Film and Talent Profile
Over the years, there have been a plethora of ‘burner’ wide receiver prospects who’ve been relative busts with regards to fantasy production. Players like Phillip Dorsett, Breshad Perriman, Kevin White and more recently, John Ross and Henry Ruggs, have given fantasy players a bad taste in their mouths when it comes to wide receivers drafted in the 1st round of the NFL Draft who also happen to run a sub-4.4 forty yard dash.
Don’t make the mistake of lumping Jaylen Waddle into that group.
While Waddle undoubtedly possesses elite top end and straight line speed, he also has many traits that differentiate him from the guys named above. Waddle displays an uncanny ability to vary his speed with the ball in his hands. When combined with his exceptional spatial awareness and timing, this is one of his deadliest qualities.
Dynamism and Vision
Contested Catch Ability
Hands down, the single most underrated aspect of Waddle’s game is his ability to go up and snag the ball off of the top shelf. He simply doesn’t get enough credit for his strong hands, and exceptional body control.
Production / Analytic Profile
Episcopal High School, Senior Year:
According to 24/7 Sports, Waddle was a 4 Star WR heading into college, but this rating does not do his high school career justice. Waddle had an incredible 35 all purpose touchdowns, and over 1500 combined rushing and receiving yards his senior year. He went on to be selected as an All-American, and ultimately decided to commit to the University of Alabama.
The University of Alabama
True Freshmen Year
What Jaylen Waddle did as a true freshmen at Alabama is extremely underrated. To rank second in receiving yards on a team that boasted two first round WR’s (Jeudy and Ruggs), a second round TE (Irv Smith), and a future top ten pick (DeVonta Smith) is an impressive accomplishment in itself. To do so as a true freshmen is a rare feat that should erase any doubt of Waddle’s ability to command targets at the next level.
While most have Jaylen Waddle’s breakout age as 21.8 (first half of the 2021 season), context is vital when evaluating prospects. All dominator ratings are not created equally, and considering the target competition that he overcame, it’s pretty much irrelevant that Waddle technically didn’t meet the 20+% dominator rating to qualify as “breaking out”during his age 19 season.
As you can see, Waddle failed to elevate his receiving production as a sophomore. In fact, he caught around 300 less yards than he did as a true freshmen. However, this was hardly any fault of his own. Jeudy and Smith combined for over 2,400 yards receiving, and Ruggs tacked on another 746. At an NFL factory like Alabama where there are so many mouths to feed, a lack of opportunity is not always an indictment on one’s talent. Just look at Najee Harris, the superstar consensus #1 back in the 2021 class who had to sit behind Damien Harris before getting his opportunity to shine.
Although Waddle took a slight step back in receiving production as a sophomore, he more than left his mark as the most dynamic punt and kickoff returner in college football. Waddle showed just how lethal he is in open space, exploding for 487 punt return yards, 175 kickoff return yards, and 2 return touchdowns.
In the four full games that Waddle played in 2020, he had 557 yards and 4 touchdowns. Through this same 4 game sample, his teammate and Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith had 483 yards and 4 touchdowns. Although 4 games is a very small sample size, to put things into perspective, if Waddle maintained this pace of production over a full 13 game season, he would’ve accumulated 1900 yards and 13 touchdowns. It’s not important as to whether he would’ve actually put those exact numbers up or not, what’s important is understanding just how dominant Waddle was in 2020 before suffering a fractured ankle.
College Dominator Rating: 24.1% (32nd percentile)
College YPR: 21.1 (96th percentile)
Breakout Age: 21.8 (20th percentile)
Current Value and ‘21 Rank
While many are lower on Waddle due to what they view as a weak analytic profile, it’s more appropriate to say that he has an incomplete analytic/production profile. Despite this fact, because of Waddle’s gamebreaking upside, and undeniable skillset, take him with conviction anywhere in the mid-late 1st round of your rookie drafts.
Waddle has superstar in his near term future, and he is currently my #2 WR in the 2021 class, behind only Ja’Marr Chase. Get your hands on as many shares as possible, and thank me later.