The Green Bay Packers will likely draft a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft. Today we take a look at Jaylen Waddle, a wide receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The Alabama Crimson Tide had two wide receivers selected in the top 15 in the 2020 NFL Draft. Henry Ruggs III was selected by the Las Vegas Raiders with the 12th overall pick. A few picks later Jerry Jeudy joined his former teammate in the AFC West when he was selected by the Denver Broncos with the 15th overall pick.
The Crimson Tide may have two wide receivers selected in the first round again in the 2021 NFL Draft. Jaylen Waddle is one of those wide receivers.
Despite being in the shadow of Jeudy and Ruggs, Waddle had a solid 2019 campaign. In 13 games he caught 33 passes for 560 yards and six touchdowns. He added one kick return and one punt return for a touchdown.
In 2018, Waddle was named SEC Freshman of the Year. He recorded 45 receptions for 848 yards and seven touchdowns. Waddle also returned a punt for a touchdown.
With Ruggs and Jeudy no longer in the picture, Waddle could be in store for a monster junior season. It will lead to opposing teams looking to slow him down.
“I’d expect Waddle to get much more attention both from Alabama’s offense and opposing defenses,” Michael Casagrande, the Alabama reporter for AL.com said. “It was hard for defenses to key on anyone when Alabama went four wide with Jeudy, Ruggs, (DeVonta) Smith and Waddle.
He’ll see more double teams but Waddle has speed that’s hard for most defensive backs to match. He might have flown under the radar in a very relative sense before but there’s plenty of scouting on Waddle out there now.”
Waddle is a speed merchant. He has a different set of gears and could be the fastest wide receiver in college football.
With that speed, he’s an absolute terror with the ball in his hands. He’s able to erase pursuit angles and has the vision of a running back.
Last season he was utilized a fair amount on wide receiver screens. On those screens, he showed of his YAC ability. According to Pro Football Focus he averaged 22 yards after the catch on 10 wide receiver screens.
“You see this speed and explosiveness shine on screens — he just makes defenses look silly as they try to catch and tackle him. He averaged over 22 yards after catch per reception on 10 screen plays last season.”
His ability to create after the catch may be his greatest strength (outside of his world-class speed). According to PFF he averaged 12.2 yards after the catch.
“He’s quick and slippery with the ball in his hands,” Casagrande said. “Vision is strong so he can find a seam where it might not be visible to all. That’s the kind of thing that appears in his punt return skills as well.”
All Waddle does is get open. According to the team website, 30 of Waddle’s receptions resulted in a touchdown or first down. He’s able to keep cornerbacks off balance due to his elite speed. Waddle has great acceleration in and out of his breaks.
“It’s hard to compare him to Jerry Jeudy, the most technical route runner I’ve seen at Alabama — right up there with Calvin Ridley,” Casagrande said. “But Waddle did a good job of working himself open when needed. He isn’t the tallest player out there so it takes some creativity to find a throwing lane.”
Waddle is a home-run threat anytime the ball is in his hands. At times it looks like the defenders are running in quicksand as he’s sprinting by them.
That’s speed is what makes him so dangerous as a return man. Last season he averaged 24.4 yards per punt return.
“I’d say that speed is his best weapon,” Casagrande said. “I’ve seen him blow past defenders like they were standing still.
“It is most visible on punt returns when he burned gunners who had no shot. His punt return average last year threatened the all-time national record and that speed had a lot to do with it.”
Fit with the Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers surprised quite a few people when they failed to address the wide receiver position in the 2020 NFL Draft. Thus far the Packers looked like they made the right call.
After two weeks the Green Bay Packers have scored 40+ points in back-to-back games and have gained 1,010 yards. Aaron Rodgers is playing at an MVP and wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard are off to solid starts.
Even with the fast start offensively one would think that the Green Bay Packers will look to add to the wide receiver room during the 2021 NFL Draft. It’s a safe bet that Waddle with his game-breaking speed will be at the top of their wish list.