Jaylen Waddle's Fantasy Outlook After Dolphins Select WR in 2021 NFL Draft

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) pulls in a pass over Mississippi defensive back A.J. Finley (21) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020. Alabama won 63-48. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

The Miami Dolphins just got a lot faster at wide receiver after drafting Alabama's Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

But what will your fantasy team look like if you pick up Waddle this year? 

Drafting rookie wideouts is always risky, and Waddle in particular is tough to project. On the one hand, he's a blur. The NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah ranked him as the fifth-best player in the 2021 NFL draft in late March, calling him "a slightly undersized receiver with extraordinary speed and playmaking ability."

He noted that Waddle's "acceleration in his release is elite" and "destroys the cushions he receives from defenders in a hiccup and can find a second and third gear once the ball is in the air." While Jeremiah doesn't believe Waddle is as strong as Kansas City Chiefs star Tyreek Hill, he believes Waddle is "capable of having the same impact in the NFL."

High praise, indeed. 

Pro Football Focus' Mike Renner added that Waddle is the "best deep threat" among the 2021 rookie wide receivers. 

Field Yates @FieldYates

Jaylen Waddle averaged an incredible 44.53 yards per TD catch on his 17 career scores through the air at Alabama. https://t.co/XF7FCST53p

The question with Waddle is why that talent and ability didn't lead to greater overall production at Alabama. In three years with the Crimson Tide he registered 106 catches for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns across 34 contests. In a 16-game season, those numbers translate to 49 receptions for 940 yards and eight touchdowns.

Those are very solid numbers. They aren't spectacular, however. 

Granted, Waddle played with Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith during his time with the Crimson Tide. There was plenty of competition for targets, and Waddle regularly saw a respectable portion of them. But it's fair to question if there will be an adjustment period for Waddle at the next level given his size and reliance on burst plays down the field. Will he have the overall route tree to put up major numbers as a rookie?

Hill, as a rookie in 2016, caught just 61 passes for 593 yards and six scores, after all. Nobody's breaking the bank at a fantasy draft for that rate of return. And the only rookie wide receiver last year to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards was Justin Jefferson.

Even if Waddle becomes the next Hill, it's likely he won't be putting up anywhere close to Hill's current level of production as a rookie. Keep that in mind if you target him come the middle rounds. In keeper and dynasty leagues, he has far more value. 

Reuniting with Tua Tagovailoa should help ease his transition at the NFL level somewhat. The Dolphins aren't exactly brimming with playmakers on the outside, either. Waddle should see solid targets. But keep your expectations realistic. Think WR4 production, with WR3 upside.