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Jaylen Waddle

Preseason Scouting Notes: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Junior | 5’10” 182 lbs | Houston, TX | Nov. 25, 1998

 

Speedy slot receiver and return man who routinely takes short passes the distance and has a gravitational pull as a deep threat

 

Overview:

Jaylen Waddle came to Alabama as a 4-star recruit and became an immediate freshman contributor. He was second on the team in yards and third in catches in his first year in Tuscaloosa, but fell to fourth in both categories last year with the rise of DeVonta Smith. Waddle primarily played in the slot on three and four receiver sets last year, occasionally lining up out wide or in the backfield. He’s been lightning in a bottle as a returner, with 3 of his 16 career touchdowns coming on special teams.

Strengths:

– Terrific combination of quick-twitch initial burst and long speed
– Shifty RAC threat with a returner mindset once the ball is in his hands. Wants to take it the distance every touch
– Great stop-and-start quickness as both a route runner and ball carrier
– Impressive catch radius for a player of his stature
– Shows good over the shoulder ball tracking on deep balls and contested sideline catches
– His gravity as a vertical threat draws defenders and opens up space underneath for the rest of the offense
– Brings gadget element to an offense. Dangerous on screens, jet sweeps, reverses, and out of the backfield
– Can win jump balls with verticality despite his average size
– Adds legitimate special teams value as an electric kick and punt returner

Areas to improve:

– Limited success manipulating DB leverage with head fakes or deceptive moves
– Lacks extensive experience against press coverage. May take time to adjust at the NFL level
– Needs to rely less on his body to make catches and more on his strong hands
– Must further develop his rudimentary route tree. Primarily runs slants, screens, posts and go routes
– Additional play strength will help him become a more physical route runner and power through arm tackles

Injury concerns:

N/A

Projection:

Waddle projects to have a Tyreek Hill-type role in the NFL as a slot receiver who can take the top off an opposing defense and turn a screen pass or jet sweep into a massive gain. He will need to sharpen up his route running deception skills and add play strength to before approaching Hill’s contribution level, but has the ceiling of a No. 1 offensive option or high-end No. 2. Waddle should be drafted in the latter half of the first round, but has the potential to go even higher if he can refine the rough edges of his game.

What to watch in 2020:

How does Waddle’s role expand in 2020 with the departure of Henry Ruggs and Jerry Jeudy? With two first-round picks off the roster, Waddle and Smith will become the clear top two options, which should result in more playing time and offensive responsibility. Waddle was extremely efficient as a pass catcher, hauling in over 80 percent of his targets on the season. If he can keep that up in an expanded role, he will be unstoppable. With Mac Jones expected to become the full-time starter at QB, it will also be worth monitoring how he and Waddle develop chemistry this season.

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