Dolphins' Jaylen Waddle Sets NFL Single-Season Rookie Record for Receptions

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 9, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - JANUARY 09: Jaylen Waddle #17 of the Miami Dolphins completes a 7-yard reception for a touchdown over the New England Patriots in the first quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Mark Brown/Getty Images

Miami Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle set the rookie reception record Sunday with his 102nd catch of the season during a matchup with the New England Patriots.

Anquan Boldin previously held the record after registering 101 catches during his rookie season in 2003, to go along with 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns.

Waddle won't catch those numbers after coming into Sunday with 988 receiving yards and six total scores. But he's undoubtedly had an impressive first season nonetheless, becoming a key playmaker for a Dolphins offense that doesn't have many.

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His teammate, tight end Durham Smythe, has certainly been impressed, as he told reporters this week:

"You can see the MVP-worthy talent immediately. I think as the season progressed, he became more confident. He's a guy who is never comfortable with a five-catch, 100-yard game. He wants more always. I think that has kind of shown throughout the year. He's still asking, 'How can I improve?' on a week-to-week basis, and that's kind of what he's done. Obviously the stats show that and him receiving that award shows how important he's been to this team."

Waddle, this year's No. 6 overall pick, will inevitably be compared to players like Ja'Marr Chase and Devonta Smith, fellow rookie wideouts who were drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 5 overall and the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 10 overall, respectively.

Chase has been an absolute force of nature, finishing the season with 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns. He's justifiably the front-runner to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.

Smith, meanwhile, has nabbed 64 passes for 916 yards and five touchdowns. Those numbers are more impressive when taken within the context of Philadelphia's offense, which leads the NFL in rushing.

Waddle and Smith will particularly be linked throughout their careers, considering the Dolphins traded with the Eagles to move up to No. 6 in the draft. The Dolphins ended up with Waddle, while the Eagles traded from No. 12 to No. 10 in a separate deal to get Smith while also landing Miami's 2022 first-round pick in the original trade.

Waddle was awesome in 2021. He lived up to the hype. But it's hard to look at Smith's production as a rookie and come to any conclusion other than the Eagles winning that trade, at least for now. Waddle and the Dolphins will have the chance to change that narrative throughout his career.