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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: WR Jaylen Waddle

  • The Draft Network
  • December 20, 2020
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Jaylen Waddle is a dynamic wideout that’s spent time on the outside, in the slot, and periodically as a chess piece in the backfield. Possessing a unique skill set, he’s a smaller wideout that contains a well diverse skill set. With notches of speed that most defenders are incapable of reaching, he plays the game with a jetpack. The former Crimson Tide wideout makes his surroundings look as if they’re moving in slow motion compared to his high level controlled speed. Containing consistent hands, he also has a wide catch radius that enables him to attack the ball at its apex when entering his target range. A player that can be used as an ultimate decoy with various types of motions, he forces defenses to always account for where he is on the field no matter where he aligns. His experience and vision as a return specialist carry over to his ability after the catch as he’s a “slice and dice” ball carrier that’s able to knife through defenses with ease no matter if he’s operating in tight spaces or with lots of green grass in front of him. Capable of running a variety of routes, he’s an all-levels threat that can have an equal impact as an explosive play generator no matter which domain he catches the ball in. An easy separation generator, he’s wise with his approach to running routes and plays the game in a controlled manner despite it looking like he's in fast forward compared to everyone else on the field alongside him. Still needing polish on his routes in the intermediate areas as he can take extra steps at the top, the good far exceeds the bad in that department. Waddle only played in four games during the 2020 season as he suffered a fractured right ankle that resulted in surgery (Oct. 2020) to repair.

Ideal Role: Waddle is a wideout that can be placed at multiple alignments. Whether it’s the slot, on the outside, or even in the backfield, there are multiple ways to use him in order to consistently generate explosive plays.

Scheme Fit: Can be best utilized as a slot or field “Z” receiver.


Written by Jordan Reid

Games watched: Auburn (2019), Missouri (2020), Georgia (2020), Texas A&M (2020), Ole Miss (2020)

Best Game Studied: Auburn (2019), Missouri (2020), Georgia (2020), Texas A&M (2020)

Worst Game Studied: Ole Miss (2020)

Route Running: Waddle is a consistent runner who has unique speed but also contains the body control necessary to sink his hips and change directions when designed to. Having experience both in the slot and on the outside, he’s been able to get a feel for different surface areas with both limited and wide areas to operate within. Used in a multitude of ways, he’s been able to showcase his reliability in the short, intermediate, and deeper portions of the field. Waddle’s biggest challenges come in the intermediate areas where he can have troubles with slamming on brakes, which leads to him taking extra steps at the top of route stems and allowing matchups to close out the original space that he initially created.

Hands: He's capable of catching the ball in traffic as well as in open areas after creating separation. Waddle is as reliable as they come and he has the hand-eye coordination necessary to cancel out his surroundings prior to and when deciding to attack the ball out of the air. He’s unafraid to sacrifice his body in order to make catches in all areas of the field and there’s little worry of the contact that comes during the catch process. 

Separation: In the slot when given free releases, Waddle is able to gobble up the technique of defenders in front of him with ease. At the top of routes when wanting to change directions, he takes violent jab steps into the ground that forces the opposition to remain on their heels while reading where he’s headed toward. An easy separator, he glides when he runs, which enables him to easily run past and maintain the detachment that he created.

Release Package: Contains a diverse set of moves that he’s able to routinely execute. Although not overly powerful with his hands and winning hand fights at the line, it’s his quickness with foot fires and allowing cornerbacks to reveal their plan of attack prior to making his moves where he’s been able to create easy wins. If able to run cleanly by matchups, he’s consistent with staying in front of them as well. Over exaggerated jab steps, head, and arm movements also have helped him create extra room.

Run After Catch: Over the past two seasons, 673 of Waddle’s 1,109 receiving yards have come after the catch (Stats via Sports Info Solutions). Whether it’s as a punt returner or a receiver, Waddle is a dynamic weapon. An aggressive prospect when the ball is in his hands, he doesn’t shy away from making extra moves that could help turn designed mild gains into explosive plays. His instincts as a return specialist overtake his mental state and he does whatever is in his power in order to try to score. Possessing a six-points mentality whenever get his hands on the ball is why he consistently was one of the most electric players in the country when healthy. Possessing great vision when the ball is in his possession, he’s a true “slice and dice” runner, that’s able to weave in and out defenses while making it a difficult task to tackle him in the open field. 

Ball Skills: At 5-foot-10, Waddle has an unnaturally wide range for a player of his size. One of his best assets as a pass-catcher is his ability to zero in on the ball when it is in the air. Once the ball is in his parameters, he’s able to attack the ball at its peak and pluck it out of the air (Auburn 2019 / Missouri 2020). The Crimson Tide receiver can place his hands in unusual positions and still control his body to position it in the best way possible to come down with catches. 

Football IQ: Being that he’s played multiple positions in offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian’s pro-style scheme, he’s been forced to learn and execute various responsibilities. Displaying that he’s capable of doing that and having a huge impact on the offense as a whole takes a high level of football intelligence. With many “read on the run” types of routes and sight adjustments in the offense, Waddle has been able to flaunt his smarts. His quick-witted football acumen also shows up as a runner. 

Versatility: Waddle has spent time outside, in the slot, and in the backfield. He was the focal point of one of the more explosive offenses in the country. Also serving as the motion man to dictate coverage and force defenses to reveal their coverages pre-snap, he was a key cog of the passing and rushing attack. Also having value as a return specialist, he brings special teams value to his resume.

Competitive Toughness: Having a bit of maxed-out frame that doesn’t have much length, he won’t provide much as a blocker on the perimeter, but his effort remains high. In all other phases, Waddle is a competitor that isn’t afraid to show off when he secures victories over the opposition. Highly competitive as a route-runner, return specialist, and after the catch, he displays plenty of edge in multiple areas. 

Big-Play Ability: Well over half of his yardage has come as a result of his after-catch process. Waddle seems to play the game with a jetpack on as he’s able to race past defenders with ease on multilevel types of routes. His biggest successes have come when matched up with linebackers, nickel corners, and strong safeties in the slot, as they don’t possess the twitch or suddenness necessary in order to stay attached to him. His 22.3 yards per reception and 19.2 yards per target were the highest on the team at the time of his 2020 injury.    

Prospect Comparison: Tyreek Hill (2016 NFL Draft, Kansas City Chiefs)


TDN Consensus: 90.25/100

Joe Marino: 92.00/100

Kyle Crabbs: 89.00/100

Jordan Reid: 91.00/100

Drae Harris: 89.00/100

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