Jaylen Waddle Dynasty Value: Where to draft him in 2021 rookie fantasy drafts?

Despite missing much of the 2020 season with injury Jaylen Waddle‘s dynasty value is set to explode in his first year as a professional by bringing a rare combination of hands, explosiveness, body control, and route running to fantasy football. In a loaded rookie WR class, where should fantasy football managers value Waddle in dynasty leagues?

Jaylen Waddle’s dynasty value for 2021

If you like wide receivers, the 2021 NFL Draft class is for you. Of this class, there is an upper tier of receivers who are somewhat interchangeable in rankings. DeVonta Smith, Ja’Marr Chase, Rondale Moore, Rashod Bateman, and Waddle. Of this group, Waddle might be the most explosive of the bunch.

In open space, Jaylen Waddle is a defender’s worst nightmare. His low-4.30 speed destroys angles of would-be tacklers. You know it, they know it, and so do NFL coaches. This is was why draft capital for Jaylen Waddle was the least of our concerns.

In dynasty, running backs help you to win now. But elite wide receivers keep you in a championship window for a long time. They stay at an elite level longer and tend to hold their value better in dynasty. It’s not uncommon to start five wide receivers anymore in dynasty.

The more often you can slide in someone as talented and game-breaking as Waddle is, it gives you a massive advantage. If you are looking for why Waddle’s dynasty value could take a hit and maybe slide in fantasy drafts, it could very well be an exercise in futility.

Jaylen Waddle selected by the Miami Dolphins

Where everyone seemed to be fascinated with both Chase and Smith as the choice, Waddle was the play all along at wide receiver for the Dolphins. Miami had a need for a receiver and got arguably the most dynamic receiver in the NFL Draft after the catch. Waddle is a burner and fits in perfectly into the Miami offense. Both Will Fuller and DeVante Parker will work on the outside, with Waddle playing the majority of the snaps from the slot. It is both a perfect fit for his skill set and also fills the gap in the Miami depth chart.

Not to mention a reunion with Tua Tagovailoa means little adjustment period. I am sure we will never hear this mentioned from now until the start of the year. Clearly, his ankle injury was no worry for the Dolphins, and with the draft capital, Waddle is cemented inside the top 3 receivers in dynasty rookie drafts.

Despite playing with three first-round WRs, Jaylen Waddle shined at Alabama

As a true freshman at Alabama in 2018, Waddle was named the SEC Freshman of the Year after recording 45 receptions for 848 yards and 7 touchdowns. Serving as a punt returner, he also returned 16 punts for 233 yards and a touchdown. As a freshman, he had three games with over 100 yards receiving and averaged 18.8 yards per reception.

In 2019, Waddle continued to almost show off on the field, flaunting his incredible athleticism. He recorded 33 receptions for 560 yards and scored 6 receiving touchdowns. He also returned a punt 77 yards for a touchdown against LSU and a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown against Auburn.

Waddle was named first-team All-SEC as a return specialist. In addition, he was named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year. As both a receiver and returner, Waddle totaled 1,227 all-purpose yards for the Crimson Tide. If you want to see his talent on full display, watch the 2019 Auburn game.

Waddle had 4 touchdowns (3 receiving, 1 kickoff return) against the Tigers. He had 4 receptions for 98 yards but scored on 3 of those receptions. Working on special teams, he had 3 kickoff returns for a total of 132 yards, highlighted by a 98-yard run before the half. If there is one game to catch to get your opinion on Waddle’s potential dynasty value, I would start here.

Waddle entered his junior season viewed as the WR2 of the 2021 NFL Draft class

With news of Chase opting out, it was left to Waddle to close the gap on what could be the WR1 spot in the draft. Unfortunately, his season did not go as planned. 

In the first four weeks of the season, Waddle was on Heisman Trophy pace. He had 25 receptions for 557 yards and 4 touchdowns in his first four games. His lowest receiving total was 120 yards against Ole Miss. At the time, he was ahead of teammate DeVonta Smith, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy. 

In Week 5, disaster struck on the opening kickoff for Jaylen Waddle. He suffered a gruesome ankle injury that was viewed at the time as season-ending and required surgery to repair. Yet, somehow, Waddle would return.

Waddle somehow gutted out a return to the field against the Ohio State Buckeyes with a berth to the national championship on the line. Clearly hampered and less than 100%, he managed to catch 3 passes for 34 total yards, converting a first down on 2 receptions.

Waddle ended his career playing in 34 games over three seasons, catching 106 passes for 1,999 yards and 17 touchdowns. As a returner, he racked up 947 yards on 47 kicks with 3 touchdowns.

In his collegiate career, Waddle did more than enough to solidify his dynasty value. While at Alabama, he played both outside and in the slot. Waddle will certainly be on the field at the NFL level on Day 1 with his return skills. 

Where should you draft Waddle in dynasty rookie drafts?

When I am drafting in dynasty, I go by tiers. That is unless I have a positional need on my roster. So long as I can land a player in that range, I am happy.

Of the wide receivers I mentioned earlier (Smith, Chase, Waddle, Moore), they are interchangeable based on preference. With the first round of the draft in the books, Chase is the WR1 but there is an honest discussion as to which Alabama WR should be the No. 2.

At 5’9″, 180 pounds, I am not overly worried about his size. Waddle’s route running and separation rivals Smith for the best in the class. What I love about Waddle’s game is how smart he is.

Rather than just going pedal to the metal all the time, knowing that no one is keeping up, Waddle also knows that can cause issues. He can read the defense as the play is happening and manipulate his route speed to stay in the soft spot instead of running into the defender and shrinking the window. Thanks to his elite speed, Waddle knows that he can leave people grasping at his vapor trail.

Waddle is a bona fide elite wide receiver at the next level and should deliver for fantasy managers. There should be no surprise if he becomes the next Tyreek Hill out of this class. Whether it is Superflex or 1QB, he should never see the end of the first round. Waddle carries some of the highest dynasty value of the class, given his enormous upside.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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