With the NFL turning more and more into an aerial league, wide receivers have become that much more important to a team’s success. We have seen wide receivers go higher and higher in the NFL Draft in recent years as teams are putting more of an emphasis on the position.
With an infusion of young receivers and so many superstars already in the league at the position, there are always a few players that slip through the cracks. Whether it be a bigger named teammate overshadowing them, or playing for teams that don’t get on national television much, they don’t get the recognition they deserve.
Which wide receivers are ready to break out and become household names? Here are five of the most underrated wide receivers in the NFL heading into the 2021 season.
5. Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons
For years whenever anyone thought of the Atlanta Falcons passing game, they would instantly think of Julio Jones, and rightfully so. Jones is one of the best wide receivers of this generation and has a Hall of Fame resume. Opposite of him, Calvin Ridley has been making a name for himself as well.
Ridley has been great for the Falcons since they selected him 26th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. He has at least 821 receiving yards or seven touchdowns in each of his first three seasons in the league. His 2020 was extremely impressive, as he compiled 1,374 yards on 90 receptions with nine touchdowns, picking up the slack as Jones battled injuries.
This will be the last time Ridley makes a list like this, as he is going to break out in a big way in 2021, especially with Jones being traded to the Tennessee Titans. It won’t be long until Ridley is a household name as well.
4. Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
When people discuss the Seattle Seahawks wide receivers, D.K. Metcalf is the first name that comes to mind. Photos of him working out have gone viral as he looks like a real-life Incredible Hulk. Opposite him, Tyler Lockett has carved out quite a role for himself as well.
Lockett led the Seahawks in receiving in 2018 and 2019. His stature, as he stands only 5’10” weighing 182 pounds, makes people believe he can’t get it done on the outside, but Lockett is a versatile player that gets it done no matter where he lines up on the field.
He has broken the 1,000-yard receiving mark two seasons in a row as the Seahawks offense has opened up with Russell Wilson under center. Lockett has caught at least six touchdowns in four of his six seasons in the NFL and has at least 555 receiving yards in every season.
Arguably the most impressive thing is that Lockett has never missed a game in his six-year career.
3. Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers
Keenan Allen is a legitimate No. 1 receiver in the NFL despite flying under the radar virtually his whole career. He was selected by the Chargers in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft and started his career with a bang, catching 71 passes for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. He has not slowed down his production since.
Allen has four 1,000+ yard seasons on his resume and fell eight yards short of making it five, as he finished with 992 yards in 2020. Had he not been injured in 2015 he would have undoubtedly added another 1,000-yard season, as he caught 67 passes for 725 yards and four touchdowns in only eight games. He has caught at least 97 passes in four consecutive seasons, as he was a reliable target for Philip Rivers and will remain one for Justin Herbert.
Playing on the West Coast for a team that draws as little fanfare as the Chargers is as big of a reason as any that Allen continues flying under the radar.
2. Terry McLaurin, Washington Football Team
Not much was expected from Terry McLaurin when the Washington Redskins selected him in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Ohio State. However, he quickly took over as the team’s No. 1 receiver and continues to hold onto that spot as we head into the 2021 season.
McLaurin caught 58 passes for 919 yards and seven touchdowns during his rookie season. He topped those numbers as a sophomore, compiling 87 receptions for 1,118 yards and four touchdowns.
What makes those numbers even more impressive is that he was doing it with underwhelming quarterback play. Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Tyler Heinicke and Alex Smith are who Washington has had under center thus far in McLaurin’s career.
With Ryan Fitzpatrick taking over as quarterback this season, you know there will be some highlight-reel plays and national attention given to Washington.
1. Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals
When you think of the Cincinnati Bengals, the first name that comes to mind for wide receivers is A.J. Green. However, Green hasn’t led the team in receiving yards since 2017. The player who has, before Tee Higgins did in 2020, was Tyler Boyd.
Boyd has quietly turned into one of the more steady, productive receivers in the NFL. Boyd had back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons in 2018 and 2019. He still had a strong 2020 with 841 yards and four touchdowns despite Joe Burrow playing in only 10 games before he injured his knee.
With Burrow back under center, Higgins and Ja’Marr Chase working on the outside, Boyd should continue performing as one of the best slot receivers in the league.