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Opportunities don’t seem to be coming for Tutu Atwell

If Atwell isn’t going to be utilized, why wasn’t he getting reps in the preseason?

Rams, Bills, NFL Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

If there is one message that I want to be taken from this article, it is that no fan should ever be overly concerned about the return on investment of just one second round pick. Any franchise worth its weight in Lombardi trophies would not even place all the blame or credit on a single player even if he was the first overall the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Los Angeles Rams were able to survive the trade up for Jared Goff, not only the first overall pick but also at the cost of multiple day one and day two selections, to the tune of making the Super Bowl two years later and winning it all after trading Goff to the Detroit Lions. So there should be no irrational takes or an overt expression of disappointment based on a single Les Snead decision with the 57th overall pick in 2021.

There is a lot of room for disagreement. There is a valid argument, I’m sure, for the prospect that you would have rather had. From what I can tell, fans of at least two dozen franchises have spent the last 18 months bashing their GM for passing on Creed Humphrey.

But if Tutu Atwell never has an impact in the NFL, he will become a part of a group of underwhelming day two wide receivers that seems to be growing by the week.

Though the NFL has seen an influx of extraordinary wide receiver talents enter the league in the past five years, some of whom like Cooper Kupp were drafted on day two, those starters have been been outnumbered by the wideouts who have failed to capitalize on their pre-draft potential and the exciting possibilites that millions of fans fantasized about based on college tape, combine numbers, and fitting in with a pro-style offense.

These are the Day Two WR picks since 2017, broken up by “GOOD”, “GOOD ENOUGH”, and “WELL, NOT SO GOOD”


  • Good: Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin
  • Good Enough: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kenny Golladay, Curtis Samuel, Zay Jones
  • Well, Not So Good: Taywan Taylor, ArDarius Steward, Chad Williams, Amara Darboh, Carlos Henderson


  • Good: ???
  • Good Enough: Christian Kirk, Michael Gallup, Courtland Sutton, D.J. Chark
  • Well, Not So Good: Tre’Quan Smith, Anthony Miller, James Washington, Dante Pettis


  • Good: A.J. Brown, DK Metcalf, Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin, Diontae Johnson
  • Good Enough: Mecole Hardman?
  • Well, Not So Good: Miles Boykin, Parris Campbell, Andy Isabella, JJ Arcega-Whitside, Jalen Hurd


  • Good: Tee Higgins, Michael Pittman, Chase Claypool
  • Good Enough: Van Jefferson
  • Well, Not So Good: Laviska Shenault, Bryan Edwards, Devin Duvernay, K.J. Hamler, Denzel Mims, Lynn Bowden Jr

For any of these names who you want to argue for an upgrade to “Good” or “Good Enough” or that they have potential to get better, like the case of Denzel Mims believing he should start somewhere but the Jets making him a healthy scratch in Week 1, that’s all well and fine. I’ll just say that rare is the day two wide receiver who begins to find his footing after multiple seasons of no productions.

Certainly I believe that the 2018 “Good Enough” group of Kirk, Gallup, Sutton, and Chark could all be “Good”. I’m less convinced that any of the “Well, Not So Good” receivers are headed for upgrades.

With the 2021 wide receiver class, IT IS TOO EARLY TO JUDGE. That includes for Tutu Atwell. I’m not avoiding judgment with these players, I’m being a rational football fan who knows that the rookie campaign needs to have an asterisk. It counts but it also kind of doesn’t count. However, this season is the year that Atwell and his peers need to show up or risk being categorized in 2023 just as players like Mims and Isabella are being viewed in 2022.

Few fans are pounding the table for their GM to trade for Denzel Mims right now and we haven’t seen any evidence as to why they should be. As you can tell, there’s a greater than 50-percent chance that a day two wide receiver will have practically no career to speak of, so that tells me that every day two pick is worse than a coinflip.

That means that our expectations for Tutu Atwell have to be reasonable. Same as it is for the other day two wide receivers in 2021 who have yet to establish themselves in the league as significantly as some of their predecessors did as rookies, like Kupp, Brown, and Higgins.

Elijah Moore of the Jets, Rondale Moore of the Cardinals, Dee Eskridge of the Seahawks, and Terrace Marshall of the Panthers were also second round picks, like Atwell.

The third round saw the Chargers choose Josh Palmer, the Commanders choose Dyami Brown, the Packers choose Amari Rodgers, the Texans choose Nico Collins, and the Browns select Anthony Schwartz. If you think you’re disappointed about Tutu, consider how mad Aaron Rodgers is about Amari Rodgers:

So far, the most receiving yards by any 2021 day two pick is the 587 by Elijah Moore (in only 12 games), followed by 472 for Collins, 435 by Rondale Moore, and 358 by Palmer.

The only wide receiver in that group with zero yards is Tutu Atwell.

Which makes me wonder what made Tutu Atwell a protected asset in the preseason, especially given that he appears to still be buried on the depth chart. If Tutu can’t get opportunities in the preseason, and he can’t get opportunities during a Week 1 blowout loss to the Bills, what exactly has been Sean McVay’s plan for giving him those chances to develop as a wide receiver in game situations?

Often referred to as a training camp “star” this past August, Atwell got no snaps in the preseason. This despite the fact that he played quarterback in high school and only converted to wide receiver in 2018 at Louisville. Atwell had played in just 32 games as a wideout in college, then he got 10 offensive snaps in eight games as a rookie. Last preseason, Atwell was targeted 29 times in the preseason, catching 18 passes for 129 yards over three contests.

But that is basically all of the game situation work that Atwell has received between his last game at Louisville on November 28, 2020 and today.

In Week 1, Atwell received seven offensive snaps and he dropped his only target. I expected that Atwell would get and end around, jet sweep, screen, anything to just make sure that he had the ball in his hands and he could get his feet wet because it must be a jarring experience to suddenly be playing in front of 30 million people. Especially when you’re just a very fast and talented—but raw and inexperienced—football player trying to find his place on a championship roster.

Now it seems more obvious that Atwell’s place on that roster and on the depth chart is going to work against him getting opportunities from Matthew Stafford and McVay.

Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, and Ben Skowronek will rarely be coming off of the field. Skowronek, picked five rounds after Atwell, played in 88-percent of the Week 1 snaps and was targeted six times. Brandon Powell had two touches—one catch, one carry—on only three snaps.

We don’t even know if Atwell is one injury away from playing; he could be behind Powell and he might soon find himself lower on the pecking order than Lance McCutcheon, even if they’re very different kinds of players.

The only thing I know for sure is that if Tutu Atwell doesn’t somehow manage to become a part of the Rams offense, he will undoubtedly be seen the same as day two “busts” like Mims, Isabella, and many more recent draft picks in that range. I know that and the fact that if those are busts, well, then every single team has those. And it’s not that big of a deal.

But it sure would be nice if Atwell becomes Good Enough.