With the NFL Draft for 2021 approaching, following up on my previous article, we look at some sleeper WR spots. Remember we aren’t talking about players that are going at the top of the draft class here. Instead, we are looking at Let’s dig right into it!
Marlon Williams, UCF Knights
Archetype: Slot ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 3rd/4th ⚇ Perfect Fit: Green Bay Packers ⚇ Rookie ADP: Undrafted
No rookie was more disrespected this off-season as much as Marlon Williams was. After a scintillating 2020 campaign putting up 1,039 receiving yards in 8 games (130 yards per game) and 10 touchdowns, not being “invited to the combine” despite it not officially taking place, must have been a kick in the teeth. Williams was the 4th most productive receiver in all of College Football last season. Behind only DeVonta Smith, Elijah Moore, and Jaelon Darden on a yards per game basis.
Operating almost exclusively out of the slot, Williams dominated AAC opponents. Acting as a commanding presence over the middle of the field for impressive QB Dillon Gabriel. He even showed up in the bigger games too with 13 receptions for 191 yards and 1 TD versus a sturdy Memphis defense, and 8 for 97 yards with a brace of TDs against the conference standouts Cincinnati.
The Packers would be the ideal landing spot for a lot of the top receivers in this class, considering the lack of elite options for Aaron Rodgers to utilize. Yet still on a high-powered offense, but this fit is especially eyebrow-raising for a player with Williams’ skillset. The Packers offer very little threat out of the slot and could use a dominating presence like Williams
Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa Hawkeyes
Archetype: Deep Threat/Route Runner ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 4th ⚇ Perfect Fit: Indianapolis Colts ⚇ Rookie ADP: Undrafted
Another player currently holding an undrafted ADP in fantasy circles is Iowa’s Smith-Marsette. Although his College career stats don’t necessarily jump off the page, ISM demonstrated all the key components that NFL scouts will love during his time as a Hawkeye. He possesses excellent speed thanks in part to his history as a track athlete, but also has a great route running ability and can create separation with relative ease.
Despite his natural ability as a gifted speed receiver, he can be undone in physical battles owing to his slender 6’1, 181lbs frame. However, if he was eased into a role in a pass friendly team, he could quickly rise to fantasy relevance. The Colts would be an intriguing landing spot where he could learn from seasoned veteran T.Y Hilton who is of a similar build, but at the same time working as the Z receiver in a young, improving offense.
Anthony Schwartz, Auburn Tigers
Archetype: Deep Threat/Slot ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 5th/6th ⚇ Perfect Fit: Chicago Bears ⚇ Rookie ADP: WR19/41st Overall
I was hoping and praying the combine was going to go ahead this year purely so we could see Schwartz officially run the 40. I have no doubt that had it happened he would have challenged, and possibly broken John Ross’ 2017 record breaking 4.22s. Alas, we had to settle for a pro-day instead where he clocked 4.26s. Nonetheless, the main phrase used to describe Schwartz is inevitably, ‘Speed Freak’
Although his speed is phenomenal, Schwartz sometimes drew the ‘one-trick pony’ tag. Especially during the first few years of his College career. However, during the last season for Auburn, Schwartz worked very hard to broaden his receiving skill spectrum and the results showed. At the end of the 2020 season, he had 54 receptions for 636 yards (63.6 yards per game) and 3 TD’s becoming Auburn’s reception leader last season in the process.
He’s most effective working post routes out the slot and with a 6’0, 179lbs frame, draws comparisons to Will Fuller. With Anthony Miller rumoured to be on the trade block and potentially moving away from Chicago, a player like Schwartz would be a great fit for Andy Dalton and the fresh new look Bears offense. If he lands in the right spot, Schwartz will be the epitome of a boom or bust player that has the potential to become a ‘Tyreek Hill lite’.
Tylan Wallace, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Archetype: Possession ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 2nd/3rd ⚇ Perfect Fit: Philadelphia Eagles ⚇ Rookie ADP: WR13/23rd Overall
Another player not yet on fantasy radars is Oklahoma State’s Tylan Wallace. After leading the Big XII in receiving in 2018, Wallace was heading towards being a first round selection after the 2019 season. However, after sustaining a ACL tear during that season, he opted to stay for his senior year (2020) as a ‘prove it’ season. That decision has paid off as he was able to cement himself as a top quality receiver, even if he’s not considered to be in the top tier of this years’ class.
Wallace has a wide variety of highlight-reel catches available on tape. Showing great YAC ability along with incredible body control and effective straight-line speed. He’s also a versatile player and can play different roles as a receiver, from being an over-the-middle possession receiver to being utilized as a deep threat.
Philadelphia has finally cut ties with the aging Alshon Jeffery, potentially trading away Zach Ertz and not re-signing DeSean Jackson. The Eagles need to replenish their receiving corps. Drafting Jalen Reagor last season was a start. Although he struggled with injuries and wasn’t exactly as productive as a first-round receiver is expected to be when he did see the field. As an all-around talent, Wallace would give presumptive starter Jalen Hurts another quality option who can showcase great hands and elusivity.
Sage Surratt, Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Archetype: Possession ⚇ Projected NFL Draft Round: 4th ⚇ Perfect Fit: Tennessee Titans (Eagles/WFT) ⚇ Rookie ADP: WR16/33rd Overall
The older brother of fellow 2021 prospect LB Chazz Surratt, Sage enters the draft as somewhat of an afterthought after opting out of the 2020 season. After a 1,000+ yard season in 2019, Surratt was tipped to be amongst the top-tier receivers in this draft. He’s not really a flashy player, nor is he the most athletic. But he is potentially one of the cleverest prospects in this year’s draft after turning down scholarships from Harvard and Yale.
He translates his academic intelligence onto the football field effectively and uses his IQ to cleverly navigate catches, ball tracking and routes. Surratt possesses a natural catching ability and has knack of winning contested catches. If he lands on a team that can use a reliable possession receiver, Surratt has got every chance of becoming a PPR machine and should be added on taxi squads wherever possible. Intelligent and talented receivers like Surratt have a leg up when it comes to progressing at the next level.
Tennessee finally found a way last year to finally unlock the potential of Corey Davis, only to let him become a free agent. As things stand for the Titans, their receiving corps consist of A.J Brown, Josh Reynolds and a bunch of unknowns. With losing Jonnu Smith to free agency too, the 315 team receptions of last season will need to be picked up by someone else, and will likely come in some form via this draft. Surratt would be an ideal weapon for Ryan Tannehill to hyper-target and his ADP would surely rise meteorically should this be the case.
Who is your favorite sleeper WR from this 2021 NFL Draft Class? Start getting ready for the 2021 fantasy season with our draft kit (currently on pre-order pricing until the end of May) Remember you can find us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram if you want to connect with us. Feel free to slide into those DMs if you need help!
Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove – USA TODAY Sports