With the 77th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Los Angeles Chargers selected Josh Palmer, a receiver from Tennessee. Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Palmer moved to Florida prior to his junior year of high school. There, he played football at St. Thomas Aquinas, a national powerhouse in the high school football scene. He committed to the University of Tennessee, where he played all four years. Though his production at Tennessee was lackluster, he still showed that he could be talented at the NFL level in the Senior Bowl.
Though his collegiate stats were concerning for NFL scouts, Palmer was determined to prove he was worth a draft pick. With an impressive outing at the Senior Bowl, Palmer proved his worth, and brought into quesiton his dubious Tennessee career. Much like DK Metcalf at Ole Miss, Palmer spent all of his time at Tennessee without a solid starting quarterback. That is not to compare Metcalf and Palmer, as they play different styles of receiver, but it is near-impossible for a receiver to show out without a reliable passer. With all that said, what are Palmer’s biggest strengths and weaknesses? Can he prove his worth in a highly-talented receiver room in LA? And can he, like new teammate Keenan Allen, rise above his projected value as a third-round pick and become a future star? This is the Josh Palmer rookie profile.
- Can sell routes with quick, tight angles. Josh Palmer, like teammate Keenan Allen, can break routes and make quick cuts with ease. Can fool defenders with sharp cuts to allow separation.
- Excellent spatial and situational awareness. Palmer has NFL wideout-level awareness when it comes to his positioning on the field, and is highly-skilled at playing closer to the boundaries. This allows for a reliable option for quarterback Justin Herbert for quick yard gains while preventing clock runoff.
- Physical against press coverage. Cornerbacks who are able to effectively jam receivers on the line are common in the NFL, so being able to give harder than what he gets and overpower the corners is a desirable trait. Given his sturdy size of 6’1, 210 pounds, he outweighs most corners in the league, and can use that to his advantage, even at the NFL level.
- Lack of elite burst speed in route running. This was probably what hurt his draft stock the most, even more than his lackluster stats in college. His lack of initial burst speed makes it troublesome for him to create separation on deep balls. Therefore, he relies too heavily on route-running and his excellent body control to make difficult catches.
- Lackluster college film. This aforementioned issue with Palmer can be attributed mainly to shaky quarterback play in 2020, when he had finally earned the WR1 role. Regardless, his lack of production made him slip under the radar for many teams, even if he does have impressive physical talents.
- Lack of elite burst speed after catch. Tying into the aforementioned lack of route-running burst speed, Palmer struggles to outrun cornerbacks after the catch. Palmer can at least make use of his athleticism and solid hands to generate catches, but a lack of ability to create separation after the catch can prove difficult with elite tacklers on the NFL stage.
With all that said, can Josh Palmer succeed in the NFL? Can he exceed the modest expectations set for him by the nature of third-round picks? Can he prove that he really was an unpolished gem, waiting to shine in the right setting?
It is certainly possible. Palmer, though lacking in speed, has elite athleticism and solid ball-catching. He can make difficult catches with ease, even without the separation he could have with elite speed. With a solid quarterback, which the Chargers definitely have covered, Palmer can thrive as a third or possibly second option next to Allen. This was the Josh Palmer rookie profile.