It's been said before and it bears repeating: It's really not fair to evaluate a draft pick or a draft class until at least two years have passed, maybe even three.
But that's never stopped draft analysts from providing immediate grades, and so it was again in 2021.
Here then was the immediate evaluation of the Dolphins' selection of wide receiver Jaylen Waddle with the sixth pick in the draft from 10 national draft analysts.
Analysis: This is a great class of receivers, and how you might stack these players could come down to personal preference. What elevates Waddle in my mind is his route-running and his ability to use pace to influence — and beat — defenders in a variety of coverage situations. Separation is not a concern with him, and if you can get open in the SEC, you can get open at the next level. He might not offer the ability to align as an X receiver at the next level, and his ability against press coverage is more of an “incomplete” grade, but as we saw last year with Jefferson, if you can get open and have shown instances of beating press in the past, you have an NFL future. Grade: A
Analysis: Like the Bengals, the Dolphins reunite their starting quarterback with a former wide receiver teammate. Jaylen Waddle arrives in Miami with experience catching passes from Tua Tagovailoa. He is an explosive play waiting to happen, whether it’s on a bubble screen or a post route. He is the elite burner receiver of the entire draft class and rounds out the Dolphins’ receiving corps. Grade: Very Good
Analysis: This pick was always going to be about helping Tua Tagovailoa, and what better way to do that than reuniting him with a familiar face. Just as the Bengals did with Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow, the Dolphins give their young quarterback a player that helped him make tons of big plays in college. What Waddle lacks in size, he more than makes up for with rare speed and explosiveness, giving the Miami offensive a dynamic playmaker. Grade: A
Analysis: It is tough to believe the Miami Dolphins were not disappointed to see Pitts and Chase go off the board. Still, Jaylen Waddle is a pretty nice consolation prize. Waddle brings game-changing explosive speed, good hands, and the elusiveness to make a man miss in the open field. A combination of Waddle and Will Fuller gives Tua Tagovailoa two extremely explosive weapons. Grade: A
Analysis: Well, one thing is certainly clear: The NFL hasn’t lost its love of pure, blazing speed. Waddle brings plenty of it, possessing the field-tilting explosiveness and playmaking talent to score every time he touches the ball. I love the Crimson Tide star’s fit with the Dolphins, too. He’ll mesh well with DeVante Parker, Will Fuller V, and Mike Gesicki in the team’s passing game, giving quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a familiar face to throw to downfield. But when factoring in the price Miami paid to move back up from no. 12 to no. 6 to make this pick (mainly a future first-rounder), I don’t love the value here. Waddle, who lacks size, is coming off a major ankle injury that forced him to miss most of the 2020 season, and ranks lower than Heisman winner DeVonta Smith on my board. Waddle will need to turn into an unguardable go-to guy and true no. 1 in the Dolphins offense to justify this price. Grade: B-
Analysis: The Dolphins reunited Waddle with former Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, taking a cue from the Bengals with Burrow and Chase the pick before. He was preferred in the end over DeVonta Smith because of ability to add a necessary big-play element, both using his speed to get downfield and using his quickness in the open field as a Tyreek Hill-style receiver. He is the ideal complement to top wideout DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki. Grade: A
Analysis: Miami gets another weapon for Tua Tagovailoa in the electric Waddle, who can attack every part of the field and change the way teams defend them in the same way that Tyreek Hill does for the Chiefs. Waddle’s ankle injury isn’t considered serious anymore, and pretty soon he will be adding some major speed — on returns as well — to the roster. Getting our No. 5 overall prospect and landing trade-down assets in the 49ers deal is a win-win. Grade: A-
Analysis: A broken ankle limited him to six games last season, but when Waddle was on the field, he produced (106 catches for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons). In many ways, he is a Tyreek Hill clone with elite speed and acceleration. Tua Tagovailoa now has DeVante Parker, Will Fuller and Waddle to throw to in 2021. That supporting cast will allow Miami to properly evaluate its second-year quarterback. It’s fair to question whether the Dolphins should have traded up to six from 12 for Waddle, given what they had to give up. But Waddle is a perfectly reasonable use of resources at this spot. Grade: B
Analysis: It is difficult to discuss Waddle's speed and playmaking ability and not venture into hyperbole. Comparisons to the Chiefs' super field-stretcher Tyreek Hill are warranted. The Dolphins already boast the league's most expensive receiving corps, however, and, like Hill, Waddle is a sports car that needs to be finely tuned to run its best. Waddle has durability red flags at just 5-10, 180 pounds. Waddle's upside is sky high but, quietly, his production slipped all three years at Alabama. Grade: B-
Analysis: Waddle is an explosive player who becomes the first receiver 5-foot-10 or shorter to go in the top 10 since Tavon Austin in 2013. The 'Bama wideout's midseason injury did not affect his draft status, either, in part because he showed great heart by playing in the College Football Playoffs National Championship Game despite an obvious limp.This choice may have been between two teammates: Waddle and DeVonta Smith. If not for the ankle injury he suffered against Tennessee on a kickoff return, Waddle likely would have been the one hoisting the Heisman Trophy, not Smith. Waddle’s extreme quickness from the slot and speed in the open field will certainly help his former Alabama teammate, Tua Tagovailoa, fully develop in Miami. But there is risk in taking a smaller receiver coming off injury this early in the draft. Grade: A- (note the grade was based on the Dolphins' two first-round selections)