“Ja’Marr Chase to me is just a slam dunk…He just has everything.” – Simms on Chase as his top WR prospect
“He’s got an incredible play-strength and physicality to his game that I thought was the most pleasant surprise of all.” – Simms on DeVonta Smith
“There’s nobody that could run with this kid…I was just blown away by the guy altogether.” – Simms on Dyami Brown
STAMFORD, Conn. – March 23, 2021 – NBC Sports’ Chris Simms unveiled his wide receiver draft rankings, discussing this year’s top WR prospects heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast, listing LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase No. 1. In the episode, Simms ranks and breaks down Chase, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, the 2020 Heisman Trophy winner, North Carolina’s Dyami Brown, Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle, Florida’s Kadarius Toney, and more.
Simms, a third-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2003 NFL Draft who played eight NFL seasons, is joined by NBC Sports’ Ahmed Fareed on the podcast. The two offer in-depth breakdowns, rankings, and NFL comparisons for this year’s top wide receiver prospects.
“I think the top three are close,” Simms said about his wide receiver rankings. “Numbers one, two and three to me are special, like special superstars who really could have a bright future.”
In the lead up to April’s NFL Draft, Simms will rank and break down every position group, provide a list of mid-late round sleeper prospects, and issue a final mock draft.
Simms’ Top Five WR prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft:
|1.||Ja’Marr Chase, LSU|
|2.||DeVonta Smith, Alabama|
|3.||Dyami Brown, UNC|
|4.||Jaylen Waddle, Alabama|
|5.||Kadarius Toney, Florida|
The following are highlights from Simms’ WR draft rankings:
No. 1: Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
“Ja’Marr Chase to me is just a slam dunk…He just has everything. First off, he has the ability to be an elite slot receiver. He’s not the most technique, well-schooled route runner yet, but it’s our old thing: let’s not over evaluate the guy that we’ve seen can do every movement on the planet with his hips and his feet…He could be the best slot in football, but he also could be the best outside weapon in football and just run by you with pure speed…This is the best receiver with the ball in his hands. That’s where he’s special. One, he can separate route running. Two, he plays way bigger than 6’1, 200 lbs. That’s the one thing I like about him, DeVonta Smith, and Dyami Brown. They’re 6-foot, 6’1, all of that, but man, when the ball’s in the air, it’s not 50-50. It’s kind of like 70-30 when the ball is in the air with these guys…As far as going over the middle and being fearless, he’s the most fearless of all of them…I’m really excited about Ja’Marr Chase. He is an awesome receiver, a weapon. He can do everything you want on the offensive side of the ball. You can do it all with him.”
No. 2: DeVonta Smith, Alabama
“Heisman Trophy winner. Has it all. Obviously Ja’Marr Chase is going to be my No. 1, but this is neck and neck with my man Dyami Brown being just barely on the outside of these two guys…We know DeVonta Smith is a freak of nature. You could be the most casual of football fans there are, and know No. 6 on Alabama is the real deal…He has a frame to me that shows me he’s going to get bigger…I think there’s going to be natural weight that comes along with it, but despite all of that, there’s nothing on film to say that strength is an issue in his game, nothing…He’s got an incredible play-strength and physicality to his game that I thought was the most pleasant surprise of all…He can play through contact, the 50-50 balls. Catching the ball through traffic is really good. When people do get a hand on him at the line of scrimmage, he can fight right through and have no issue. Let alone, at the line of scrimmage, he’s incredible at getting off the ball and not letting you get jammed…The speed is special. It’s really special…He pulls away from everybody. It’s all around special…he has way better strength and physicality than I was expecting.”
No. 3: Dyami Brown, North Carolina
“Dyami Brown to me was the one out of all the guys in the draft that I just watched and went, ‘Woah. Who’s this guy?’ … Acceleration, top-notch. Top-end speed. It’s Odell Beckham, Jr. with the ball in the air type speed. He has another gear. There’s nobody that could run with this kid…Route running I thought was through the roof in all aspects…This is unbelievable feet at the line of scrimmage and really understands how to set DBs up and has incredible start-stop ability…I was just blown away by the guy altogether, let alone he’s not just a track guy. Physicality and all of that…I’m very excited about him because he’s just one of those guys that I just go, ‘I don’t understand why he’s not getting a little more credit.’”
No. 4: Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
“He is on the outside of the big three for me…I’d be really happy if I were a quarterback and Jaylen Waddle was playing wide receiver for me. The reason I have Jaylen Waddle as No. 4 is because I think that he is a true slot wide receiver. I do have a little bit of a concern as far as size of the player…I’m not sure I’m sold he can win on the outside play after play after play (compared to) the top-tier wide receivers in all of football…Acceleration, twitchiness, quickness are off-the-charts good. But pure straight-line speed is not as good as the top three…When we talk about route running and being a nuanced, day one, game one, NFL-ready slot receiver, Waddle is ready to go.”
No. 5: Kadarius Toney, Florida
“What else is there more to say? Weapon. Explosion. Everything. Is he the most nuanced route runner there is? No, he’s kind of raw when it comes to route running, but again, I’m not going to overanalyze it…He’s doing it more right now with just the pure physical ability because that’s what he can do. He’s got incredible acceleration. I would really say it’s top-tier as far as anybody involved in this draft…Really rare too with a weapon guy like this, there’s a physicality element to his game…It’s Ja’Marr Chase and Toney who are the most dangerous with the ball in their hands.”
No. 6: Terrace Marshall, Jr., LSU
“AKA Justin Jefferson Jr. a little bit, coming out of LSU. Really interesting prospect…A lot of similarities to Justin Jefferson. Not quite the same player, I’m not as high on the guy overall, but when you look at the player altogether, there’s not much not to like. First off, he can do it all, and when I say that, I mean he’s got size…he can play inside or out. He has the versatility to do that…He’s a good route runner. I’m not going to sit here and tell you he’s as good a route runner as Justin Jefferson…As far as pure speed goes, it’s right there with Justin Jefferson.”
To hear the full episode with full prospect breakdowns, click here.
The Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast is available for download on all major podcast platforms including: NBCSports.com/podcasts, NBC Sports’ Scores app, Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and iHeart.