Alabama wideout Jaylen Waddle is one of the top pass catchers entering the 2021 NFL Draft and is likely to be selected with an early pick in the first round. His college teammate, DeVonta Smith, and LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase are expected to be off the board first, but Waddle is dynamic in his own right. Waddle’s junior season was plagued by injuries, but he tallied more than 100 receiving yards in all four of the regular season games he appeared in before the national championship and scored four touchdowns while averaging 22.28 yards per catch. He speed is elite among the top receivers in his class, and he could prove to be a big-time playmaker at the next level.
Waddle’s burst off the line of scrimmage helps him create tremendous separation, but he’s more than fast. He has strong hands that can haul in passes away from his body, and his ability to turn upfield after making catches can’t be matched by many other prospects. On the downside, Waddle has below-average height and weight, so he’s not the best at winning physical, one-on-one battles. He’s also not the kind of player who will break tackles often, so getting him into open space will be important.
Mock Draft landing spots
NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah has the Arizona Cardinals getting Waddle with a steal at No. 16 overall. CBS Sports’ Tom Fornelli projects Waddle landing with the Miami Dolphins at No. 6. WalterFootball.com’s Walter Cherepinsky has the Philadelphia Eagles grabbing Waddle at No. 12 overall. Everyone is looking for the next Tyreek Hill, but Waddle could slide outside the top 10 like Henry Ruggs III did last year. Projecting where he’ll land is a crapshoot, at this point.
Fantasy impact: Rookie year
Waddle has never been the most productive receiver on his team. He played second fiddle to Jerry Jeudy in his first year at Alabama and trailed Smith the following two seasons. That being said, the chances of him stepping in and becoming a WR1 off the bat seem slim. He’s a dynamic athlete that can be used in a variety of ways, but he likely won’t be going to a team that has everything figured out on offense. You shouldn’t pounce on Waddle too early in fantasy drafts.
Fantasy impact: Career
Waddle has sure hands, unlike many of the otherworldly speedsters that have made their way to the NFL’s ranks in recent years. He can be much more than a gadget player but finding a spot that best fits his skill set could be tough. Waddle has the potential to be a consistent, all-purpose flex contributor, but finding the right system and staying healthy will be key to making maximizing his longevity.