What L.A. Chargers are getting in Tennessee's Josh Palmer in 2021 NFL Draft
Tennessee wide receiver Josh Palmer improved his draft stock throughout a steady senior season and then turned heads with his performance at the Senior Bowl.
The Los Angeles Chargers took notice and selected Palmer in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft on Friday with the No. 77 overall pick.
Here’s what Palmer will bring to the NFL.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Palmer has good size and ball-tracking ability. He was a downfield threat throughout his Tennessee career and showed a knack for outdueling quality SEC cornerbacks in 1-on-1 coverage.
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He’s a steady route runner.
As his career advanced, he became more than just a deep threat and emerged during his senior season as the Vols’ top target at every level of the defense.
“He's one of the few guys who actually beat (Alabama cornerback Patrick) Surtain down the field this year, who had a touchdown against him,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said during a March teleconference. “Really good Senior Bowl week. A lot of 50/50 ball wins.”
Palmer, a native of Ontario, Canada, displayed his skills during a 2020 game against Georgia when he caught four passes for 71 yards, including touchdown catches of 36 and 27 yards in which he beat 1-on-1 coverage on 50/50 balls. His hands improved as his career progressed.
Palmer caught 99 passes for 1,514 yards and seven touchdowns. Those figures almost certainly would have been better had Tennessee had stronger quarterback play throughout Palmer’s career.
Palmer isn’t slow, but he doesn’t have elite speed or burst off the line of scrimmage. He's not particularly elusive, and it can take Palmer awhile to separate from coverage.
Palmer didn’t emerge as Tennessee’s primary receiver until his senior year, and he never reached 500 yards receiving in a season.
Palmer’s production came in spurts. He recorded two receptions or fewer in 10 of 23 games during his final two seasons, although part of that inconsistency must be attributed to UT’s quarterback limitations.
Palmer is an intriguing prospect who received favorable reviews from draft experts. He’s a sleeper pick whose pro production could exceed what he did in college.
A former three-star recruit, Tennessee got good value from Palmer for four seasons, and he once again can become that diamond-in-the-rough prospect at the next level.
The way he tracks downfield passes and positions his body to come down with 50/50 balls should allow him to be a factor in the NFL.
Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.