Jaylen Waddle possesses the type of raw speed and explosiveness that every offensive coordinator at every level of football values so highly because a prospect like Waddle provides a major impact even when the ball is not being thrown in his direction or in his hands. That’s why you’ll see countless examples as we saw in 2020 when the Las Vegas Raiders made the fastest and most explosive player in the draft (Henry Ruggs) the first WR off the board. When it comes to Waddle, there is so much more to his game than just those traits, and that’s what makes him so exciting and my WR2 in this class.
Waddle came to Alabama rated as the No. 5 WR in the 2018 class by 247Sports, and prior to joining the Crimson Tide he reportedly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the UA Huston Camp, per Scout’s Greg Powers. That’s just to give you an idea of his raw speed. At Alabama, he made the record books as both a receiver and punt returner (more on that below) and Waddle’s unique ability after the catch could make him a Fantasy football every-week starter right away.
We’re breaking down everything you need to know about Waddle from a Fantasy manager perspective, including best fits, Dynasty outlook, measurables, scouting report, key stats and an NFL comparison.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers showed in 2020 that they are well aware of the kind of upside their offense possesses in the vertical passing game with Justin Herbert at QB. In his rookie season, Herbert made former undrafted rookies and late-round WR talent look like stars at times in the deep passing game. With Keenan Allen as a complementary WR, Waddle could hit the ground running (no pun intended) with Herbert and the Chargers in Year 1. This is his best fit.
The Bengals took a massive step forward in building out a WR corps ready to assist promising young QB Joe Burrow when they landed Tee Higgins in the 2020 class. Higgins, a bigger-bodied WR who can win vertically but is best in contested-catch situations, would pair perfectly with an explosive speedster like Waddle. This would also allow the Bengals to move Tyler Boyd into the slot, where he is most effective, though they could likely mix Waddle in there as well.
New York Giants
The Giants added Kenny Golladay to be their big X on the boundary, but they still need to add an element of raw speed to their skill positions outside of the flyer they took on John Ross. Waddle would add that element, and although the raw final numbers don’t look promising, Daniel Jones took a big step forward with his deep pass accuracy and efficiency in 2020. That matches well with Waddle’s skill set.
Depending on who you are drafting with, Waddle is likely to come off the board in the first seven picks of any Dynasty rookie draft where you only need to start one quarterback. Typically, you’ll see RBs Najee Harris and Travis Etienne, plus WR Ja’Marr Chase and TE Kyle Pitts come off the board before Waddle. In some drafts, Devonta Smith, Rashod Bateman and Javonte Williams also go before Waddle. I’m very high on Waddle’s Dynasty outlook because he brings with him a unique trait that stands out above any WR in this class. His after-the-catch ability is unmatched and it makes him one of my favorite Dynasty targets prior to the draft.
- The most explosive player at any position in this draft class. After the catch, Waddle eliminates angles that defensive backs have on him like no other player I’ve seen enter the league since Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014. He has a first, second and third gear. Check out Waddle’s tape against Missouri — the best example of why he’s not only the most explosive player in this class, but likely over the past decade.
- Raw straight-line speed that creates big plays in the vertical passing game but also in the intermediate passing game by opening up passing windows and forcing safeties to play deeper.
- Elusive in the open field. Waddle can consistently force collegiate defenders to miss in open space. He also has the athleticism that translates to the next level, and I project he will be a nightmare to tackle in space at the next level.
- Much better in contested-catch situations than his height and frame would suggest — very physical at the catch point for his size and excellent at catching the ball in traffic.
- Can stack cornerbacks instantaneously off the line of scrimmage with his quickness, lower-body explosiveness and footwork, but improved drastically in 2020 (during his four healthy games) when it comes to nuanced ways to create separation off the line of scrimmage.
- Incredible leaping ability that shows up constantly on film when he’s asked to high-point the football to make a catch on any throw that is slightly off target.
- Will be an immediate impact receiver on one of the most common route concepts we see across the board in all 32 NFL offenses — the deep over route. Has also shown exceptional stop-and-start ability that will allow him to pivot and reverse course on a deep over (you won’t see that very often at any level of football).
- Averaged 18.9 yards per reception in his career which puts him No. 2 on Alabama’s all-time list.
- Waddle displays excellent concentration at the catch point and is a more nuanced receiver prospect than given credit for.
- One of the best deep ball receivers in this class from an efficiency standpoint (more on this in advanced stats)
- Waddle has really loose hips that allow him to create separation off the LOS but also to create ridiculous plays after the catch. He is the highest-upside YAC receiver in this class by far.
- Nuanced receiver who does an excellent job finding voids in zones (this meshed perfectly with Burrow).
- High-character player who has earned high praise in this regard from Alabama coach Nick Saban.
- Injury concerns. Waddle played just four games in 2020 and suffered a broken ankle during the season. However, Waddle did come back for the national championship game.
- Size is a concern. He’s 5-10 at best and he has a slight frame.
- Still needs to improve as an outside receiver and add bulk to his frame if he wants to be more than just a slot receiver at the NFL level. The highest upside is to have Waddle on the outside so a safety has to shade to his side, but he might not be ready to step in right away in this regard.
|2020 v top 25||2||9||195||1||21.6||0|
|2019 v top 25||2||7||146||3||20.8||0|
Advanced stats to know
- 21.1 yards per route run is in the 96th percentile among all WRs, per Player Profiler
- Waddle caught 21 of 26 attempts deemed “catchable” on targets 20-plus yards down the field and was able to turn eight of these opportunities into TDs, per PFF.
- Averaged 32.5 yards per reception on targets that were at least 5 yards down the field and beyond the line of scrimmage — no WR in the last two draft classes came within 8 yards of this average on a minimum of 20 targets, per PFF
- Came down with 6-of-8 attempts deemed “contested catches” over the last two seasons, per PFF.
- Waddle had an 18.9 career yards per reception, second all-time in Alabama history.
- Waddle had a 19.3 yards per punt return average, No. 1 all-time in Alabama history and 6 yards more than any player in program history.
- Averaged 10 yards per reception after the catch — tied for the sixth-most in the nation, per PFF.
- Waddle has scored on three of the five longest receiving TDs in Alabama history.
The NFL comparison for Waddle that you’ve likely already seen if you follow the draft at all is Tyreek Hill. I don’t see this is an apt comparison for Waddle. Hill (as he is now — he has improved greatly with NFL coaching) is a better route runner and is considerably better at creating separation off the LOS on the outside. However, Waddle does have that same level of explosiveness, twitch and athleticism. I would compare Waddle to a faster version of Tyler Lockett with better leaping ability.
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