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Top Alabama Receivers in the NFL: Jaylen Waddle, DeVonta Smith rising

Nick Saban's Alabama program is a true factory for top-end wide receiver talent. Who are the best Alabama wide receivers in the NFL today?

There are a select few elite clubs in the NFL. The Alabama wide receivers in the NFL are such a club. Few college football teams have produced as much greatness at one position as Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide have at the wide receiver position. Which wide receivers in the NFL can say they came from the halls at Alabama?

Top Alabama receivers in the NFL

Alabama has always had top names at wide receiver in the NFL, but recently, Bryant-Denny Stadium has become a literal factory for high-caliber pass catchers.

In two straight NFL Drafts, the Crimson Tide had two first-round receivers — Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III in 2020, and Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith in 2021. Were it not for John Metchie III‘s ACL injury, they could have had two more in 2022 with him and Jameson Williams.

The high-profile names aren’t the only ones for Alabama. Robert Foster and Gehrig Dieter are two other Crimson Tide products still lingering in the NFL. Foster, a respectable deep threat, is on the practice squad for the Cowboys. Meanwhile, Dieter remains with the Chiefs after joining them as an undrafted free agent several years ago.

Nevertheless, Alabama has proven capable of consistently generating top-tier talent at the wide receiver position. It’s a rare honor to be a receiver at Alabama. These are the players who’ve taken that title to the next level and remain in the NFL today.

Alabama wide receivers just outside the top five

There are seven Alabama wide receivers currently rostered in the NFL. Before we get to the top five, let’s take a look at those who fell just short of reaching the podium.

7) Cam Sims, Washington Football Team

An undrafted free agent back in 2018, Cam Sims has carved out a respectable role for the soon-to-be-renamed Washington Football Team. In 2020, he caught 32 passes for 477 yards and a score. This year, he added 2 more touchdowns along with 211 yards on 15 receptions. With his 6’5″, 220-pound frame, he’s made a living as a solid rotational weapon on the boundary.

6) Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos

A rookie campaign that featured 856 yards and 3 scores on 52 catches fueled excitement for Jerry Jeudy’s second season. However, due to both quarterback inconsistency and injury troubles, a second-year breakout never materialized for Jeudy.

Jeudy still has the high-end athleticism and route-running capabilities, but he hasn’t arrived yet. Getting a legit QB is the first step toward revitalizing the young wideout’s career.

Top five Alabama receivers in the NFL 

As of now, these are the top five Alabama wide receivers in the NFL. Would you rank them any differently?

5) Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons

There’s a lot up in the air for Calvin Ridley, who left the Falcons early in the season, citing mental health as the reason for his departure. Now, the future is murky for Ridley in Atlanta, and there’s been talk that he could be the center of trade discussions.

Uncertainty aside, when Ridley is on the field, he’s one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. In 2020, he took over as Atlanta’s primary playmaker, catching 90 passes for 1,374 yards and 9 touchdowns.

4) Julio Jones, Tennessee Titans

Two or three years ago, Julio Jones would have comfortably been the top Alabama wide receiver on this list. But time has brought change and hardship for Jones.

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After a 2020 season marred by injury, Jones was traded to the Titans, where he again struggled to see the field. Jones was dominant for a large part of his career and could be a Hall of Famer. But being that he’s almost 33, it’s fair to wonder if his best days are behind him.

3) DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles

A new age is turning for Alabama wide receivers in the NFL. And spearheading that new age is the class of 2021.

Waddle and Smith have lit up the NFL in their respective rookie seasons. Smith, in particular, has been a favorite target of Jalen Hurts. In 17 games this year, Smith had 64 catches for 916 yards and 5 scores. Smith succeeded in 2021 the same way he won the Heisman in 2020 — supplementing natural talent with terse attention to detail.

2) Jaylen Waddle, Miami Dolphins

Ja’Marr Chase was the hottest rookie sensation on the NFL stage in 2021. But quietly, Jaylen Waddle wasn’t far behind him. Reunited with college quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Waddle quickly emerged as the top weapon in a Dolphins offense desperate for playmakers.

In Week 17, Waddle broke the rookie record for receptions in a season originally set by Anquan Boldin. An elite separator and RAC threat, Waddle is quickly rising up the board as a legitimate X-factor.

1) Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys

Smith and Waddle are biting at Amari Cooper’s heels, but Dallas’ sensation is undoubtedly the leader in the Crimson Tide clubhouse.

A four-time Pro Bowler since being drafted by the Raiders in 2015, Cooper has consistently been one of the most dangerous technicians in the league. His routes can be devastating for defenders, and he can also make plays amidst contact with his 6’1″, 210-pound frame. A true WR1, Cooper remains not only the top Alabama receiver but one of the best pass catchers in the NFL.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and his voice and face on Pro Football Network Daily. Follow him on Twitter @ian_cummings_9.

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