NFL Draft 2021 Rumors: Scouts Say Jaylen Waddle Might Be 'Best Overall Player'

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2021

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

While many have Jaylen Waddle ranked as the third receiver in the 2021 NFL draft class behind Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith, it appears his standing around the league is much stronger.

ESPN's Jeremy Fowler said on SportsCenter that multiple league scouts have described Waddle as the best player in the 2021 draft:

"I've talked to multiple scouts in this process who said [Jaylen Waddle] might be the best overall player in this draft, regardless of position. He's electric. He reminds them a little bit of Tyreek Hill, with his speed and big-play ability. I've talked to a source who said Waddle believes he's going to go somewhere in the top 10. Not a slam dunk, but he believes it. So if a team wants to trade up for him, they might have to get there."

Waddle missed most of last season because of an ankle injury, recording only 28 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns. His absence allowed teammate DeVonta Smith to emerge as the most dynamic playmaker in the country, with Smith winning the Heisman Trophy after one of the best all-around seasons for a receiver in college football history.

Chase, who will likely be the top receiver off the board, sat out the 2020 season to prepare for the draft. The LSU product appears to be the most well-rounded receiver in this class, combining good size and downfield receiving capability to break big plays. While few saw him as having elite speed coming into this draft, Chase wowed with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash at LSU's pro day.

Waddle has not run a 40 time in draft preparation, but Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network noted he had the fastest on-field GPS time of any receiver in this class in 2020. It could be that scouts view Waddle as a mix of the strong traits about Smith and Chase, making him the type of amalgam who could break out as the best receiver in the draft.