*WR grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, Wonderlic test results leaked, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.

*WR-B stands for "Big-WR," a classification we use to separate the more physical, downfield/over-the-top, heavy-red-zone-threat-type WRs. Our WR-S/"Small-WRs" are profiled by our computer more as slot and/or possession-type WRs who are typically less physical and rely more on speed/agility to operate underneath the defense and/or use big speed to get open deep...they are not used as weapons in the red zone as much. 


Let’s light this fuse right away – I am not ruling out that little-known, low-ranked (nationally) Iowa WR Brandon Smith could be the best WR talent in this 2021 NFL Draft WR class.

Now people might roll their eyes if I propose widely respected Dwayne Eskridge as the top WR talent in the Draft…  And it’s seen as semi-insane, but still not too off-the-grid for me to espouse that Rondale Moore might be the top WR prospect in this Draft. However, if I were to proffer Brandon Smith as the top guy – then I really look like a draft loon, and for some people newer to my work, it damages all my other scouting takes.

But that’s fine, THEY can say what they want, I’ve got big shoulders…because every year I live this same Groundhog Day scouting life, watching THEM make wild scouting mistakes constantly and THEM all slavishly ‘liking’ the same prospects without any real study – THEY like to be a part of the THEY cult. Anyone not a part of the THEY cult is a sometimes-cute curiosity…but mostly is seen as a heretic who must be castigated/burned at the stake for different thinking.  Well, here I am again…

Let me set up some scouting boxes and throw a player into each box to show you my thinking on Smith and this WR class overall. And wait a moment before you go watch some Smith tape because you may not have heard of him pushed in this way yet, and probably have never seen him play…and now you want to. Just hold up a second, I’ll have a video link for you in a moment. I hadn’t seen him play before yesterday either. I watch all my college work after the season…and in all the top prospect (nationally) preview scouting reports or Senior Bowl work I’ve done, Smith wasn’t promoted anywhere for me to even want to preview/sample him prior to that. Smith’s case is shocking and new to me – and it’s why I love my job, days like this…discoveries like this. Back to the boxes, my boxes…let’s compartmentalize the top WR prospects – they are all too different to just claim one as ‘the best’.

The best ‘big guy’ WR that I’ve scouted so far = Nico Collins

The best slot WR/the best after the catch WR = Rondale Moore

The best feet off the snap in this draft/the best ability to get open on anyone = D’Wayne Eskridge

The best ‘hands’ I had seen until yesterday = Elijah Moore…when I scouted Brandon Smith.

Brandon Smith is (so far, in my studies) the best 0-10 yards away WR in this draft. Like a Michael Thomas style WR…only better/more athletic. Smith has a little old Odell Beckham Jr. in him as well – in his ability to make circus catches.

Oh, yeah…

The best ‘circus’ catching WR in this draft = Brandon Smith

From 0-10 yards away, Smith is a machine. Fast feet off the snap to get open quickly…amazing hands/catch concentration…a massive catch radius/wingspan (81.5” at 6’1”/218) and very athletic (39” vertical, 21 bench press reps). Before I describe him some more, it’s time for you to just sample some of his highlights…

And it’s important to take the full 4 minutes to watch the variety of catches, and his movements after the catch and the difficulty of bringing him down. Not that he is a tank rolling over people, just all muscle and athlete – tackling him is like an average sized person trying to reel in a giant marlin out on the open seas. Not easy to subdue the twisting, core strong, solid size, short-space quick athlete…or fish.

YouTube Brandon Smith highlights: https://youtu.be/D7MRu8mx7V8

Smith could be an absolute warrior from 0-10 yards if he’s paired with a high-end passer – he could be a star with Aaron Rodgers or Justin Herbert or Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes. He could be a star…if he is ever granted a chance to play in the NFL – that’s his first hurdle.

Why is no one really talking about Brandon Smith as a top WR talent in the mainstream? Three reasons…


1) He played for Iowa.

And Iowa is boring. No sexy skill players ever come out of Iowa (people perceive subconsciously). Gritty interior lineman and defenders come out of Iowa, not star wide receivers (Allen Lazard is the top WR that I’ve seen come out of Iowa in the past decade+, and that’s counting the entire state, since he went to Iowa State – the last WR from Iowa drafted in the top 100 overall is Quinn Early in 1988).

I see people showing pictures of Ja’Marr Chase without a shirt and oohing and ahhing over his physique, muscles, six pack abs. You may want to check out the guy on the left in this picture… https://twitter.com/_BSmith12/status/1367998212414509065/photo/1

Click on the 4-block picture and it will open up into four larger photos: https://twitter.com/SleeperAth1etes/status/1367996485116121090/photo/2

Why aren’t scouts ogling Smith’s body? Because no one cares about Iowa skill players. What else could be the reason?


2) He played in the Iowa offense.

Playing for Iowa would be like an NFL WR choosing to play with the Giants/Daniel Jones or Miami/Tua or NYJ/Darnold – your career is virtually ruined. Little upside output/number hope. A weak passing game to try to make hay in.

Iowa has the worst quarterbacks and even worse passing game plan for wide receivers. Iowa wants to run and overpower, and make safe, simple throws. Smith had all of 2 TDs in 7 games in the 2020 season…how can he shine/gain attention with those kinds of numbers? Note, his quarterback threw for 8 TDs in those 7 games…averaging fewer than 200 yards passing per game on the season…AND there were several talented WRs on the team to throw to (or in Iowa’s case…not to throw to).

Nico Collins was screwed (from national attention) by the Michigan offense. Smith (and others) were screwed by the Iowa offense in the same way.


3) All of Smith’s Pro Day measurements were first rate, except one…

6’1”/218…solid frame. Plus, 21 bench reps to go along with it.

34.25” arms/81.5” wingspan.

39” vertical, 10”10” broad jump…there’s power in those legs.

Record needle scratch sound here…4.64 40-time. That’s not good. How can a guy so athletic otherwise, be so slow(er)? I don’t know, but it hurts my heart. If he had run a 4.4s 40-time, I might say he’s the best all-around WR prospect in this draft. But he didn’t.

I can see he’s not 4.4s fast on tape. I could see the 4.6+ time…watching on tape (though I thought more 4.55 range). He’s not flying by coverage, but what he does do is use fast feet off the snap to get open quickly and make sharp/smart cuts and catch passes like a mother. He’s a technician from 0-10 yards, not a speedster WR you send deep as a decoy every other snap.

His 1.56 10-yard dash time might be a saving grace – that’s a good time and is why I say he might be the best 0-10 yards WR in this draft – Smith gets open quick, makes sharp cuts, quick darts away from hits after the catch…but he’s not going to score a bunch of 50+ yard TDs or take bubble screens; that’s not his game. He’s more of a lead the league in receptions type WR -- keep him to ‘his game’ and I think he’s a ‘winner’.

*Smith did run a 4.56 40-time (which I’d take in a second) at the House of Athletes event a few weeks ago – but I don’t trust their numbers. Everything Smith did there was better than his Iowa Pro Day…magically. But if 4.56 was true it would be huge compared to mid-4.6s at a Pro Day.

Off the field, everything looks good: a very nice, affable young man…always smiling. Part of the Iowa Football Leadership group. Academically solid in high school, but I have no info one way or the other on his college academics. He may have graduated with honors by one listing, but I cannot confirm it.

He dinged up his knee and missed a few games in 2019 season, further hiding him from the public…but he returned to action in 2019 by the end. It wasn’t a crippling/red flag injury.


Brandon Smith, Through the Lens of Our WR Scouting Algorithm:

 -- 2019 may have been his breakout that was thwarted by the minor knee injury. He caught 5 of his QB’s 11 TD passes in the 8 games he did play…a great ‘TD share’.

 -- It’s a hard to make a big deal, one way or the other, of his ‘stats’ in his career because he played with such awful QB play on a very stoic run-first offense. If you look at his ‘share’ of output, then you can start to see some of Smith’s hidden value.

2019 season ‘shares’ from Smith in his 8 games played…

Catches = 22.4% of his teams completed passes (not bad)

Yards = 22.1% yardage share (meh/OK)

Touchdowns = 45.5% TD share (nice)

Iowa was the 64th best passing team (by yards per game) in 2019 season.

In 2020, with a great WR group but an awful QB = 96th best passing team (put of 127). Pathetic…but also why Smith doesn’t have tantalizing numbers.

2021 Pro Day:

6’1.3”/218, 9.4” hands, 34.25” arm

4.64 40-time, 2.69 20-yard, 1.56 10-yard

21 bench press, 39” vertical, 10’10” broad jump

The Historical WR Prospects to Whom Brandon Smith Most Compares Within Our System:

Watching Smith unfold/reveal right before my very eyes during my studies, I thought two things…

1) I bet his athleticism ends up with the computer saying ‘Chris Conley’. But Conley fell out when the list got to the top 5-6 of the top 10 likely comps/matches. 

2) My eyes said he works like Davante Adams, the NFL version of this day…though I didn’t think the computer would see a match. But It did. 

I also thought of Donavan People-Jones, who is a lot better ‘pro’ WR than he gets credit for…thus he was silent all pre-Draft 2020 (like Smith will be all 2021). 

I did not think about Allen Robinson, but when I saw it – I loved it. It makes sense. Adams-ARob-DPJ all in a blender = Smith, to me. 


WR Score

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Power Strngth Metric

Speed Agility Metric

Hands' Metric
















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*A score of 7.0+ is where we start to take a Big-WR prospect more seriously. A score of 8.50+ is where we see a stronger correlation of a Big-WR going on to become NFL good/great/elite. A score of 10.00+ is more rarefied air in our system and indicates a greater probability of becoming an elite NFL Big-WR.

All of the WR ratings are based on a 0–10 scale, but a player can score negative, or above a 10.0 in certain instances.

Overall WR score = A combination of several on-field performance measures, including refinement for strength of opponents faced, mixed with all the physical measurement metrics, and rated historically in our database.

“Power-Strength” = A combination of unique metrics surrounding physical size profiling, bench press strength, etc.  High scorers here project to be more physical, better blockers, and less injury-prone.

“Speed-Agility” = A combination of unique metrics surrounding speed, agility, physical size, mixed with some on-field performance metrics. High scorers here project to have a better YAC and show characteristics to be used as deep threats/to create separation.

“Hands” = A combination of unique metrics surrounding on-field performance in college, considering the strength of opponents played. Furthermore, this data considers some physical profiling for hand size, etc. High scorers here have a better track record of college statistical performance. Everything combining to project catch-abilities for the next level.

2021 NFL Draft Outlook:

Is tracking as a 7th-round guy…if he’s even listed anywhere. Many basic, mainstream sites don’t have him among their top ‘whatever’ WRs. Dynasty/Fantasy sites don’t have him listed in most cases. A few places I see him 6th-round as a projection. In the end, I see him possibly climbing into the 5th-round. 

If I’m an NFL GM, I’m licking my chops – a top 100 prospect that I can get in the 5th-6th-7th-round. Great value here. 

NFL Outlook:   

Depends upon his draft slot, in reality, and his team he lands with. 

He could go 7th-round and be forgotten on some terrible team.


He could go 5th-round to a team with opportunity on the depth chart and one with a good+ passing QB, and then we can start getting a little excited about Smith in the NFL.