2021 NFL mock draft: A wide receiver in every round for Titans

There’s a pretty good chance that the Titans will field a bunch of new faces at the wide receiver position next season. A.J. Brown will return as the team’s No. 1 receiver, but things are muddy beyond that. Corey Davis is a free agent. The Titans should have a ton of interest in bringing him back, but Davis is coming off a career year. It’s safe to assume that there’s going to be a fair amount of interest in him, and his market could price itself outside of the Titans’ comfort zone.

Davis isn’t the only question mark. As our own Mike Herndon pointed out a few weeks ago, Adam Humphries is a prime candidate to be released this offseason. If the Titans do decide to move on from Humphries, they’ll be saving $4.75 million against the cap. Humphries has been a good player when on the field, but staying healthy has been a problem. He’s missed 16 of a possible 36 games during his two years in Tennessee. Those cap savings may be too tempting for Jon Robinson to pass up.

Beyond Davis and Humphries, Kalif Raymond is also an unrestricted free agent and like Davis, may find more money and opportunity elsewhere.

Circling back to my original point, Brown is the only receiver that is guaranteed to be on the roster next season. Guys like Cameron Batson and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine will probably return, but they are depth pieces at best.

If Davis and Humphries play their football elsewhere next year, the Titans shouldn’t look to the draft exclusively to fill out the position room. No, if all of the above plays out as it may, they need to add at least one proven receiver via free agency. But even if they do that, they will likely add at least one receiver by the end of the Day 2 of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Round 1 | Kadarius Toney | Florida

If the Titans consider going with a receiver in the first round, Florida’s Kadarius Toney has to be high up on the list of potential picks. It’s probably safe to assume that players like DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Ja’Marr Chase will be off the board by the time the Titans come on the clock at 22nd overall. Fear not, because Toney isn’t just some consolation prize. He is absolutely worthy of a first round pick. Toney was electric in 2020, totaling more than 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns.

A former quarterback, Toney was moved around all over the offense in order to take advantage of favorable match-ups. In addition to playing a traditional role as a receiver, Toney was also used as a running back and in the wildcat formation as well. Toney is the definition of the word “weapon” and is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He has the elusiveness and change of direction skill to make defenders look silly in the open field.

Toney was at the Senior Bowl and further proved that he’s not just some gadget player. He has the skill set and route running ability to beat press coverage in one-on-one situations as a traditional threat on the boundary.

Adding Toney to what’s an already explosive offense in Tennessee would be a lot of fun to watch.

Round 2 | Amon-Ra St. Brown | USC

This year’s class of wide receivers is incredibly deep. The second and third rounds may be the sweet spot for the plethora of talents that are going to be available. The Titans have had luck at the position in the second round as of late. This is where they drafted A.J. Brown in the 2019 NFL Draft.

The rest of the country doesn’t always get enough exposure to the talent coming out of the PAC-12. USC’s Amon-Ra St. Brown is one of those players that is being slept on a bit. St. Brown only played in six games this past season due to COVID-19 shortening their season, but he did more than enough to prove why he’s one of the top pass catchers in the nation by scoring seven touchdowns in those six games.

St. Brown has terrific size. He comes in around 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds. On tape, he’s a dynamic receiver who easily creates separation against press man coverage. He also does some excellent work after the catch, something that the Titans love to see in their offense. He would be an easy fit as a Corey Davis replacement on the outside should Davis take his talents elsewhere in free agency.

If you’re looking for a negative on him, St. Brown is prone to the occasional drop and USC limited the amount of routes they asked him to run.

All in all, this is an excellent athlete that has a chance to be a steal in the second round.

Round 3 | D’Wayne Eskridge | Western Michigan

Welcome to the D’Wayne Eskridge hive. This is a player I’ve been high on for several months now. I actually featured him in my interview series over at Music City Miracles back in October.

I’ve enjoyed seeing the rest of the nation jump on Eskridge bandwagon after he went down to the Senior Bowl a few weeks ago and put in an excellent performance.

Eskridge lacks ideal size at 5-foot-9 and 188 pounds, but it’s tough to find many holes in his game beyond the size factor. A former defensive back that has spent time at both positions simultaneously, Western Michigan finally allowed Eskridge to settle in at receiver on a permanent basis and it was the right decision.

I fell in love with Eskridge’s tape for a variety of reasons. Despite his size limitations, he was almost uncoverable on the boundary at times in 2020. This isn’t a slot receiver due to his size. In my opinion, Eskridge has the tools to survive on the outside in the pro’s as well. There’s obviously a big difference in talent from the MAC to the NFL, but his pro team should at least give him a chance to prove himself on the outside before trying to move him inside.

Despite having to also focus on being a defensive back in college, Eskridge is surprisingly advanced as a route runner. Western Michigan asked him to run every route and he did so with impressive results. This isn’t a raw player that is still getting used to his position. He is well developed and produced at a high level. If you want to get familiar with him, I highly suggest you watch his 2020 games against Toledo and Central Michigan.

Eskridge is also an excellent special teams player where he played both as a returner and as a gunner. This is a fun, electric playmaker that will impact the game at the next level in more ways than one.

Round 3 | Amari Rodgers | Clemson

Just like I did in my EDGE scenario last week, I’m offering an alternative option here in the third round since the Titans currently own two picks in this round.

All Amari Rodgers does is get open. That’s all he did in college, that’s all he did at the Senior Bowl, and it’s what he’ll do at the next level as well.

While I wouldn’t draft Rodgers in the first or second round, this feels like a player that you know is going to be a good one. He became Clemson’s No. 1 passing weapon in 2020 and responded with a 1,020 yard season.

Clemson did everything they could to get the ball in his hands and he thrived with every opportunity. Whether it was from a traditional platform as a slot receiver, or manufactured touches such as bubble screens, Rodgers makes exciting things happen after the catch thanks to his vision and physicality as a ball-carrier.

The knock on Rodgers is that he’s undersized (5-foot-9) and lacks flexibility. He’s almost certainly a slot-only receiver at the next level, but one that can get open and make special things happen with the ball in his hands.

He would be a terriric replacement for Humphries.

Round 4 | Seth Williams | Auburn

This is a player that interests me for a number of reasons. Firstly, Seth Williams features terrific size at 6-foot-2, 224 pounds.

We’d be talking a lot more about Auburn’s duo of receivers (the other one being Anthony Schwartz) if they played with a better quarterback. Williams in particular suffered from the lack of a passing game, as Pro Football Focus states that only 63% of his targets since 2019 were deemed catchable, the lowest rate of any WR in the SEC.

Yikes. When Williams did receive opportunities to make plays on the ball, we saw a receiver that possesses smooth hands at the catch point. Williams also thrived in contested catch situations. It’s not a surprise given his large frame, but not every big receiver understands how to use their size to their advantage. Williams does.

Williams strikes me as the kind of player that will be a better pro player than he was in college. He could offer terrific value during the early portion of Day 3.

Round 5 | Marquez Stevenson | Houston

Do you like speed? Houston’s Marquez Stevenson possesses it in bunches.

Stevenson’s deep speed was well on display throughout the week in Mobile.

And that’s how he fits at the next level. As a dynamic vertical threat that can stretch the field. Every NFL offense can benefit from having players like Stevenson on their team, and you can argue that the Titans don’t have one at all currently. Having a player like Stevenson on the field keeps the defense honest.

Stevenson regularly embarrassed opposing corners in the FBS. Despite never playing with a great or accurate quarterback, Stevenson totaled nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

Stevenson would also add some special teams value with three career kick return touchdowns to his name. He should be available on Day 3.

Round 6 | Cade Johnson | South Dakota State

Small school alert. South Dakota State’s Cade Johnson has been on my radar for a while now. I interviewed him back in August of 2020. Fast forward to now, and his draft story is off to a compelling start. When an FCS player looks like he belongs at the Senior Bowl, you take notice. That’s exactly what Johnson looked like a few weeks ago.

Johnson was a big-time playmaker for the Jackrabbits. He holds the school’s all-time single-season record for touchdown receptions (17 in 2018) and single-season record for kickoff return yards (839 in 2017).

In terms of where Johnson wins, I can praise a variety of skills and traits here. He is excellent in the open field where his vision and elusiveness lead to a lot of yards after catch. He is a sound route runner and displays strong, competitive hands at the catch point.

Johnson should compete for reps in the slot as an NFL player, while also offering some great value as a kick and punt returner.

Round 7 | Josh Palmer | Tennessee

As it stands now, the Titans don’t have a seventh round pick in April’s draft, but we’re looking at a wide receiver in every round here, so let’s pretend pick 192 — the Titans’ second sixth-rounder and the final pick of the sixth round — comes one round later.

And I’m staying local for this one. Vols fans rejoice!

Palmer spent his first few seasons in Tennessee waiting in the wings behind players such as Marquez Callaway and Jauan Jennings, but made the most of his opportunity to become the school’s No. 1 receiver in 2020. He most recently capped off a strong season with an excellent Senior Bowl. Palmer had a good week of practice and caught a TD in the actual game:

Palmer is a good player with great size and overall athleticism. I’m excited to watch him play at the next level, because it’s entirely possible that Tennessee’s mess of a coaching staff and quarterback situation held him back in college.

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