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Prospect Preview: Jaylen Waddle

Prospect Preview: Jaylen Waddle

Position: WRWeight: 182
College: AlabamaAge: 22
Height: 5′ 10″247 Rating: 4 Stars (0.9791)

By Nate Christian (@NateNFL)

The Rundown:

Coming into the 2020 college football season, Jaylen Waddle was a somewhat popular pick for the classes’ top receiver. In his first four games of the season, Waddle amassed 557 yards and 4 touchdowns with only 25 catches. At an incredible average of 21.1 yards per catch, it was an incredible start to the season and Waddle was the most exciting player in the country. In his 5th game of the season, he went down with a severe ankle injury early in the first quarter and exited the game, looking like his season had prematurely ended. He showed incredible progression in his training and was able to play in the National Championship game (although looking a little hobbled by his injury). An incredible feat just to get back onto the field, Waddle proved to a lot of teams that day that he was a true competitor, ready for the NFL stage.

College Production:

It’s often that we hear fast and explosive players likened to Tyreek Hill ($15,850,500), but it’s not often a player actually deserves that comparison. Waddle may need to add a couple more pounds of muscle to show the same strength that Hill has, but his speed and overall ability to take it to the house are reminiscent. His Junior season stats were impressive, but Waddle has made an impact since he was a true freshman. In 2018 Waddle compiled 45 receptions, 848 yards, and 7 touchdowns. This on the same team as older teammates, Jerry Jeudy ($3,452,949), Henry Ruggs ($3,789,006), and DeVonta Smith. His ability to step into the top program in the nation and immediately compete on the field is incredible and speaks to his work ethic and athletic talent.

Strengths:

  • Lightning Speed
    • There’s a video out on Twitter, from last year, showing Waddle essentially tying Henry Ruggs ($3,789,006) in a 50-yard dash. Ruggs showed up at the 2020 NFL Combine later that year and posted a 4.27 second performance. One of the fastest attempts ever recorded, Waddle is likely to bring that again this year. Unfortunately, with no NFL Combine we may never really know how he’d stack up against Ruggs, John Ross, and Chris Johnson.
  • Offensive Weapon
    • Waddle isn’t just capable of being a team’s top wideout, but he also has the ability to be a playmaker in the return game as well as on the ground (whether out of the backfield or on sweeps). He’s a dream come true for a creative offensive coordinator, but independently talented enough to fit in nearly any offensive scheme. Any team that drafts Waddle isn’t just getting a deep threat, they’re getting a weapon to score touchdowns.
  • Eating Up Green Grass
    • It’s been said many times already in this article that Waddle has the special edge to his game, the ability to score on any play, but as a wide receiver he excels in getting into space (with or without the ball). Without the ball he’s able to speed past cornerbacks, zoom through zone coverage, and make himself an open target for the quarterback. Once the ball is in his hands, he has great vision to find running lanes and can make the first defender miss on his way to pay dirt.

Weaknesses:

  • Not Prototypical “Alpha” Size
    • At 5’ 10” and 182 pounds, he about mirrors Tyreek Hill’s ($15,850,500) measurables. And the reason that’s who I compare him to is because that’s the same role he can play for a team. Hill might not be a “big” receiver, but he still is the WR1 for his team and one of the main offensive outlets. I predict Waddle can be used in a similar fashion and with a team willing to commit to him, I wouldn’t expect any regret for his lack of height.
  • NFL, but not Fantasy
    • There’s a chance that Waddle ends up becoming a much better wide receiver for his NFL team than for your fantasy team. His ability to stretch the field and be used as a decoy in motion could open up space and time for other players on the offense and may be much more valuable to a team than getting his stats some padding. I think most speedsters can have this issue, where they are on the field but don’t make a consistent impact due to the nature of their role in the offense. Waddle brings a lot more to a team than just speed, but this is always something to keep in mind.
  • Dak Prescott ($$$)
    • No, Waddle isn’t going to end up in Jerry World, but the ankle injury he suffered is quite similar to Prescott’s. Teams will be spending as much time as possible weighing the pros and cons of Waddle’s ankle injury and if there is anything more to it. A decision that could prove quite costly if things go south for Waddle, he might be pushed down some teams’ boards depending on what their doctors say.

Things to Watch:

With his continued rehab it will be really interesting to see how he feels at the Alabama Pro Day. With every millisecond counting on some the drills, Waddle will want to be at full health before he starts giving NFL teams a number to study. If Waddle is fully healthy, he’s going to blow up the underwear Olympic activities, but if he’s not 100% I wouldn’t expect him to participate in much. Waddle is constantly talked about as one of the top receivers, but not quite in the top 2 or 3 of the class, I think as the NFL Draft gets closer Waddle will become more and more popular as media outlets realize that NFL teams are interested early. We’ve seen enough teams “ooh” and “ahh” over many other speedsters in the draft.

Projected Round/Contract:  

Without the injury this season, Waddle would have been a lock for the middle of the first round. While the injury may scare a couple teams off, Waddle was able to get back on the field and show he’s made progress in recovery. If teams aren’t worried about the long-term repercussions of the ankle injury, then I’d expect Waddle to still find himself in the early/middle slots of the 1st round. In the scenario that Waddle falls into Day 2, one lucky team would be getting a steal. If drafted in the 1st I would expect Waddle contract to look similar to CeeDee Lamb’s ($3,184,094). Lamb signed a 4-year deal (with 5th year option) worth $14,010,012, counting for $2,547,275 in his rookie year.

Team Fits:  

Perhaps the most popular fit in mock drafts is currently the New York Giants, a team that has a lot of young offensive players but has been lacking high-quality receiver play. Sterling Shepherd ($9,000,000) is good but struggles to stay on the field, Darius Slayton ($908,497) had a sophomore slump, and Golden Tate ($10,852,942) has been in and out of the doghouse all season. The Giants, if willing to give Daniel Jones ($7,189,288) one more year to prove himself a franchise quarterback, could do worse than selecting Waddle to give the offense an extra spark.

A second team that could end up selecting Waddle is the Detroit Lions, the now Matthew Stafford ($20,000,000)-less Detroit Lions. With Jared Goff ($27,825,000) coming into Detroit, and Matthew Stafford ($20,000,000) leaving to LA, I don’t expect Kenny Golladay to re-sign with the Lions. That leaves a huge gap on the depth chart as Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are both moving on as well. Insert Jaylen Waddle and let him take over that offense an either provide a outlet for Goff ($27,825,000) or a safety blanket for the next quarterback in Honolulu Blue.

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