Jaylen Waddle will make sure Alabama has two first-round wide receivers in successive drafts. After Henry Ruggs III (Raiders) and Jerry Jeudy (Broncos) were No. 12 and No. 15 overall, respectively, in 2020, Waddle hopes to join DeVonta Smith as one of the top 10 picks in 2021.
Waddle (5-10, 182 pounds) is a field stretching speed trader in the mold of the Ruggs, but he’s closer to Smith in being a complete wide receiver. You can make big plays by lining up outside or inside. It also has great speed and is designed to explode after capture.
In his last injury-shortened season at Alabama, Waddle averaged 21.1 receiving yards during the Crimson Tide national championship race, playing well against Smith and helping quarterback Mac Jones hit plenty of home runs. His style of play on the field is more comparable to that of Tyreek Hill. To that end, Waddle can also be a game-changing asset in the return game.
Who will end Waddle in the 2021 NFL Draft? The most likely landing sites are examined below:
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Jaylen Waddle’s best fits in the 2021 draft
1. Detroit Lions (No. 7 overall)
The Lions have been exhausted at wide receiver with Kenny Golladay (Giants), Marvin Jones Jr. (Jaguars), Danny Amendola (unsigned), all without returning to free agency. An impromptu starting combination out of Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams just won’t cut it for new quarterback Jared Goff and new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn.
Detroit needs to think about Smith too, but new general manager Brad Holmes shouldn’t mind targeting a great playmaker to replace Golladay either. The Lions should be a better team to run with D’Andre Swift and also have a tight end matchup nightmare in TJ Hockenson. They could use someone to stretch the field and help open up the power running game and the short-to-intermediate passing game for Goff. Waddle is worthy of reaching that high now.
The Giants would have been Waddle’s best option at No. 11. But his big signing from Golladay should shift his focus to offensive tackle and defense.
2. Cincinnati Bengals (No. 5)
The wisdom of the convention has the Bengals looking for an offensive tackle, namely Penei Sewell of Oregon, to better protect Joe Burrow. Thinking outside the box would say Burrow could really benefit from a dominant wide receiver tight end like Florida’s Kyle Pitts.
Somewhere in between those offensive rebuilding philosophies is replacing AJ Green with a younger, big-play ideal add-on for Tee Higgins and slots ace Tyler Boyd. Waddle could help the Bengals take better advantage of Burrow’s big arm and precision on the field.
3. Green Bay Packers (No. 29)
The Packers won’t get Waddle if they stay in the first round. But they should think about aggressively trading it with GM Brian Gutekunst whenever LSU’s Smith and Ja’Marr Chase are off the board. Green Bay is in position to win the Super Bowl now with Aaron Rodgers, but it lacks that consistent, dependable home run hitter versus No. 1 stud Davante Adams to take its league-highest scoring offense to another level. Waddle would be the ideal additional threat for the big plays and has additional appeal due to the potential use of slots.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (No. 6)
The Eagles are heading to make a decision between Smith and Waddle, assuming Chase goes to the Dolphins (No. 3) or Bengals ahead of them. Smith is a bit better for his purposes as an established No. 1 complete, given they used a first round on speedy “Z” type Jalen Reagor last year. But if things turn around and Smith is off the board along with Chase, Waddle would also be a great option to pair up with former Alabama QB Jalen Hurts.
5. Indianapolis Colts (No. 21)
The Colts also need a big-play wide receiver to replace TY Hilton and make Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal and Parris Campbell more of the complementary types they should be. Waddle and Carson Wentz would be a promising new downfield receiver-QB connection for Frank Reich. The Indianapolis AFC containment status should also consider it for a big change, but still less than Green Bay, from general manager Chris Ballard.
6. Baltimore Ravens (No. 27)
The Ravens tried to get Golladay in NFL free agency to give them a true No. 1, allowing Marquise Brown to further establish herself in an outward complementary mode of deep threat to Lamar Jackson. Unlike “Hollywood,” Waddle is good enough to expand from the great player to completing the No. 1 that Jackson can rely on in every situation. It would also make a fantastic blocking asset for your heavy running attack.
The Ravens should also think like the Packers and Colts and look to Waddle’s advantage for a Super Bowl contender in case he starts to bypass the Panthers at No. 8. From the Cowboys at No. 10 to the Vikings at No. 14 would be the sweet spot for a trade for any team that wants Waddle.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.