WR Jaylen Waddle, Alabama* (5’10”, 182)
Was named freshman of the year after catching 45-848-7 (18.8). Followed that up with 33-560-6 (17.0), then posted 28-591-4 (21.1) after missing most of this past season with a broken ankle. Also scored three return touchdowns over the past three years, mostly as a punt returner.
Lines up all over the field for the Tide, predominantly working from the slot but taking snaps on both sides of the field, both on and off the ball, as well as returning punts and kicks. Frequently came in motion across the formation to create opportunities for him to work with the ball in space on swing passes, banana routes, screens, jet-sweeps, etc. Posted gaudy yards-per-catch totals each year, serving predominantly as a deep threat. Has the type of speed and explosiveness to take the top off of defenses when running routes down the seam, which facilitates comebacks and other patterns based off of the danger his speed creates. Able to make both inside and outside releases and run by opposing corners. Uses his hands well to slip by defenders sitting in zone. Works the middle of the field well. Draws a lot of penalties from opposing defensive backs. Tracks the ball well over his shoulder down the field. Has outstanding leaping ability, can catch away from his frame, and aggressively high-points passes to come down with impressive grabs downfield, compensating for his average/below-average size. Capable of making defenders miss in space with sharp cuts. Works well in congested spaces, finding and squeezing through tight lanes. Works hard as a blocker, showing physicality and aggressiveness.
Was never a volume receiver or primary target in any of his seasons with the Tide. Size is on the smaller side for a pro receiver and typically worked inside and off-the-line even in college, being helped to release off the line by frequently being in a bunch look behind a bigger receiver. Hand measurements should be interesting; bobbles and double-catches some passes. Can struggle to stay engaged when blocking. Ankle injury will require further medical evaluation during the pre-draft process.
A special athlete who combines excellent explosiveness, top-end speed, and agility, traits which allowed him to terrorize opposing defenses and break big plays both on offense and on special teams. Even if he doesn’t emerge as a true number-one receiver, should be able to tilt defenses his way and open up things underneath for teammates who benefit from having a legitimate deep threat on roster. Consequently, looks likely to come off the board somewhere in the first round assuming his medicals check out.