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Rookie Snapshot 2021: Is burner Jaylen Waddle NFL's next Tyreek Hill?

Liz Loza
·3 min read
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Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama Crimson Tide

Size: 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds

Age: 22-years-old (11/25/1998)

Background

A Houston-area native, Waddle’s athletic wizardry quickly earned him the name “Magic” growing up.

In addition to wowing on the football field, he was also a standout basketball player and a member of the track team at Episcopal High. His hops and speed, which gained him notoriety as a three-sport athlete came together most dynamically as a WR and kick returner for the Knights.

Even as a sub-6-foot prospect, Waddle was heavily recruited, receiving upwards of 20 scholarship offers. Despite Alabama’s loaded receiving corps, the speedster committed to the Tide on National Signing Day.

As a member of the Ryde Outs, Waddle made his presence known as a true freshman. In 2018, he averaged 18.8 YPR and recorded seven TDs on 45 grabs. His numbers dropped a bit the following year (33-560-6), but he continued to slay on special teams and was named the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year.

WR Snapshots: Toney | Chase | Smith | Waddle | Marshall Jr.

With Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs in the NFL, Waddle was expected to beast in his third campaign. He started the season on fire, clearing 100-yards in four straight, and scoring 4 TDs over the first four weeks of the season. While returning a kick in Week 5 at Tennessee, however, the star wideout suffered a right ankle injury that forced him to miss the rest of 2020. He did attempt to come back for the 'ship against Ohio State but was visibly hobbled.

Durability concerns linger, but there’s no doubting Waddle’s big-play appeal.

He’s a top-three consensus pick at the position heading into the NFL draft.

Pros: Speed for days (check out this video of Waddle and former Bama teammate Henry Ruggs facing off), explosive and elusive YAC monster, bonafide deep threat

Cons: Routes lack polish; slight build, durability concerns.

The Big Picture

“Dangerous in space” is a tired phrase. But any CB that’s faced Waddle will tell you that chasing him is straight-up tiring.

More than just a straight-line burner, Waddle has the ability to stop and start on a dime while also toggling between different gears. He’s a quick-twitch athlete with incredible balance and boundary awareness. Watching him scan the field after evading a defender — and survey the space he’s about to attack — is a thing of beauty. He’s a threat to score whenever the ball is in his hands.

With only 971 career snaps, experience remains an issue. The ankle injury Waddle suffered in 2020 was obviously ill-timed. Were he over 6-feet-tall maybe it wouldn’t be such a concern, as he doesn’t have the size to be a traditional red-zone presence. But with the speed of the pro game only increasing, there’s room for mold-breakers like Waddle to excel (no pun intended).

NFL Comp: Tyreek Hill

Fantasy Fit

As Yahoo’s NFL Draft expert, Eric Edholm, brought up on the Rookie Snapshot Pod, Waddle isn’t exactly Tom Telesco’s type … but maybe he should be?

In a division that’s competing with speedsters like Tyreek Hill and Henry Ruggs, Waddle could give the Chargers some legit burst. With 90 looks vacated by Hunter Henry’s departure and (the oft-injured) Mike Williams entering the last year of his deal, the Alabama product would give Justin Herbert a much-needed (and fresh-legged) lid-lifter. Were he to land in Los Angeles, a 70-target effort in his first pro season would be entirely likely.

Engage with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF

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