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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.

YAC/Variable Speed

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.


A total of five defenders have a chance to make a play on him here, but Waddle’s ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions at a moment’s notice is too much for them to handle. Waddle sees the last two defenders coming the whole time, …A total of five defenders have a chance to make a play on him here, but Waddle’s ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions at a moment’s notice is too much for them to handle. Waddle sees the last two defenders coming the whole time, …
  • A total of five defenders have a chance to make a play on him here, but Waddle’s ability to accelerate, decelerate, and change directions at a moment’s notice is too much for them to handle.

  • Waddle sees the last two defenders coming the whole time, and manipulates their movement by selling it like he’s going to attack the sideline before timing a final inside juke move perfectly.


Yet another example of Waddle’s ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands; on this play, after getting to the edge, he assesses the space in front of him, and patiently waits for the right moment to explode through a sliver of green t…Yet another example of Waddle’s ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands; on this play, after getting to the edge, he assesses the space in front of him, and patiently waits for the right moment to explode through a sliver of green t…
  • Yet another example of Waddle’s ability to make things happen with the ball in his hands; on this play, after getting to the edge, he assesses the space in front of him, and patiently waits for the right moment to explode through a sliver of green that’s opened up by his blockers.

  • After making the first two defenders miss, he uses a hesitation move to make #38 whiff. Waddle has a very diverse range of open field moves, and can make defenders miss in many different ways.

 

Dynamism and Vision


On this kickoff return against Auburn, Waddle masterfully uses his elusiveness to make the first defender miss. He then uses his vision to recognize open space, and his burst + long speed to outrun defenders with angles on him. Many players can do o…On this kickoff return against Auburn, Waddle masterfully uses his elusiveness to make the first defender miss. He then uses his vision to recognize open space, and his burst + long speed to outrun defenders with angles on him. Many players can do o…
  • On this kickoff return against Auburn, Waddle masterfully uses his elusiveness to make the first defender miss. He then uses his vision to recognize open space, and his burst + long speed to outrun defenders with angles on him. Many players can do one or two of these things, but very few can do all three at such a high level.


Waddle is very much like a running back with the ball in his hands, he has an innate feel for when to wait for his blockers, and a sixth sense when it comes to knowing where defenders are around him (and even behind him). On this play, you can see h…Waddle is very much like a running back with the ball in his hands, he has an innate feel for when to wait for his blockers, and a sixth sense when it comes to knowing where defenders are around him (and even behind him). On this play, you can see h…
  • Waddle is very much like a running back with the ball in his hands, he has an innate feel for when to wait for his blockers, and a sixth sense when it comes to knowing where defenders are around him (and even behind him).

  • On this play, you can see him deliberately slow down as he strides down the sideline, waiting for exactly the right moment to reaccelerate.

 

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.


Despite not being a big receiver, Waddle has the requisite burst to elevate into the air and meet the ball at its highest point. He’s also tough, deceptively strong, and not afraid to get hit.Despite not being a big receiver, Waddle has the requisite burst to elevate into the air and meet the ball at its highest point. He’s also tough, deceptively strong, and not afraid to get hit.
  • Despite not being a big receiver, Waddle has the requisite burst to elevate into the air and meet the ball at its highest point. He’s also tough, deceptively strong, and not afraid to get hit.


If you’ve played any sport at a high level, you’re well acquainted with the idea that some players play bigger than they are, while others play smaller. Waddle is undoubtedly a member of the former camp.If you’ve played any sport at a high level, you’re well acquainted with the idea that some players play bigger than they are, while others play smaller. Waddle is undoubtedly a member of the former camp.
  • If you’ve played any sport at a high level, you’re well acquainted with the idea that some players play bigger than they are, while others play smaller. Waddle is undoubtedly a member of the former camp.


Waddle’s concentration and affinity for holding onto the ball through contact will seamlessly translate to the NFL.Waddle’s concentration and affinity for holding onto the ball through contact will seamlessly translate to the NFL.
  • Waddle’s concentration and affinity for holding onto the ball through contact will seamlessly translate to the NFL.

 

Production / Analytic Profile

Episcopal High School, Senior Year:


Courtesy of 24/7 SportsCourtesy of 24/7 Sports

Courtesy of 24/7 Sports

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


Courtesy of Sports-Reference.comCourtesy of Sports-Reference.com

Courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

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.

Sophomore Year


Courtesy of Sports-Reference.comCourtesy of Sports-Reference.com

Courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

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.

Junior Year


Courtesy of Sports-Reference.comCourtesy of Sports-Reference.com

Courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

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.

2018-2020 Analytics

  • 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.