A little bit like the offensive tackle class in last year’s draft, there appears to be a clear consensus Big 4 when it comes to receivers in the 2021 NFL Draft class. DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle of Alabama, Ja’Marr Chase of LSU and Kyle Pitts of Florida will be the first four receivers off the board.
What order will they go in? Nobody is going to know ... until, of course, we know. Beauty in in the eye of the beholder, and there are valid arguments for pretty much any order you want to put those players in.
If the New York Giants want to select a receiver with the 11th overall pick, my guess is they would be happy to turn in a card with the name of any of those players on it.
What, though, if they want to go in another direction at No. 11? A cornerback like Patrick Surtain or Caleb Farley? An edge rusher like Gregory Rousseau or Kwity Paye? An offensive tackle like Rashawn Slater?
I’m always up front when I’m asked about draft prospects. During the NFL regular season I don’t study them the way guys like Chris Pflum, Mark Schofield, Nick Falato, Emory Hunt and others do.
I am just getting up to speed now on many of these guys. I have been spending a lot of time recently looking at wide receiver prospects and I know this much — it’s a deep enough class that while the Giants might not get a No. 1 receiver if they bypass the Big 4 there is enough talent that they should be able to get at least one talented receiver on Day 2 or even early into Day 3.
That’s a long road to get where I’m going. I leave most of the draft evaluation to the aforementioned guys who are more passionate about and better at it than I am. I can’t, though, let them have all the fun.
What I want to do each week leading up to the draft is offer a “Prospect of the Week.” This will simply be a player who really stood out to me as I have watched and tried to get caught up on prospects.
Our first Prospect of the Week is Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney. [College stats]
This guy is electric. He’s a home run hitter who generates excitement, and scares the bejeezus out of defenses, every time he touches the ball. He can run by helpless cornerbacks or cut suddenly away from them downfield, make tacklers miss, and for a guy who is only 6-foot, 180 pounds makes a surprising number of contested catches and breaks a surprising number of tackles.
Toney can be used pretty much any way an offensive coordinator can think of, including as a runner or receiving threat lined up in the backfield. He offers the ability to return punts and kickoffs.
I asked our Nick Falato for a quick take on Toney. He said:
“Kadarius Toney is an electrifying receiver with exceptional burst, suddenness, and separation quickness - a lightning bolt for an offense. Toney’s athletic gifts cant’s be undersold and he wins at the line of scrimmage well with his release. Toney is smooth in and out of breaks; he can sink his hips and explode hitting a second gear that’s difficult to cover, if a DB is in a disadvantageous position. He has solid hands and contested catch ability, while displaying good body control and tracking ability. When in space, he’s ridiculously hard to locate - super shifty and agile. Toney is also a willing blocker who always competes. He’s going to be a fun weapon for a creative offense.”
From the Pro Football Focus 2021 NFL Draft Guide:
It’s players like Toney who make football the greatest game in the world. The way he stops and starts in the blink of an eye is truly amazing to watch. He has the kind of flexibility and explosiveness in his lower half that allows him to break tackles in ways I’ve truly never seen before. It’s why he broke 32 tackles on only 80 catches the past two seasons. More of a gadget player early in his career, Toney finally looked like a true receiver in 2020. He’s not a polished route-runner by any means, but he showed all the ability needed to separate consistently in the NFL.
Florida WR Kadarius Toney @0fficialC2N was one of several receivers who impressed at @seniorbowl— Rivals (@Rivals) January 27, 2021
Watch the full WR/DB one-on-ones here: https://t.co/0PUzrfiAOJ pic.twitter.com/tqRdpUprKb
Toney, to my eyes, is similar in some ways to Waddle of Alabama. He’s not a classic No. 1 wide receiver in any traditional way. He can, though, be a game-changing type of player.
Do I think he will be a Giant? Probably not. Toney isn’t being drafted ahead of Waddle or the Big 4 receivers. He also probably isn’t lasting until the Giants select at No. 42 in the second round. Unless an unforeseen move down from 11 or up from 42 happens, I don’t see it.
Still, this is a guy who does some things that make your jaw drop. It sure would be nice to add a player like that.