HEIGHT: 5'9 ½"
— Very good balance and play strength for size. Competitive and consistently fights through contact to maintain course on his route.
— Excellent athlete. Can pull away from defenders on routes and is able to attack vertically within the timeframe of the play. Top-tier acceleration lets him get on to CB’s toes in a hurry. Consistently pulls away from defenders on intermediate routes like Overs and Sails, no
— Above-average overall hands and will flash good catching range while on the move. Flashes his body control and acceleration before and after the catch.
— Extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands. Consistently plays with excellent body control and lateral quickness to make defenders miss in small spaces. He’s more than just a gadget player, but coordinators will have fun drawing up special packages for him. He has very good feel for space and blocking, which makes him a true weapon from the backfield and on Jet sweeps but also in the screen game.
— Has good feel for his route landmarks on routes he was asked to run. Looks like he is aware of getting his depth and doesn’t get antsy trying to get open. Will throttle down in space and makes himself friendly to the QB.
— Overall very tough and competitive player. Doesn’t shy away from contact and is willing to scrap with defenders.
— Outstanding return ability on both kickoff return and punt return.
— Below-average size. Has to be strong because bigger CBs will attempt to control him releasing off the line of scrimmage.
— Older for his class. May not have a ton of room for improvement.
— Most of his routes were intermediate and vertical and will need to continue to add and polish his route tree. Was given a lot of free releases because the offense he played in utilized motion and aligned him in the slot. Will need to add strength and technique to consistently win vs. press and on the outside.
— Can have some double-catches with throws at his body.
6 G, 28 rec., 591 yards, 21.1 avg., 4 TD
— Suffered high ankle sprain that caused him to miss the second half of 2020 season.
Jaylen Waddle is a dynamic WR who lined up both inside and outside at Alabama. Waddle is an excellent athlete who has true game-breaking speed to take the top off the defense or take any throw the distance. He consistently flashes his change-of-direction ability and top-tier acceleration both with the ball in his hands and when working over the middle on intermediate routes—he can pull away from defenders and create separation with his rare speed, or immediately hit the brakes and settle into space. He has solid hands and is comfortable catching throws on the move, but shorter throws that are at his body will cuff him at times.
Waddle was put in advantageous positions quite a bit in college, either working from the slot or with pre-snap motion, but he flashed good feel on his routes and for finding space in zones. He will need to continue to refine his route tree and details, especially on shorter routes when working from the slot and operating vs. press on the outside, where his below-average size and average play strength crops up. Waddle’s lack of size, length, polish and recent injury history will be some causes for concern, and he would fit best with a team that might already have another bonafide receiver as opposed to stepping in right away as a No. 1 option for a team.
Waddle projects as a Day 1 weapon for NFL offenses because of his explosive play ability on deep and intermediate routes and gadget plays to go along with his excellent returner ability. He would benefit if he can play in an offense that allows him to operate from the slot or on outside vertical-only concepts—which will allow him to work in space and doesn’t ask him to win on the outside right away, also enabling him to develop more consistency on his releases and routes and also add to his play strength. There is real risk to Waddle because of his size, age and lack of technique, but his upside could see him become one of the most explosive and dynamic players in the NFL.
GRADE: 8.4/10 (Immediate NFL starter, late 1st round)
OVERALL RANK: 17/300
POSITION RANK: WR4
PRO COMPARISON: Raghib "Rocket" Ismail
Written by B/R NFL Scout Nate Tice