HEIGHT: 5'7 5/8"
WEIGHT: 174 lbs
—Good athlete who is more smooth on routes but has some twitch to make defenders miss with the ball in his hands.
—Good acceleration. Can gain a few extra yards when he gets north. Flashes an extra gear at the end of deep routes while tracking the throw.
—Consistent on the top of his routes. Shows the ability to "tight turn" and be friendly to the QB.
—Plays with good contact balance and strength after the catch. Can keep his feet through side tackles.
—Competitive and tough player. Can tell he wants to win even on film.
—Has experience and production as a punt returner.
—Poor size. Short with not a lot of bulk. Plays to size when the ball is in the air.
—Inconsistent hands. Drops show up in every game.
—Has a habit of backing up after catching the ball to try to size up defenders to make them miss. Isn't twitchy enough to get away with it and will cost his team yards after the catch.
—Not a lot of experience working against press coverage.
—Stiff-hipped. Is twitchy but has average bend on his routes and with the ball in his hands.
74 rec., 1,190 yards, 16.1 avg., 19 TD
—2020 consensus All-American
—2020 C-USA MVP
Jaelon Darden is an undersized but tough player who was extremely productive in a feature role at North Texas. He plays with a competitive edge and shows good contact balance with the ball in his hands, and he is able to run through arm tackles despite his size.
Darden has the speed to make defenses pay and does his best work when there's an open crease for him to accelerate though and utilize his good top-end speed. Darden will sometimes try to do too much with the ball in his hands, backing up a few yards to square up defenders so he can get by them. While he has good straight-line speed, he lacks the lateral quickness and foot speed to do that in the NFL. Darden will make the flashy catches, but he also had drops come up in seemingly every game.
If he is going to be put in a role with fewer opportunities, this inconsistency will lead to frustration. Darden's punt return ability really adds to his value, as his poor size and whether he has the fluidity to run a more extensive route tree will likely limit whether he can be anything more than a role player who gets the occasional explosive play.
GRADE: 7.0/10 (Round 4-5)
OVERALL RANK: 171/300
POSITION RANK: WR28
PRO COMPARISON: Marquise Brown
Written by B/R NFL Scout Nate Tice