Jaylen Waddle starts his career by finishing as a top 13 wide receiver in his rookie season with the Miami Dolphins. Can he top that in year two? Let’s find out!
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I’ll open with a statement I made a year ago:
Now, if anyone remembers Devonta Smith’s last season in college it was absolutely insane with 1800+ receiving yards, but they forget how Waddle opened up the season. If you are one of those who forgot, Jaylen was a first-team All-American and was on pace for 1800 yards himself, which very well means he would have probably bested what Devonta Smith did, thereby curbing the Heisman trophy and potentially winning himself. In fact, he did it with four consecutive 120 Plus-yard games and over that same four-game stretch Devonta Smith had two games with a sub 89 yard receiving performance.
Sure, they probably would have split the production down the middle a little more if he doesn’t go down, though, I doubt he wins the Heisman trophy. However, that Alabama team was lightning in a bottle and Devonta Smith has not disappointed in the NFL either.
We’re in the NFL Now
Either way, we’re in the NFL now guys. We need to dump all these pre-NFL - collegiate memories, all this regressed stuff that’s in the back of our brain, we don’t need it anymore. There’s still a number of dynasty players that look at base production and metrics and call what he did in his rookie season average, believe it or not.
I’ll start by saying there’s nothing average about what Waddell did in 2021. NFL rookies don’t just enter the league and catch 100 balls - I don’t care how depleted the surrounding competition is around them. News flash: he set an NFL rookie record with 104 catches (yes it was 5 catches and a touchdown, in week 18, in January, but still a record. Besides the week prior he had only three catches on one punt return…).
He showed up on day one in Miami and ate Devonte Parker’s lunch. Let’s just call a spade a spade. Let’s call it what it is right? He was like:
Oh, you finished in the top 15 and fantasy? Well here, how about this?
But it’s how Waddle was winning that was so impressive because, in my opinion, we still haven’t seen the Waddle that starred at Alabama. We saw a player crippled by his existing offense and doing his best to play the role that they needed him to. Yet even while playing a character on TV’s shittiest sitcom, he’s still posted these numbers. Check out his CBS Sports News fantasy stats.
Jaylen Waddle’s Stats
He finished in the top 10 yards after the catch with 443 he finished top 20 in Target separation. That was better than Devonta Smith. He finished top 15 in fantasy points per game, top six and true catch rate, and top 23 And red-zone targets and this was all while having the wide receiver. 99 catchable target rate. But then the comps started floating around and we have good friends in the industry that posted some of these things. So I’m gonna jump to it right now.
News on The Comparisons
I love this guy my man Josh Larkey, he’s a genius. He’s analytically driven. He does everything the right way. He says Waddle is looking more like an athletic, Keenan Allen. His usage model is the wide receiver seven per game the past seven weeks and just had his second top-five weekly finish at wide receiver in 12 weeks.
Jaylen was comped to Keenan Allen multiple times this year. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. And from a fantasy perspective, you do have to love this comp right away. Anytime you’re comparing a player to a multi-time top 10 fantasy finisher at the wide receiver position, you’re gonna pitch a tent. There’s no doubt about it. I’m pitching one right now.
Not What You Hoped For
At the end of this, you’re going to realize that it doesn’t parallel quite as much as you would hope for. For starters, Keenan Allen is slow and he’s 25 pounds heavier than Jaylen is. Waddle and Locket are both in the 90 + percentile in the 40 times. Both also have 50th percentile speed scores. Locket is 5’10” tall, how tall is Waddle? around 5’10”! They both weigh about 180 pounds.
Pitching My Tent
Deep down inside this comp actually kills me. As I mentioned before, the JW that we saw in 2021 wasn’t the real Jaylen Waddle. I get it though, let me review what happened in 2021. Jaylen Waddle’s 8.9 targets per game did look like a pinnacle Keenan Allen, and I see the Jaylen Waddle’s 43.8% Snap share does align once again with Keenan Allen and I get the Jaylen Waddle’s wide receiver number 103. The average Depth of target looked a lot like Keenan Allen and his wide receiver 61 total deep targets stat also resembles Keenan Allen.
He Has the Tools
Trust me guys, I still have both of my eyes. What I’m telling you is this was not the real Waddle. My own comp for him is a little different and I’m going to rotate to that right now with this tweet from Andy Singleton (another good guy):
Let me rewrite this tweet because it was written on April 27, 2021. We didn’t know as much about him at the time, so let me say this the way that I would phrase it today.
Well, for starters, I’d be drafting over Rashad Bateman, over Elijah Moore, over Devonta Smith, over Terrace Marshall, over Rondale Moore everybody, but Jemare Chase.
Of course, we’re not drafting him over Ja’Marr Chase…
The Deeper Fantasy Story
Look, Keenan Allen is not an elite separator. I know some of you’re like, Huh, no, it’s true. Go look at the metrics. Go look at playerprofiler.com and go review Keenan Allen versus some of the other guys in this league. He’s a great separator. He’s not elite. He’s not at the top. And this is illustrated by his wide receivers. 62 Target separation average over the last five years. Tyler Lockett is and is routinely pushing the top 10 In this particular metric. Tyler Lockett also has a borderline top 10 catch rate. Season to Season Jaylen was top six in catch rate this year. But look, I know what people are saying. Tyler Lockett had a top seven average depth of target that doesn’t look like Waddle’s and his top three deep targets. They don’t look like Waddle’s and are 91.2 wide receivers 15 Air yards per game. Those don’t look like Waddles. So you’re probably thinking to yourself, how exactly does he look like Tyler Lockett Nate?
Jaylen Destroying Defenses
Well, it starts with how he destroyed defenses in college. You see, just two years ago, Jaylen was one of football’s most explosive players in collegiate football. If you want proof, go to playerprofiler.com. Just look at his collegiate yards per reception. At 20, that’s 93rd percentile!
The only reason he’s not getting there now is that the Dolphins offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL. They were almost dead last in the league and pass protection, an absolutely god awful offensive line - it’s a wonder they didn’t lose more games.
Jaylen Waddle and Tua
But the problem is the most painful metric to look at is actually on Tua Tagovailoa’s player page. So travel over there and you can follow me on this one. And that is deep ball completion percentage where he actually ranked number one overall in 2021. A shocking metric for those of you hearing this for the first time. The second most painful metric you can find on his player page. He was the QB 30. In his attempted League 30th deep ball pass attempts. He was one of the lowest in the league and total deep ball pass attempts. So Waddle’s got the tools. He’s a burner who’s running a dot that’s very, very low; and Tua is a hyper-accurate downfield passer who’s never throwing it there.
So how the hell did this happen?
Purely Educational Purposes
Oh, I’ll tell you. You see in 2021 while having nothing but gargoyles in front of him for an offensive lineman, Tua actually had another thing to overcome: the league’s third-lowest time to throw the ball, per next-gen stats.
Think about that.
Tua had almost no time compared to the number one player in the league (you’re welcome Jalen Hurts). But now it makes a little more sense…this is why the Miami Dolphins have no run game and why they have no pass protection. There’s no time to throw and they only have one talented receiver running routes out there.
Definitely Not the New England Patriots
Their only option was to deploy Waddle in a role that would basically give this offense a shot at moving the ball. But this is where I’m going to start blowing smoke up your ass. I have to be honest with you guys.
Here Comes the Smoke
You see if he sees a bump in his depth of target or if he sees a bump in his deep targets - suddenly, we aren’t just talking about a top 13 wide receiver in the league we’re talking about a surefire top 10 wide receiver, even possibly a top-five top seven wide receiver amongst the league. Deep targets will equal more yards and more touchdowns.
More Reception Smoke
Now also remember that five of the top 10 wideouts in 2021 played 17 games, Waddle only played 16 on the year. So had he played one more game based on his average points per game he actually would have cracked the top 10 already.
Miami is sitting with the second-most cap space in 2022. What would happen if the team invests in an offensive line, establish a more threatening run game, and give one of the NFL’s most accurate passer some actual time to throw. More receptions, more yards, more touchdowns.
This shouldn’t be news to you, but we could very well see a Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett light connection with a major volume bump added to it (Touchdown!). So while Jaylen Waddle’s price tag may seem too spicy today, I can guarantee you, you’re gonna like it a lot less tomorrow.
That was easy.