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Saturday Scouting - Jaylen Waddle, WR/KR, Alabama - And one game to watch

A first look at the recently injured receiver and the big game to watch this week

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Alabama vs Tennessee Photo by Kate Luffman/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

The New York Giants are currently fielding one of the worst offenses in the NFL. There are a variety of reasons for their struggles moving the ball and scoring points, but one of the most pressing issues is their receiving corps. The Giants could use dynamic weapons in their passing attack and might not be in position to be particularly choosy about the exact player they target.

Throughout this series of early looks at players in the 2021 NFL Draft, we have looked at prospects who chose to opt out of the 2020 season. This week we take a slight departure from that with our look at Alabama receiver and returner Jaylen Waddle. Waddle suffered a season-ending ankle injury while returning the opening kick-off of Alabama’s game against Tennessee.

Waddle is undersized compared to the prototypical NFL receiver, but his rare explosiveness presents an intriguing skill set in the right situation.

Prospect: Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
Games Watched: vs. South Carolina (2019), vs. Michigan (2019), vs. Auburn (2019), vs. Ole Miss (2020)
Red Flags: Ankle (2020)

Measurables

Height: 5-foot-10 (5010)
Weight: 182 pounds

Stats

Games Played: 33
Receptions: 103
Yards (YPC): 1,965 (19.1)
Total Touchdowns: 20 (17 receiving, 3 return touchdowns)

2019 Stats

Games Played: 5
Receptions: 25
Yards (YPC): 557 (22.3)
Total Touchdowns: 4

Quick Summary

Best: Punt and Kick returns, run after catch, long speed, blocking, competitive toughness
Worst: Size
Projection: A slot receiver in a run after catch or vertical based offense.

Game Tape

Full Report

Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle is an undersized but very explosive offensive weapon and kick-off returner.

Waddle primarily plays out of the slot in Alabama’s offense, but presents a variety of options to threaten defenses. He is used on jet motion, screen plays, quick passing concepts, and on vertical concepts. Waddle shows solid route running with nuanced variations in the tempo of his route stems to disrupt defensive backs’ timing. He also shows a remarkably fluid lower body with quick feet to make defenders miss.

Waddle has very good long speed on vertical concepts as well as an impressive burst with the ball in his hands. He has very good vision to pick out running lanes with the ability to accelerate with the ball in his hands to make the most of any opening. He also has considerable upside as a kick returner, with a natural sense for setting up his blockers as well as using his athleticism to make defenders miss.

Waddle was not often featured in the passing game thanks to Alabama’s deep wide receiver position, but he routinely showed very good competitive toughness as a blocker for his teammates. He has solid technique and play strength, with no hesitation to lock in blocks on defensive backs and sustain them through the whistle. He appears to be a committed teammate and is often one of the first to congratulate a teammate on a good play.

Waddle is undersized for the wide receiver position and could be limited to the slot or a role as a “gadget” player at the NFL level. He rarely — if ever — faced press coverage or jams at the line of scrimmage, and how he would cope with them are an unknown at this point. Waddle will also need to work on further improving his mechanics at the catch point. He is capable of extending to pluck the ball out of the air, but doesn’t do so consistently, at times allowing the ball into his chest.

Waddle suffered a fracture and high-ankle sprain, ending his 2020 season after five games.

Projection

Alabama receiver and kick returner projects as a dynamic offensive weapon at the NFL level. His size will likely limit him to the role of slot receiver in the eyes of many coaches and scouts, but he has the potential to be explosively productive for teams with the scheme to involve him in a variety of ways.

Waddle is an impressive athlete in a way that is only partially captured by his explosiveness and raw speed. Perhaps more impressive is his lower-body quickness and fluidity, which call to mind nobody so much as Christian McCaffery coming out of Stanford. In fact, Waddle looks more like a running back when he gets the ball in his hands. He has very good field vision and a natural ability to make subtle adjustments in his lower body to change angles and navigate tight quarters at speed.

Waddle can serve an offense well out of a traditional slot role, particularly if that team incorporates spread or Air Raid concepts which make use of spacing. However, he could play a similar role to Tarik Cohen or Tyreek Hill in an offense which is able to scheme ways to get him the ball in space or uses the slot receiver in vertical concepts. Creative offensive coordinators could also use him with motion to add elements a defense will need to track, or even use him out of the backfield to ensure free releases.

Coaches will probably be drawn to Waddle for his home-run capability as well as his competitive toughness and willingness to do the dirty work when a play is designed for another player. However, he isn’t a “plug and play” prospect and will likely need a plan for incorporating him into their existing scheme for him to reach his full potential.

Game To Watch

Ohio State (3) at Penn State (18)

ABC - 7:30

This week we have just one big game in which pretty much everyone will be interested. Fortunately, it involves a pair of football factories with a number of players in whom the Giants could be interested. It will also be interesting to see how Penn State responds to their gut-wrenching overtime loss to Indiana a week ago.

Players to watch

OSU

  • Justin Fields (QB)
  • Chris Olave (WR)
  • Shaun Wade (CB)
  • Josh Myers (OC)
  • Baron Browning (LB)

Penn State

  • Pat Freuirmuth (TE)
  • Jayson Oweh (EDGE)
  • Shaka Toney (EDGE)

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