Creating the perfect SEC wide receiver for 2021
The SEC lost a number of elite wide receivers this year to the NFL Draft. Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith were all top-10 picks. Kadarius Toney was also a first-round selection. And Elijah Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr. both came off the board in Round 2.
That’s a lot of elite talent to replace across the conference. But the guys who return this fall look ready to continue the SEC’s trend of producing some of the best receivers in the nation.
When it comes to building the perfect SEC receiver, though, we can only use the best qualities from the very best players.
So, here are the attributes we’d use to craft the perfect SEC wide receiver for the upcoming 2021 campaign:
Hands: Cam Johnson, Vanderbilt
Per SEC StatCat, Johnson had 17 “contested” targets in 2020 and caught 11 of those passes. That’s a 64.7% success rate. That’s impressive. No, Vanderbilt wasn’t impressive in 2020, going 0-9 overall.
But Johnson stood out, becoming freshman QB Ken Seals’ go-to target. He led the team with 56 catches for 545 yards and also had 3 touchdowns. During his time at Vanderbilt, he has shown a knack for making catches in traffic, securing the ball and getting up the field. Here are just a few examples of his good hands:
Ken Seals finds Cam Johnson for the TD to get Vandy (+14) on the board trailing 17-7#BarstoolSportsbook
— Bet The Pigskin (@betthepigskin) October 10, 2020
This week on Key Play — I’ll break down Vanderbilt’s game-winning touchdown pass from Riley Neal to Cam Johnson that helped snap Missouri’s five-game win streak.
— Eric Blum (@ByEricBlum) October 21, 2019
— Sideline CFB (@SidelineCFB) December 12, 2020
Vanderbilt likely won’t get much attention nationally this fall either, but the connection between Seals and Johnson is worth watching. Johnson will be in a new offensive system this year, but he has the talent to continue making big plays for the Commodores.
Size: Treylon Burks, Arkansas
At 6-3 and 225 pounds, Burks has the prototypical receiver size and strength. We’ve seen a lot of smaller, faster guys dominate in the SEC in recent years. Heck, DeVonta Smith just won the Heisman and he was listed at 175 pounds. Jaylen Waddle, Elijah Moore and others also had big 2020 seasons.
There are still plenty of advantages to having a bigger body, though. Burks used every inch of his 6-3 frame to snag this 1-handed touchdown and get his foot down in the end zone against Ole Miss:
Hello Treylon Burks you have my attention pic.twitter.com/graGACRzAU
— Ryder McConville (@RyderM25) May 6, 2021
He’s really tough for defenders to bring down, too. These would-be tacklers found that out the hard way:
Feleipe Franks ➡️ Treylon Burks 🎯
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 26, 2020
Treylon Burks is my early 2022 WR1.
He can play as the X and from the slot, but he's a chess piece that gets moved around the formation. Sharp route running, great hands, solid size/speed combo and he's dangerous with the ball in his hands.
Reminds me of A.J. Brown. #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/LOkkcdpcaV
— Luca Sartirana (@SartiranaLuca) May 5, 2021
He should be in for a huge year in 2021. With KJ Jefferson poised to take over the QB position from Feleipe Franks, and with Mike Woods transferring to Oklahoma, a lot of balls should be thrown Burks’ way. He’ll make the most of his opportunities.
Versatility: Jaden Walley, Mississippi State
Walley had a big freshman year, particularly in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss. He set a Mississippi State record for most receiving yards by a freshman in a single game by recording 176 yards against the Rebels.
Many of those yards came on this incredible play:
— that SEC podcast (@thatSECpodcast) November 29, 2020
There’s no Kadarius Toney type of player in this year’s crop of receivers. Mookie Cooper or Jalen Knox at Mizzou might be the closest thing to Toney. But Walley is versatile in different ways. Here, he lines up in the slot and takes on a pair of defenders before getting free for a touchdown:
Jaden Walley is emerging as a star for Mississippi State. Last four games:
⭐️ 7 catches, 115 yards, 1 TD vs Georgia
⭐️ 9 catches, 176 yards vs Ole Miss
⭐️ 8 catches, 100 yards vs Auburn
⭐️ 5 catches, 129 yards, 1 TD vs Missouri
He’s a true freshman👀pic.twitter.com/AdQPXwZ5nl
— Tru Maroon Nation (@TruMaroonNation) December 20, 2020
He lines up all over the field and just makes plays. He’s not afraid to go across the middle. He can line up as a true “X” and make plays. He does it all in this highlight video:
🔻Mississippi State WR Jaden Walley (FR)
🔻48 Rec 691 YDS 2 TD
🔻4 consecutive 100 yard games
🔻Speed and YAC threat
🔻Great footwork in and out of cuts
🔻Special Teams Returner
🔻C2C must buy 💰 Devy sleeper pic.twitter.com/wm34e4A1G6
— Kevin (@Daboys_22) December 31, 2020
I trust Mike Leach to continue to put Walley in positions to succeed. He’s going to become a star this fall.
Speed: Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Boutte has been clocked at 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which is fast, but not elite. But when you watch him on the field, he has such an effortless speed. He looks like he’s only running at half-speed sometimes. Then, all of a sudden, he’s leaving defenders in the dust.
This entire highlight reel against Ole Miss is impressive, but watch the first play. Boutte makes a catch, dodges a tackle and then effortlessly makes his way to the end zone:
14 Rec. 308 Rec Yds. 3 TD.
🔥 LSU single-game rec yds record
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 20, 2020
He simply outruns the Auburn defender on this touchdown, too:
— Greg Brandt (@devywarehouse) October 31, 2020
He has speed that thrills on the field. Even if he doesn’t end up running an elite 40-yard dash time, he has football speed.
Big-play ability: Jacob Copeland, Florida
Copeland only had 23 catches in 2020 for the Gators, as Trevon Grimes, Kadarius Toney and a guy named Kyle Pitts dominated the targets from QB Kyle Trask. But of every Gator who made more than 1 catch in 2020, Copeland averaged the most yards per reception at 18.9 yard per grab. That average also leads all returning SEC receivers.
Watch as he easily gets inside position on an LSU defender here for a 19-yard touchdown (right at his average):
This catch from a different part of the LSU game was good for 40 yards. It could have been a lot more if he hadn’t been tripped up by the defender:
Here he is making a big play on a pass from likely 2021 starter Emory Jones:
Champion Mindset: Jacob Copeland poised for breakout year
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) February 26, 2021
That’s a great catch from Copeland, who goes up and makes an amazing grab. That will give Jones a lot of confidence in him.
The question this year is how he’ll fare in the big-play department when he’s counted on to make a heck of a lot more than 23 catches. My guess? He’ll be just fine, as he has the natural skills to fight for position deep down the field and Jones has a cannon for a right arm.
Red-zone ability: John Metchie III, Alabama
Even on a team with 2 first-round NFL Draft picks at receiver (Heisman winner DeVonta Smith and the speedy Jaylen Waddle), Metchie still managed to make 6 touchdown catches. That’s good for the 3rd-most touchdowns among all returning SEC receivers, behind only Treylon Burks and Dontario Drummond, who both had 7 touchdowns.
DeVonta Smith was, by far, the best receiver in the red zone last year. But even playing alongside Smith, Metchie made 6 red-zone grabs. He was particularly good in the Iron Bowl.
This play is just outside the red zone, but Metchie shows how he can get open in tight spaces:
John Metchie III : 6 catches for 55 yards & 2 TD's (2nd 2 TD game this season) pic.twitter.com/LtZ1VN87KT
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) November 29, 2020
And, on this play, he shows how he can get past the zone defenders and still find a spot in time for a pass to be delivered at the back of the end zone:
Mac Jones to John Metchie TD @AlabamaFTBL! 14-0 Tide
via CBS/SEC pic.twitter.com/6Th7NnngSU
— Ray Teodora (@rayteodora1) November 28, 2020
He’s going to be Bryce Young’s best friend this fall. With Smith and Waddle off to the NFL, Metchie’s experience is going to be relied upon heavily in the red zone.