Threat to score and rip off long gains on any touch
Consistently creates separation
Twitchy in and out of breaks
Stretches a defense vertically
Excellent with the ball in his hands
Dangerous run-after-the-catch skills
Elusive in the open field
Dangerous returner on special teams
Killer mentality; lethal player who can dominate defenses
Experienced; ready to contribute quickly
Excelled against elite competition
Potential to be an elite No. 1 receiver in the NFL
Not a polished route runner
Could stand to improve his hands
Ability to hold up in the NFL?
Summary: Despite Alabama having star-studded group receivers including Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle in 2019, some NFL evaluators felt Waddle was the most explosive and fastest of them. Waddle did not produce as much in college as those three, but he did enough to have teams projecting him as a potentially elite receiver for the NFL.
Waddle was behind Smith, Jeudy and Ruggs on the depth chart, but he still made his presence felt with some explosive plays for Alabama. As a freshman in 2018, Waddle averaged 19 yards per reception from 848 yards and seven touchdowns over 45 catches. As a sophomore, he hauled in 33 passes for 560 yards with six touchdowns. Waddle was on pace to his best season in 2020 before an ankle injury caused him to miss the majority of the year. He played in four games before missing the rest of the regular season, but Waddle returned to play sparingly in the National Championship against Ohio State. For his year, he took 28 receptions for 591 yards - a 21.1-yard average - and four touchdowns.
There is no doubt that Waddle is an explosive playmaker who is a threat to score on any reception. He is a true speed receiver who can score from any place on the field and has mismatch ability for the NFL. Cornerbacks really struggle to run with Waddle, as he is extremely fast in a straight line plus is sudden and explosive in and out of his breaks. That leads to him easily creating separation, and when he gets the ball, he is deadly. Waddle displays tremendous yards-after-the-catch ability with his elite speed and elusive moves in the open field.
Waddle's deep speed allows him to line up on the outside or in the slot as his speed creates mismatches at any spot on the field. While Waddle is not a tall receiver, he makes up for it with his electric ability to produce big plays on any reception. Waddle also is a dangerous returner for special teams as well, although his NFL team will probably protect him from injury and not have him do that on a full-time basis. They could save him for special situations or big games instead.
There are areas of improvement for Waddle entering the next level. Team sources say he is not a polished route-runner and has to improve on the fundamentals to not be limited as a gadget- or specialist-type player. Waddle could stand to improve his hands and become a more natural catcher of the football.
Waddle's explosive speed and game-changing ability have some evaluators believing he could go in the No. 10-15 range of the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft,provided his medical report goes well. Sources from seven different teams said they thought Waddle would go in Round 1 next April, with a few believing that he would be a top-16 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Tyreek Hill Multiple team sources compared Waddle to Hill. Hill (5-10, 185) and Waddle are almost identical in size and possess game-breaking speed and explosiveness that make them nearly impossible to cover. If Waddle stays healthy and lands with a good team like Hill did, Waddle could be Hill-type receiver in the NFL.