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NFL Draft round table: Making the case — Jaylen Waddle vs. Rondale Moore

Some NFL talent evaluators apparently like Rondale Moore as an NFL prospect over Jaylen Waddle — here’s what Big Blue View evaluators think

Texas A&M vs Alabama
Jaylen Waddle
Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

I’m bragging a bit, but I will put our group of NFL Draft analysts (Chris Pflum, Nick Falato, Mark Schofield, Joe DeLeone and Football Gameplan video contributor Emory Hunt) up against just about anyone not working at NFL.com or ESPN.

We have the outstanding in-depth prospect profiles from Chris, the podcasts from Chris, Joe and Nick, other features and analysis from Nick, Mark’s insights on quarterback play and a bunch of other things, and Emory’s video breakdowns on our YouTube channel. Oh, and a few contributions to the draft coverage from yours truly.

Over the next few weeks leading up to the draft I want to take advantage of the talent we have here at Big Blue View by posting weekly “round table” discussion questions.

Our first question involves a comparison of Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle and Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore.

The question:

Highly-respected draft analyst Tony Pauline [Pro Football Network] wrote recently that some draft analysts, including Pauline, and more importantly some NFL talent evaluators, think Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore is a better NFL prospect than Jaylen Waddle of Alabama. Do you agree or disagree with that sentiment? As an extension, given his injury history how early in the draft would you be comfortable selecting Moore?

Chris Pflum

Rondale Moore is a better prospect than Jaylen Waddle? Is Tony dazed and confused? Has he been indulging in that sweet leaf? I get having a whole lotta love for Moore, but his injury history makes Waddle look like an iron man. And ... Okay, okay. That’s enough poking fun at Tony and his famous love of classic rock (namely Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.) On to the question at hand: Jaylen Waddle vs. Rondale Moore.

There’s no question that Moore can be an electric playmaker in the NFL. His agility, stop/start quickness, explosiveness, and speed make him a problem for just about any defender. Moore can turn a sliver of daylight into chunk yardage and make a game-changing play any time he touches the ball. But so can Waddle, and the differences in how they got those touches is the difference in the players for me. Waddle is an all-around player for Alabama, making plays as a runner, in the short and intermediate areas, and as a vertical receiver. I noticed some understated subtlety in Waddle’s game as a receiver, playing with his routes to maximize separation or carry speed through his breaks, as well as locating, tracking, and adjusting to the ball. It’s also notable that Waddle is a good blocker, and not just for a smaller receiver. There were multiple instances where Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith both ran behind Waddle’s blocks for nice yardage. I didn’t see Moore play nearly as much “receiver”. Purdue went to great lengths to manufacture touches and space in which Moore could work — they’re not dumb — many of which were as a runner on jet sweeps. But even most of his receptions came within 3 (or so) yards of the line of scrimmage. Likewise, I didn’t see the same positional savvy in Moore’s game as I did in Waddle’s. Moore seemed happy to “out-athlete” defenders and didn’t seem to locate, track, and adjust to the ball as well.

Of course, I have to issue my standard caveat: I don’t have the contacts or league insight that people like Tony Pauline have. If they are moving Moore up and Waddle down, they probably have a legitimate reason. Perhaps there are questions as to why Waddle didn’t seize a larger role in the offense (and answers beyond Alabama’s embarrassment of riches). Moore’s injury history is certainly concerning, but it’s also straight forward. A hamstring injury, finger surgery, an unspecified “lower body” injury all conspired to limit Moore to just 4 and 3 games over the last two seasons. But injuries are easier to understand and rationalize away compared to potential questions of intangibles.

Within my limitations, I have to evaluate Waddle as the better prospect. Moore has the potential to be a star in the NFL, and I wouldn’t have a problem with a team selecting him in the second half of the first round, but it would have to be in the right situation with the right offensive mind to maximize his skillset. But his injury history makes him much more of a “boom/bust” prospect for me. How useful is a player if you can’t count on him for the (overwhelming) majority of the season? That uncertainty would have to drop his grade by a full round for me, down to something like a late second or early third-round pick. Missing with a second- or third-round pick hurts, but not nearly as much as losing a (potentially high) first-round pick.

Mark Schofield

Jaylen Waddle is an impressive downfield threat.

Rondale Moore is an explosive athlete.

Both of these players have bright NFL futures, but for what the New York Giants need right now, I think Waddle is the better fit. I love Waddle as a threat in a vertical passing attack, and if you need convincing, turn on his game against Missouri. It’s one of those games that has become almost legendary in scouting circles. Then picture that in the Giants offense, paired along with perhaps an acquisition in free agency. We know that Daniel Jones has shown an ability to push the ball downfield - and perhaps more importantly, a willingness - and that points to Waddle being an ideal fit schematically.

Moore reminds me in a way of Laviska Shenault Jr. from last season, a player I loved. But also someone with an injury history, and someone that you will need to manufacture touches for offensively. That kind of player can be a welcome addition for many offenses, but with what the Giants do on that side of the football, the scheme fit might be a bit more of a puzzle than anything else.

Nick Falato

Both of these players possess an insane amount of explosiveness. Waddle seems to have an extra gear whenever defenders feel they “have an angle.” Rondale Moore’s ability to accelerate, stop and start, while also cutting laterally is incredible. Both have great hips and both will be impact players in the NFL.

However, I’m more comfortable with Waddle for a few reasons. Love Moore, but the nagging lower-body injuries have led to many missed games. His touches are also more manufactured than anything else — a lot of touches near or behind the line of scrimmage to just get him in space. That’s not necessarily his fault, and it doesn’t mean he can’t be a vertical threat when given the chance, but Waddle has already shown tons of unique downfield receiving skills and route-running ability.

Moore didn’t have to win contested catches quite as much as Waddle. Both these players have incredible play-making ability; I just feel Waddle has shown more true receiving traits and may be a tad bit explosive (which is saying a lot).

As for Moore, he’s short in stature (5-9), but he actually possesses very good contact balance for a player that weighs 180 pounds. His skill-set should work anywhere in the NFL, but some teams may not maximize him as well as others - sadly, I think the Giants are one of those teams. Jason Garrett’s play-calling is much more about running route concepts that get to the first down, rather than getting playmakers into space and, you know, having them make plays.

Garrett’s a smart guy, and I’m sure he’d adjust, but the vertical element of Waddle’s game makes me feel a bit more comfortable, especially with Daniel Jones, who hasn’t been shy throwing it deep. Waddle’s not just a deep threat; he’s very good underneath, can release off the line well with suddenness, and he blocks with tenacity - sounds like a Joe Judge type of guy. Overall, if healthy, both players are impact NFL receivers who should be selected on day one. I’m more content with Waddle at the moment, but Moore’s skill-set is evident.

Valentine’s View

I certainly understand why anyone watching film of Rondale Moore would get excited. The young man is absolutely electric with the ball in his hands. I can’t, though, understand the notion of selecting Moore before Jaylen Waddle.

Watch what Moore did to Ohio State in 2018, then remember to pick your jaw up off the floor. That was an incredible display of playmaking and athleticism against one of the closest approximations college football can offer to an NFL-caliber defense.

Problem is, that was 2018. Moore played only four games in 2019 due to a hamstring injury and three games in 2020 due to a “lower-body” injury (this isn’t hockey, why wouldn’t Purdue just tell us what the injury was?).

I am simply a believer that guys who show in college that they are injury-prone will not suddenly become year-in and year-out 16-game competitors in the NFL. The grind is longer and the competition is bigger, faster and more physical. At 5-foot-9, 180 pounds Moore is short, but not tiny. He’s rock solid and muscular. Still, injuries are injuries and missing that much time the past two seasons is a red flag, at least for me.

Plus, you have to take Moore’s gaudy reception totals (178 in 20 colleges games, nearly 9 per game) with a grain of salt. Many of those are shovel passes, which are really jet sweeps in disguise, swing passes or quick dump offs into the flat. All of those are designed to simply get the ball into his hands, which is a terrific idea but doesn’t necessarily make him a great receiver.

Moore shows the ability to run some pretty good intermediate routes. He isn’t giving you a whole lot of contested catches or even pure vertical routes. His production comes mostly from designed catch-and-run stuff.

Both players have punt and kickoff return ability, but Moore’s 6.9 yards per punt return and 19.4 yards per kickoff return pales compared to Waddle (19.3 yards per punt return, 23.4 yards per kickoff return.

Waddle did have the fractured ankle, but in three seasons he averaged 18.9 yards on 106 catches. He showed the ability to win deep, to make contested catches and to run routes well enough to win in the intermediate area. He’s got Moore’s game-breaking ability, but he’s also a better receiver.

To be honest, I watch Waddle and I think about DeSean Jackson. The Giant-killer has never had more than 82 receptions in any of his 13 seasons, but his blazing speed has led to five 1,000-yard seasons, 56 receiving touchdowns and a career average of 17.4 yards per catch. Combined with the return ability he showed early in his career and Jackson has always been one of the most impactful players on the field even if he was never the best pure receiver.

That’s the kind of career I think Waddle might be able to have.