Jaylen Waddle, WR Alabama
5'10" 183lbs (BMI: 26.25)
Breakout Age: N/A
College Dominator Rating: 34.38% (CDR from 4 GP)
Comp: Somewhere between Henry Ruggs and Tyreek Hill
Jaylen Waddle is a very interesting prospect to say the least. He had his season cut short this year due to injury while he was playing really well. He only played in 4 games this season, and in those 4 games, he posted a dominator rating of 34.38%. He was finally on pace to break out with a full season of work. Now, with no official breakout age or CDR, where will Waddle be ranked in this stacked 2021 WR class? I currently have him as my WR7. Let's dive into why!
In Waddle’s freshman season, he made his presence known and finished 3rd on the team in targets and 2nd in receiving yards over both Henry Ruggs and DeVonta Smith. He became a major deep threat and playmaker. It was clear that as a true freshman he was dangerous with the ball in his hands anywhere on the field. For his sophomore season, there were high hopes even though it was such a crowded receiving core. Waddle took a backseat to not only Jeudy, but also DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs. Waddle finished 4th on the team in both targets and receiving yards.
With Jeudy and Ruggs now in the NFL, it was all set up for Waddle to have a huge year, even though Devonta Smith returned for his senior season. Unfortunately, things were cut short for him with the fractured ankle. Before the injury, he was tearing it up. In the 4 games that he played, he had 25 receptions for 557 yards and 4 touchdowns. As I said before, that equated to a 34.38% dominator rating for the Tide during those 4 games, which would actually be a higher dominator rating than DeVonta Smith during those same 4 games (32.03%). That being said, Smith was targeted 47 times compared to 29 for Waddle, so it is clear that Smith was the WR1 in that offense.
Waddle: 29 targets, 25 rec, 557 yards, 4 tds. 4.45 YRR. 19.21 YPT. 34.38% CDR
Smith: 47 Targets, 38 rec, 483 yards, 4 tds. 3.63 YRR. 10.28 YPT. 32.03% CDR
While those are very impressive numbers from Waddle, a large portion of that was due to deep targets of 20+ yards down the field. I broke down his production this season and his career as a whole when it came to those deep targets. According to PFF, Waddle had 7 targets of 20+ yards this season and caught 6 of them. He turned that into 329 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those 329 yards are 59% of his total yards during those 4 games that he played this season, which would help explain his insanely high 19.21 YPT. I also took his career receiving yards (1,965) and found that he had 798 yards from deep targets, which would be 40.61% of his career yards. There isn’t anything wrong with being a deep threat, but my growing concern is that his production relies too much on the deep ball. At the next level, he may not get as many of these opportunities like he did in college. For comparison, I calculated this same thing for four other receivers. Notice that they are considerably lower than Waddle's percentage.
Career Yards % from Deep Targets
Justin Jefferson – 24.80%
Jerry Jeudy – 36%
Henry Ruggs – 29.55%
DeVonta Smith – 32.48% (Career To Date)
As stated above, Waddle has the potential to be a true deep threat at the next level and that is one of his biggest strengths. He does display some good looking ball skills and the ability to complete the catch through contact on these deep targets. Here are a few plays that stuck out to me that really shows off what he can do as a deep threat:
It's not really just the deep ball that makes Waddle a threat. He can take a simple slant route all the way and has plenty of big play ability anytime he touches the ball. Here are some of the plays that I found where he was able to explode after the catch and get the score:
Waddle also has the ability to take passes around the LOS and make big plays out of them. I really like to see these plays from him because it shows that he isn't solely a deep threat relying on those deep targets even if that is where most of his production came from. He is so shifty and can beat defenders to the edge. I really hope at the next level he gets in an offense that will scheme plays like these.
Overall, Waddle is a great playmaker and I do expect that to translate to the next level. My concern as previously stated is that he ends up relying too much on the deep ball to have consistent production. Hopefully he gets into a situation that not only will give him deep targets, but also scheme the ball into his hands so he can make some of the plays we have seen him make in college. He could end up being a Tyreek Hill type player if he ends up in the right situation, however, I think expectations should be lower as he may not get a great QB throwing him the ball or an offense that knows how to use him. Tyreek Hill is special and is in a perfect match within his offense. Unfortunately, even when players like Waddle are drafted, they aren't utilized how they should be and can be more of a decoy. Sometimes they can be better real life football players than fantasy assets.