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Report: Dolphins Had Jaylen Waddle over Ja'Marr Chase as WR1 on Draft Board

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2021

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle, right, holds a team jersey with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being chosen by the Miami Dolphins with the sixth pick in the NFL football draft Thursday April 29, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Tony Dejak/Associated Press

The Miami Dolphins selected Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft on Thursday night, and that was reportedly their plan all along.

NFL Network's Peter Schrager said Friday on Good Morning Football that the Dolphins had Waddle as the top wideout on their draft board ahead of LSU's Ja'Marr Chase, who went one pick earlier to the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5:

GMFB @gmfb

“The biggest winner of Night 1 was the @miamidolphins. Per sources, the no. 1 wide receiver on their board wasn’t Ja’Marr Chase. Their no. 1 wide receiver was Jaylen Waddle. They traded back into the top 10 with a specific plan to get him.” — @PSchrags https://t.co/ArhHxB3pug

Miami originally owned the No. 3 overall pick via a trade with the Houston Texans, but it traded down to No. 12 with the San Francisco 49ers. Hours later, the Dolphins struck another deal with the Philadelphia Eagles to go from 12th to sixth.

Schrager reported that the trade up to No. 6 overall was made with the intention of nabbing Waddle.

There was plenty of room for debate entering the draft regarding who was the true No. 1 wide receiver, as arguments could be made for Chase, Waddle and Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith.

Chase was a dominant force two years ago for an LSU team that went undefeated and won the national title, but he opted out of the 2020 college football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Meanwhile, Smith won the Heisman Trophy last season for an Alabama team that went undefeated and won the national championship, and he did it as Waddle's teammate.

Waddle missed a significant amount of time last season because of an ankle injury, but he showed his toughness by fighting his way back and playing in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game.

While Waddle never reached 50 receptions or 850 yards in a season during his three years at Bama and averaged less than six touchdown catches per season, his explosiveness is likely what attracted the Dolphins to him.

Waddle averaged a remarkable 21.1 yards per reception last season and 18.9 yards per catch during his college career, meaning he could be the big-play threat the Dolphins need.

He also has experience playing with Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback in 2018 and 2019.

With Tua at the controls, Waddle enjoyed the best season of his college career as a freshman in 2018, making 45 grabs for 848 yards and seven touchdowns.

Now, the Dolphins boast a deep and talented receiving corps with Waddle joining the likes of Will Fuller V, DeVante Parker, Lynn Bowden Jr., Jakeem Grant and Preston Williams.

Tagovailoa struggled at times as a rookie and seemed reluctant to take chances down the field, but with a pair of speedsters and big-play guys on the outside in Waddle and Fuller, last year's No. 5 overall draft pick now has all the weapons he needs to succeed.

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