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2021 NFL Draft: Finding a new John Brown

Deep threats aplenty in the upcoming draft

It’s become cliché at this point but NFL offenses should be built like basketball teams, and the Buffalo Bills are no exception. Cole Beasley, Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox and John Brown all have differing skillsets that make them a fit for different routes and ways of attacking defenses. Since he joined the team in the 2019 offseason, Brown’s role on the team has been that of a deep threat who can stretch the field, but also work underneath when defenses choose to prevent those deep shots. That role served him well in his first year with the team, leading to a career year with 1060 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Injuries slowed him down in 2020 however, as he only started eight games and finished with less yards than rookie Gabriel Davis.

Soon to be 31 years of age and in the final year of his contract, Buffalo would be wise to target a replacement for John Brown in the 2021 Draft. This conclusion is also helped by the fact that the upcoming draft is known for the pure depth and quality at wide receiver. Below are just some of prospects the team is likely to be interested in.

Tier I

Ja’Marr Chase (LSU)
Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)
DeVonta Smith (Alabama)

It’s unlikely that any of the players in this tier will be available when Buffalo picks without a trade up, but they’re still worth discussing. Opting out of the season, Chase doesn’t carry the same hype as the other two players, but he’s bigger, stronger and made just as many big plays as they did. His ability to make every catch, contested or otherwise, is what separates him. Waddle has the blazing speed required to be any team’s deep threat or gadget player of choice. He has the rare ability to take it to the house from anywhere on the field. Although he’s not as purely fast as Waddle, Smith is the niftier route runner and his short-area quickness means he’s just as big of a threat in the open field.

Tier II

Terrace Marshall Jr. (LSU)
Rondale Moore (Purdue)
Tutu Atwell (Louisville)
Elijah Moore WR (Ole Miss)

Marshall has the speed to be a deep threat, but, like a lesser version of his teammate Chase, he can be much more thanks to his bigger size and strong hands. Hyped as the one of the best receivers in college since his freshman year, Rondale Moore is diminutive but well-built and tough along with possessing wicked speed. He struggles with injuries and so-so hands hold him back. Atwell has the athletic talent to challenge the likes of Tyreek Hill and John Ross in a foot race, but his height at 5’9” and limited physicality means he might only end up as part-time deep threat or gadget player. Moore is much less of an athlete compared to some of the other players in the rankings, but he’s just as dangerous because of his routing from the slot and his willingness to catch everything. He’s also very well built for various roles.

Tier III

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)
Marquez Stevenson (Houston)
Amari Rodgers (Clemson)

Dyami Brown (UNC)

Coming from a lesser conference, Eskridge has a lot of learning to do on the subtleties of the position, but offers elite return ability as well. Stevenson is in the same boat, but ever smaller—kind of a jack of all trades, Rodgers is just fast enough, just big enough and just experienced enough to provide value in the return game but shouldn’t be expected to really excel there. His ceiling isn’t as high as most of the players on the list, but Brown offers a bit more size and a much more rounded skill set to ply.