2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle

HEIGHT: 5-10 / WEIGHT: 182 / COLLEGE: Alabama / CLASS: Junior

2020 STATS (6 GAMES): 28 receptions, 591 yards, 21.1 YPR, 4 touchdowns

CAREER STATS (34 GAMES): 106 receptions, 1,999 yards, 18.9 YPR, 17 touchdowns

GAMES WATCHED (7): Missouri, Ole Miss, Georgia, Texas A&M (2020); Michigan, Auburn (2019); Louisville (2018)

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SIZE/PHYSICAL TRAITS (3/5)

  • A little undersized, but plays like a bigger receiver with catch radius and leaping ability
  • Size could lead to durability concerns

SPEED/BURST (10/10)

  • Game-changing speed and acceleration (legit 4.2 40 time)
  • Elite deep threat — near-impossible to cover one-on-one on vertical routes
  • Will demand consistent safety help over the top
  • Regularly outruns favorable pursuit angles after the catch
  • Exceptional punt and kickoff return man

AGILITY (10/10)

  • Tremendous controlled speed in and out of routes
  • Explodes out of cuts and gears down efficiently when working back to the ball

ROUTE RUNNING/SEPARATION (18/20)

  • Easy separator
  • Sinks hips and gets out of route breaks efficiently
  • Shows nuance in route stems — will use skip steps, jabs, body lean and look-backs to fake out cornerbacks
  • Shows ability to uncover at all three levels of the field
  • Pretty diverse route tree — digs, slants, drags, deep overs, streaks, curls, posts, corners
  • Could do a better job of maintaining spacing relative to other receivers on broken plays

RUN AFTER CATCH (10/10)

  • Electrifying with the ball in his hands
  • Very shifty in the open field
  • Running back-like vision and understanding of how to set up blocks
  • Threat to score from anywhere on the field
  • Surprising strength and contact balance allow him to shed tackles somewhat frequently

HANDS/BALL SKILLS (18/20)

  • Was never a high-volume target in college, but caught the ball consistently in the opportunities he did have
  • Low drop rate (5.3% for his career, per PFF)
  • Will occasionally body catch, but normally extends hands and catches the ball away from his frame
  • Good high-point ability
  • Shows ability to win in contested catch situations

BODY CONTROL (9/10)

  • Adjusts well to back-shoulder and off-target throws
  • Shows impressive body control near the sideline and in the air
  • Has demonstrated an ability to make tough catches away from his frame

PRESS RELEASES (9/10)

  • Didn’t really see any press coverage in the seven games I studied, but NFL defensive coordinators will almost assuredly be afraid to try for fear of getting torched
  • Might get bumped off his route stem more by NFL cornerbacks if they can get a hand on him

TRACK/ADJUST (5/5)

  • Excellent deep-ball tracker
  • Good sideline awareness

OVERALL GRADE: 92.00/100.00 — ELITE — Future All-Pro/Top-5 potential at position

NFL COMPARISON: Tyreek Hill

SCHEME FIT: Z receiver with the ability to play Y. Perfect for a vertical offense.

DRAFT PROJECTION: Top-15 pick

After waiting his turn behind Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs in 2018 and 2019, Jaylen Waddle was poised to have a huge season as a regular starter in 2020 alongside DeVonta Smith. Unfortunately, a broken ankle sidelined him for the duration of the regular season after Week 5. In his four games as a full-time starter this year, Waddle was extremely impressive. As an athlete, he is unparalleled in this draft class. As a route runner, he shows good feel for setting up cornerbacks and creating separation at the top of his routes. His hands are more than adequate and he’s tremendous after the catch.

There may be some questions about his ability to handle physical/press coverage in the NFL, but my feeling is defensive coordinators will be too afraid to try for it to really matter. Waddle’s presence on the field alone will make him an impactful player — whether the ball comes his way or not — because of how his speed dictates coverage. The potential exists for Waddle to become an absolute superstar like Tyreek Hill. His floor is high-end No. 2 receiver.

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