
  • Vertical skills to consistently win over the top
  • Catches ball cleanly away from his body
  • Ability to adjust in air and time his attack on the ball
  • Balanced in his route breaks
  • Willing to work over the middle and in traffic
  • Consistently showed his toughness in taking hits and in blocking
  • Best tape came against top competition (Alabama/Surtain; Georgia/Campbell and Daniel)
  • Victim of poor QB play

Weaknesses:

  • Needs to refine route technique, find more variance in his releases, and expand route tree
  • Lacks deception and tempo in routes to uncover underneath or sell movements
  • Not overly elusive with the ball, splash plays created by YAC were rare
  • Ineffective in the red zone where space is tightened up

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  1. Pingback: The Other Guys: 2021 NFL Draft Day 2-3 Cornerback Prospects - On Tap Sports Net

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