As the NFL Draft draws closer, Eagles fans have continued to debate which position the team should target with their 12th overall selection: cornerback or wide receiver. As I’ve stated multiple times, I think cornerback is the way to go. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone if Howie Roseman decides to take a wideout in the first round for the second year in a row.
Since we’ve already broken down Smith’s prospect profile, it’s time to take a look at his sidekick in Tuscaloosa, Jaylen Waddle.
Speed is the first thing every scout points to when breaking down Waddle’s tape, and for good reason. He’s essentially this year’s version of Henry Ruggs.
Waddle flies off the line of scrimmage and gets behind a defense more effectively than any other wideout entering this year’s draft. And his game-breaking speed also serves him well when he has the ball in his hands. He’s a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the ball.
Per Pro Football Focus, Waddle recorded 15-plus yard gains on 36% of his targets over his three-year Alabama career. That lead all FBS wide receivers by four percentage points over that time.
Speed and explosiveness isn’t all that Waddle possesses, though. He’s far from a one-trick pony. He does a great job of high pointing balls, and his wide catch radius allows him to attack the ball when it enters his target range.
Whenever we hear about a speedy wideout, most of us tend to label him as a deep threat and nothing else. Waddle can be used all over the formation and in a number of different ways. Whether it’s from the slot, out wide, or even in the backfield, Waddle can be an effective weapon from nearly any spot on the offensive formation.
The Eagles attempted to add some speed to their wideout group last year, when they selected Jalen Reagor in the first round, along with John Hightower and Quez Watkins in later rounds. Waddle would not only add even more speed to that group, but he would come in as arguably the best wideout on the roster.
He and Reagor could form a dynamic duo in the Eagles offense if Roseman decides to bring in this Alabama prospect.
Like I stated above, Waddle is much more than just a deep threat, but he’s certainly not the route runner that his teammate, DeVonta Smith, is. His preciseness on short to intermediate routes will need some work at the next level, but given his great athleticism and head coach Nick Sirianni’s background on coaching wide receivers, Waddle should develop in that area rather quickly.
Waddle also doesn’t have as much tape as you’d think from a wideout who’s played three years in college. He was a part of arguably the best wide receiver room in NCAA history during his first two seasons, and the broken ankle he suffered last season robbed him of an opportunity to be ‘the man’ in Bama’s offense.
Over his three year career, Waddle has logged 132 targets on 560 routes. For reference, Smith logged 145 targets on 423 targets just last season.
There’s no indication that his ankle will hinder his draft stock entering this year’s draft, although he didn’t workout during the team’s Pro Day just a few weeks ago.
At the end of the day, no one should be disappointed if the Eagles end up with Waddle. He’s a dynamic receiver who would provide this offense with a potentially elite weapon. Now, if the team selects Waddle while Smith is still on the board, then you certainly have the right to be a little bummed out.
But if you’re looking for game-breaking speed and someone who has all the tools to be a very good wide receiver at the next level, Waddle is your guy. He’s the most explosive wideout in this year’s draft class, and the Eagles will more than likely have the opportunity to select him at 12 overall.
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