Our Scouting Report Series continues where we break down the top prospects for the 2021 NFL draft. Today, we are talking about the most dynamic playmaker in the draft. Before you go on, be sure to check out any of our previous scouting reports you might have missed!

QB RB WR TE OL EDGE IDL LB CB S
Justin Fields N/A Ja’Marr Chase Kyle Pitts Penei Sewell N/A N/A Chazz Surratt Patrick Surtain II Jevon Holland
Zach Wilson   DeVonta Smith   Creed Humphrey       Caleb Farley Trevon Moehrig
Trey Lance               Jaycee Horn  

Measurables and Numbers 

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 182 pounds

A look at Jaylen Waddle’s College Performance

Waddle was a 4-star recruit from Episcopal High School in Bellaire, Texas who earned attention from multiple Power 5 programs based largely upon his elite speed.  Waddle committed to the University of Alabama.

As a freshman, Waddle was 5th on the Alabama depth chart behind guys like Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy, and DeVonta Smith.  Despite this, he was still named SEC Freshman of the year after recording 45 receptions for 848 yards and 7 TDs.  The next season Waddle was still behind that trio of receivers and saw his production dip with only 33 receptions for 560 yards and 6 TDs.  He was named 1st team All-SEC as a return specialist.  

In his junior campaign, Waddle was finally out of the shadow of Jeudy and Ruggs and got off to a blazing fast start to the year.  Unfortunately, his season would end early after a foot fracture in the Tennessee game.  

Current Draft Projection

PFF – 8th overall/WR2

Daniel Jeremiah – 6th overall/WR2

The Draft Network – 3rd overall/WR1

Strengths

Route Running

Waddle has room for growth as a route runner, particularly at the top of his route stems where his inconsistent footwork can elongate his route when he tries to sit down and give corners a chance to recover.  However, he displayed big growth from 2019 to 2020 in this area and is very smooth through cuts.

Hands

Waddle attacks the ball well and is surprisingly good at the point of attack for a receiver of his stature.  I wouldn’t suggest throwing up 50/50 balls to him, but if you do then don’t be surprised if he comes down with his fair share.  He worked over the middle a lot in college and is not afraid to take a hit to secure the catch.  If Waddle gets his hands on the ball solidly before the hit comes it is unlikely he will fail to secure the catch.

Separation

Waddle is an easy separator who wins with incredible speed and smooth transitions through breaks.  Before his injury, he was the focal point of opposing defenses, not DeVonta Smith.  Waddle commands safety help and excels at opening up the underneath game for his teammates.

Release

Waddle lacks the hand strength to win press interaction with opposing cornerbacks if they land a solid first punch.  However, that is a huge if.  Waddle’s elite foot quickness is often able to keep opposing corners on their heels and prevent the aggressive press that would be his downfall.

Playmaking ability

Waddle is an elite playmaker.  In the last 2 seasons, 673 of his 1,109 yards have come after catch.  You can dump the ball off to him in the screen game, give him manufactured touches, ask him to take the top off of the defense, or ask him to work the middle of the field.  There is no area of the field that he is uncomfortable or unproductive.  He can work from multiple alignments as well and could be used as both a Z and slot receiver in the NFL.  In addition, he is an explosive return man.

Weaknesses

Blocking

Waddle’s frame is prohibitive to him being a good blocker but that doesn’t stop him from trying.  While he will sell out to initiate contact he lacks the strength, technique, and frame to be an effective blocker.

Physicality

Waddle will make you look like a fool if you try to tackle him in the open field.  But if you are able to square him up he is going down.  He doesn’t have tackle-breaking ability which seems like a silly thing to list for a slot receiver but I didn’t want to just have 1 weakness.

Summary

Waddle is an electric playmaker who is versatile in his alignments and comfortable working any area of the field that you ask him to.  I don’t like (and accordingly don’t often make) pro comparisons but it is almost impossible to not watch Waddle and see Tyreek Hill.  He will provide whatever team drafts him playmaking potential that will be unrivaled by most players in the league. 

Fit With The Philadelphia Eagles

Waddle would instantly be the best receiver that the Eagles have had since Terrell Owens.  On one play he can take the top off of opposing defenses to open things up underneath for the TE and RB passing game.  Then, on the next play, he can work the intermediate parts of the field and suck a safety in to open up a shot to Jalen Reagor.  You can give him the ball on jet sweeps or even the occasional play out of the backfield.  You can even put him back as the return man on kickoffs and punts and let him provide value that way.  If Waddle was on the board with Chase and Pitts at 6 I would have taken him.  If he is there at 12 I would sprint to the podium with the pick.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention he also has chemistry with Jalen Hurts.