Where will Palmer end up being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Josh Palmer’s Career In Knoxville
Palmer was a three-star recruit out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida when he joined the Vols in 2017. He started six games as a true freshman, but finished with just nine receptions for 98 yards. To be fair, he was buried on the depth chart by not only talented, but incumbent receivers Jauan Jennings, Marquez Callaway, Josh Smith, and Brandon Johnson.
Palmer became a major deep threat in 2018, evidenced by his SEC-leading 21-yards per catch, which also tied for fifth-best in the nation. He led the Vols with 10 20-yard plays and finished second on the team with 484 receiving yards. Palmer even added a rushing touchdown to his stat line.
The Vols offense clicked around the midway point of Palmer’s junior year, which led to a career-high in receptions (34), but his yardage (475 yards), average yards per catch mark (13.4), and receiving touchdowns (1) dropped.
However, Palmer became a better player that year. He was showing flashes of improved route-running and an ability to win over the middle. Those two abilities weren’t part of his game before the season started.
He continued to improve in 2020. Palmer set a career-high in receiving touchdowns (4), was one catch away from tying his career-high, and developed into Tennessee’s No. 1 receiver over the course of the season. Make no mistake: The Vols offense was dreadful in 2020. Absolutely dreadful. But Palmer still managed to produce despite the ineptitude that surrounded him.
Overall, he finished his career with 99 receptions, 1,514 receiving yards, and eight total touchdowns for the Vols.
How are his prospects looking for the draft?
- Dane Brugler, The Athletic: Round 5, Pick No. 162; Las Vegas Raiders
- Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Round 5, Pick No. 155; San Francisco 49ers
- Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Round 4, Pick No. 144; Kansas City Chiefs
- Pro Football Focus: Round 3, Pick No. 84; Chicago Bears
- Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: Round 7, Pick No. 242; New England Patriots
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
Palmer’s draft stock is the epitome of his time at Tennessee: inconsistent. There are those like Iyer, who are probably attributing Palmer’s modest numbers to him and not Tennessee’s garbage-like offense that was on the field for the majority of his career.
But then you have those like the guys over at PFF who recognize what Palmer can do. They also recognize the fact that Palmer improved every year at Tennessee. He’s yet to reach his ceiling.
He’s already shown that he’s a deep threat. This is arguably the best part of his game. What makes him special is his ability to track the ball. The guy was one of the best to do it not just in the SEC, but the entire country. 69 of Palmer’s 99 career receptions went for first downs, so he knows how to pick up a first down when it’s needed.
Palmer is able to fight off defenders thanks to his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame and isn’t afraid to get physical. He’s excellent at adjusting to the ball and plays faster than his 4.51 40-yard dash lets on, which shows on tape.
Just check out this touchdown against Patrick Surtain II, who could be a top-10 pick in the draft:
WR Josh Palmer only had 475 yds / 4 TDS this year but two of them were long catches over Patrick Surtain II and Tyson Campbell pic.twitter.com/SW4rWFBx77— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) April 3, 2021
And then don’t forget his touchdown against potential first-round cornerback Tyson Campbell. This is a perfect example of Palmer’s ability to track the ball and adjust to the pass:
And as you can see in the previous play, he’s a pretty good route runner, too. There’s a lot to like about Palmer if you’re an NFL GM.
He doesn’t have a strong burst off the line of scrimmage, but he can fly once he gets going. Palmer’s agility and change of direction offset that, however. The latter is important when it comes to route running, which is a bigger factor for receivers in the NFL, anyway.
Palmer also played in pro-style offense under Jim Chaney for two years, so he’s used to NFL terminology and concepts. He’s still raw, but a good coaching staff and the right situation is all he needs to grow.
Like Smith, whomever gets Palmer is going to be satisfied with the result(s). He has tremendous upside and can really play outside or inside for an NFL offense.
It’s all about value with Palmer. PFF has him as their second-best value in the draft when basing the criteria off where he will be selected. But Palmer will still be a value even if he’s taken in the third round like PFF projects. As long as he goes into a good situation, he should have a good career in the NFL.