The first wide receiver picked in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft will almost certainly come from the SEC. There’s plenty of chatter surrounding whether Ja’Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith should be the first wideout off the board. On a recent ESPN draft podcast, Mel Kiper weighed in, giving the nod to the Heisman Trophy winner.

Kiper said he understood Chase’s decision to opt-out of LSU’s 2020 season but added that it hurt his draft stock.

“It was a terrible year overall for LSU on the field, but I think you look at Ja’Marr Chase you couldn’t have contact with opt-outs,” Kiper said. “Team scouts couldn’t go there, keep checks on them, work them out, do anything with the opt-outs. Had no contact with opt-outs. So how’s their body? How’s their weight? What have they been doing? How they’ve been training? All these things.”

Smith, on the other hand, boosted his stock while leading Alabama to a national championship.

“DeVonta Smith had a phenomenal year. DeVonta Smith went out and produced week after week against elite opposition,” Kiper said.

The ESPN analyst continued, adding, “And DeVonta did it all these years no matter who was with him. They took those receivers away. Jaylen Waddle gets hurt. ‘No problem. I’m still gonna like defenses up.’ So I’m gonna stick with the DeVonta Smith over Ja’Marr Chase, but there are a lot of people in the league that I’ve talked to that have Chase over Smith.”

The Chase-Smith debate will ultimately be settled in April. Until then, it will probably one of the more discussed media debates leading up to the draft.

[H/T The Spun]