Height: 5-foot-10 (1.78m)
Weight: 183 lbs (83kg)
- Extremely fast (John Ross/Mecole Hardman/Phillip Dorsett/Henry Ruggs-level fast)
- Correspondingly can stretch the field well
- Surprisingly good contested catch ability
- Uses head and eye movement to freeze defenders on route stems
- Incredible instincts and ability with YAC (yards after catch)
- Fairly twitchy in limited space
- Dependable hands
- Incredible "X-Factor" -- can take any given catch to the house
- Upside as a returner
- Decent footwork against press but could use improvement and better synchronization with hands
- Not particularly strong, which could limit his use as an outside receiver in the league
- Tendency to round out routes, especially on deep corners
- Needs more overall polish in route running technique
- Can learn to use body to stack defenders better on misplaced deep throws
- Injury issues
Summary and Archetype:
Don't be fooled by his last name: Jaylen Waddle flies.
Every draft, there seems to be a signature speedy wide receiver. Last year it was Henry Ruggs, and this year it's his former teammate Jaylen Waddle. Waddle thrives on his ability to force defenders to respect his vertical game, allowing him more leniency on stopping routes (curls, hitches, hooks) and breaking routes.
For such a small receiver, Waddle has extremely dependable hands on jump balls. Because of his elite speed, he often found himself dealing with underthrown and misplaced deep balls by quarterback Mac Jones. There are a few places where Waddle is forced to turn around and make a catch over a defender against momentum, which he does surprisingly effectively.
READ MORE: Is Mac Jones the Answer for the Patriots?
Waddle's greatest weapon is undoubtedly his "X-Factor," or his ability to make electric plays happen fairly routinely. Waddle, because of his advanced YAC instincts and speed, is a threat to take any catch to the house.
Waddle is surprisingly polished. While his route running techniques do lack a lot of nuance and suddenness relative to his natural athleticism, Waddle shows bursts of efficient and quick footwork, meaning he could likely develop into a gifted route runner with proper coaching.
Fit with the Patriots:
The New England Patriots, especially in the last four years, have looked to construct rosters with a speedy receiver to open up the intermediate and short passing games. Waddle can be that player and more for the Patriots.
While Waddle's size and lack of strength may limit him as a true X receiver, he can be a dominant slot receiver in the NFL. This is not to say that Waddle cannot take snaps as a true outside receiver; he certainly has the skills to play well, but he is just better suited to operate from the slot.
For example, he has the explosion to create quick separation (a necessity in the slot), and has the YAC ability to maximize his effectiveness at the position, especially against direct man coverage. However, he also has the ability to attack the deep middle of the field, creating more favorable opportunities for New England's pass game against cover 2, 4, and 6 variants.
At Alabama, Waddle was often motioned into a stack release as the one receiver, a strategy that he saw great success with; this is the role that Julian Edelman currently plays in the Patriots offense. With Edelman's career drawing to a close, it would make sense for the team to look for a player who can replace such an impactful receiver.
Waddle showed elite instincts and vision after the catch with screen passes as well. Midway through the 2020 season, New England began experimenting with throwing screen passes to Damiere Byrd, but eventually drew away from the idea. Waddle could certainly provide the chunk play spark plug the team so desperately requires.
As a whole, Waddle would absolutely be worth the 15th overall pick in April if he falls that low.