2021 NFL Draft WR Watch: Jonathan Adams among big sleepers from smaller programs getting chance to turn heads

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Thus far, the college football season hasn’t been too kind to WR Watch. With the SEC and Big 10 yet to start — and the Pac-12 not planning to play this fall — the vast majority of the top wideout prospects simply haven’t played yet (or won’t play at all). 

Therefore, instead of providing a minimal update on the few receivers in my top 10 at the position who have seen the field at this point, this week’s WR Watch will provide a glimpse into the pass catchers who have had the opportunity to play and have impressed me. The prospects below have a chance to take full advantage of the fact that they’ll have a bigger spotlight than normal this season. 

Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama

Tolbert has a wiry, athletic frame for a larger receiver at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. Because he doesn’t have much “extra” weight on him, he’s relatively twitched up for that size and explodes out of his breaks as a route runner. But the true appeal with Tolbert comes with his smoothness and elusive ways after the catch, plus the fact that he tracks it outstandingly down the field. While not a major box-out rebounder, Tolbert is a hands-catcher who plays to every inch of his frame. He averaged 19.3 yards per grab with six scores on just 27 receptions last season and has 12 snags for 268 yards (22.3 yards per) with two scores in two games to start 2020. 

Tim Jones, Southern Mississippi 

Jones is your classic, sudden, chain-moving slot receiver who’s unafraid to make difficult grabs through contact over the middle and is not fun to corral in the open field. He’s averaged just over 12 yards per reception over the past two years, which indicates his reliability as a possession target. However, Jones has demonstrated big-play capabilities with 14 catches for 299 yards and two scores through a pair of contests for the Golden Eagles. 

Jonathan Adams, Arkansas State 

Adams dominated in Arkansas State’s surprising win at Kansas State with three touchdowns, all of which were stellar, contested catches. The first two were jump-ball fades from in the red zone. The third was an in-breaking game-winner with under one minute to play. Earlier in the game, Adams nearly made an outrageous one-handed snag in the end zone with a defender draped on him — and pass interference was called — but the catch was reversed. Adams is not a blazer but is a legitimate bully attacking the football at the catch point. His film is loaded with difficult catches at all levels of the field. After he flashed as a sophomore with a 15.7 yards-per-catch average, Adams caught 62 passes for 851 yards last year and has 14 receptions for 163 yards and those three scores in his first two outings of 2020. 

Reggie Roberson, SMU

Roberson’s had the burner reputation for a while now. In 2018 and 2019, he hit the 800-yard mark plateau with three scores in each campaign and averaged a combined 17 yards per reception. While he hasn’t stretched the field to that same degree just yet in 2020, Roberson has started hot this season with 15 catches for 202 yards and three touchdowns in SMU’s first two outings. A smaller wideout with good ball skills to go along with a serious long speed, Roberson is a fun niche player primed for a very productive year. 

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