Chatarius Atwell 2021 Fantasy & Dynasty Outlook with Rams
Matthew Maxey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Tutu Atwell.
Chatarius Atwell Fantasy Profile
Tutu Atwell Fantasy Fit with Rams
If I actually liked Atwell as a prospect, then maybe I could get excited about his landing spot — especially with his Round 2 draft capital — but who am I kidding? Even then, I wouldn’t care.
Tutu Atwell getting ready to do his best Tavon Austin impersonation.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) May 1, 2021
In Los Angeles, Atwell will be behind wide receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp in target priority, probably tight end Tyler Higbee and maybe even wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Van Jefferson.
In a perfect world, Atwell would play a Jacksonian role as a seam-stretching deep threat who opens up the field for everyone else while also creating big-play opportunities for himself — but there are a few problems with that idea.
- Atwell lacks Jackson’s actual speed.
- He might not see enough playing time to impact the way his offense plays.
- The Rams might choose to let D-Jax play the D-Jax role instead of Atwell.
Even if Atwell overtakes Jackson and Jefferson and becomes a regular in three-wide sets, he could still struggle to earn targets.
While he should eventually carve out a role in the offense, I am skeptical about Atwell as a fantasy producer in 2021 … and likely beyond.
Dynasty Fantasy Analysis
Note: The following was written before the NFL Draft.
Atwell is pocket small, slow for his size, limited to the slot, unable to break tackles, unproductive as a runner and returner, underdeveloped as a route runner and in possession of a branchless route tree.
Other than that, he’s flawless.
A four-year starter as a dual-threat quarterback in high school, Atwell was the Miami-Dade County Player of the Year as a senior and a three-star recruit entering college, where he quickly transitioned to receiver and became an immediate contributor for a Louisville team lacking a true No. 1 pass-catcher. With 24-406-2 receiving in 12 games, Atwell finished 2018 as a top-three receiver for the Cardinals.
Following up his successful freshman campaign, Atwell exploded in 2019, leading Louisville with an impressive 69-1,272-11 receiving in 13 games before closing out his college career with 46-625-7 receiving in nine games in 2020.
What Atwell has going for him is that he broke out early and is entering the NFL early.
And maybe he could go as early as Round 2. Mel Kiper Jr. thinks that’s possible.
Kiper has Tutu Atwell, Anthony Schwartz, D'Wayne Eskridge, and Simi Fehoko all going in Round 2 https://t.co/1UfbHRGXV2
— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) April 17, 2021
I don’t think a Round 2 selection is especially likely, but with his big-play ability and outstanding production, an NFL team could choose to invest significant draft capital in him.
Only on occasion did Atwell venture out of the slot in college (per SIS, 2021 Sports Info Solutions Football Rookie Handbook).
Slot Snap Rate
- 2018: 98%
- 2019: 83%
- 2020: 88%
In his sophomore season, in particular, Atwell was one of the best slot receivers on a per-route basis we’ve seen in the Power Five over the past decade.
Highest single-season yards per route run averages from the slot among Power 5 WRs since 2016:
1. DeVonta Smith, 2020 (5.6)
2. Jaylen Waddle, 2018 (4.5)
3. Tutu Atwell, 2019 (4.4)
4. Greg Dortch, 2017 (3.6)
5. Jerry Jeudy, 2018 (3.6)
6. Elijah Moore, 2020 (3.6)
— Austin Gayle (@PFF_AustinGayle) April 10, 2021
In fact, his per-route efficiency as a sophomore is unrivaled in the 2021 draft class, even when we compare it to the most efficient seasons of the top receiving prospects (per SIS).
Highest Yards per Route in a Season
- Tutu Atwell (2019): 4.4
- Jaylen Waddle (2018): 4.0
- Kadarius Toney (2019): 3.7
- DeVonta Smith (2019): 3.5
- Ja’Marr Chase (2019): 3.3
- Rondale Moore (2019): 2.9
- Rashod Bateman (2019): 2.6
- Elijah Moore (2020): 2.1
- Terrace Marshall (2020): 1.9
At his best Atwell is a playmaker, and there is indeed a little bit of DeSean Jackson to his game.
Desean Jackson. pic.twitter.com/MPcGdKOO2F
— GMFB (@gmfb) April 14, 2021
But Atwell lacks Jackson’s speed and even Jackson’s size. At the Louisville pro day, Atwell weighed in 10 pounds lighter than his listed playing weight, and he was significantly slower in his 40-yard dash than his previously reported home-cooked times of 4.27 to 4.38 seconds.
Official results from @UofLFootball pro-day. Dez Fitzpatrick continuing momentum off a strong Reese's Senior Bowl game:
40 4.43/4.45👀 (NFL scouts ⏱️)
WR Tutu Atwell
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 30, 2021
If a guy is small, he better be a burner, but Atwell isn’t — and he’s incredibly small.
In other words, Atwell is no Jackson.
The small receivers who have NFL success tend to do more than just catch the ball in college: They also stand out as runners and returners. Jackson did. Atwell did not.
- DeSean Jackson (36 games): 24-199-1 rushing | 38-633-6 punt returning
- Tutu Atwell (34 games): 12-26-1 rushing | 4-84-0 punt returning
Atwell’s lack of ancillary production is concerning, and it might indicate that he is not truly the playmaker he seems to be.
Honestly, Atwell’s subpar pro day should not have surprised us. As a recruit, he flashed near-elite agility and explosiveness, but even then he was slow for his size. If Atwell had been a speedster in high school, he would have had more than three stars.
- Size: 5-foot-9 and 141 pounds
- 40 time: 4.50 seconds
- 20-yard shuttle: 4.01 seconds
- Vertical jump: 39.3 inches
I think we can see Atwell’s agility and explosiveness on the field. On screen passes, Atwell is a slippery after-the-catch runner, and it’s probably not a coincidence that he saw 40 of his 140 receptions in college on screens (per Pro Football Focus).
And in the slot, where he can avoid the press from physical corners, he shows great burst getting into his routes.
But Atwell has little versatility to his game. He doesn’t go across the middle of the field. He doesn’t line up on the perimeter. He doesn’t challenge defenders on contested catches. He doesn’t separate from cornerbacks with sharp routes. It’s pretty much screens and go routes — and that might work in college — but I doubt it will work in the NFL, especially with Atwell’s lack of truly special speed.
It’s easier to hit home runs against weaker pitchers in smaller ballparks, right? Atwell probably won’t be a reliable big-play slugger in the NFL.
If Atwell lands in an offense that can regularly scheme receivers open, then he has a shot to develop into a low-end boom-or-bust fantasy contributor, but he might be nothing more than a long-term rotational receiver with occasional gadget usage.
NFL Prospect Comp: Taylor Gabriel with draft capital and fewer college seasons but far less ancillary production and no proven perimeter ability
Matthew Freedman is 1,018-828-37 (55.1%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.