2021 NFL Draft: Six sleeper wide receivers to watch

2021 NFL Draft prospect Elijah Cooks (Photo by David Calvert-USA TODAY Sports)
2021 NFL Draft prospect Elijah Cooks (Photo by David Calvert-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Ihmir Smith-Marsette, 2021 NFL Draft
2021 NFL Draft prospect Ihmir Smith-Marsette #6 of the Iowa Hawkeyes (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Iowa

A player who was hurt this year by the poor play of his teammates is Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette. The Hawkeyes were led by one of the worst starting quarterbacks in college football in Spencer Petras, which severely limited the impact Smith-Marsette could make this season.

When Smith-Marsette was playing with a capable quarterback in Nate Stanley in 2019, he proved he had the potential to be at least a number three receiver in the NFL. That year Smith-Marsette averaged 16.4 yards on 44 receptions and also rushed for three touchdowns. In addition to being a playmaker for Iowa’s offense, he was also one of the more dynamic kick returners in the country as he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns that season.

As a prospect Smith-Marsette shows nice quickness and the ability to either make yards after the catch or be a deep threat in the passing game. In fact, he was graded as the 10th-best receiver on targets of at least 20 yards in 2019 by Pro Football Focus. He also shows nice agility and can adjust to the poorly thrown ball. One more positive and one that could earn him a spot on an NFL roster is his ability to return kicks.

On the downside, he is not the most physical receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft and has made some poor choices both on and off the field. This includes being injured in a touchdown celebration and being arrested for an OWI. I look for Smith-Marsette to be a fifth or sixth-round draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft and a good value in that range.