Jaylen Waddle Injury Update: Is Dolphins Star Wideout on Track To Play in Week 1?

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle has been battling an abdominal injury, so will Tua Tagovailoa have his explosive pass catcher available in Week 1?

The Miami Dolphins have arguably the top wide receiver duo in the NFL. Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle provide a threat that opposing defensive coordinators simply cannot contain, which is a significant reason as to why Tua Tagovailoa had such a successful season when he was healthy in 2022.

But heading into 2023, one member of that duo is already on the injury report, as Waddle has been nursing an abdominal injury for several weeks. Do Dolphins fans need to be nervous with the regular-season opener just days away?

Is Jaylen Waddle’s Injury a Serious Concern?

The short answer: probably not.

Waddle’s injury to his midsection has kept him out of the action since Miami’s joint practices with the Atlanta Falcons in early August. But it sounds like the team’s decision to hold him out of preseason contests and practices has been more out of an abundance of caution than a necessity.

Head coach Mike McDaniel essentially confirmed as much ahead of Miami’s preseason contest against the Houston Texans. “We’re holding Jaylen against himself,” McDaniel explained.

“He’s a Houston native, and it’s hard to believe the information we’re receiving when he’s telling us he’s good. That’s one of the things you love about Jaylen, and it’s our job to protect him for himself.”

When speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Waddle expressed optimism about his Week 1 status. “I’m feeling good. Me and the medical staff talked, and they’re doing a good job monitoring me and doing stuff like that. But feeling good.”

When asked more directly whether he expects to play against the Los Angeles Chargers in Miami’s regular-season opener, Waddle answered in the affirmative.

“Yeah, it’s always the expectation to go out and play,” the third-year wide receiver stated.

Which Wide Receivers Would Be Called Up if Waddle Misses Time?

The Dolphins kept six wide receivers on the 53-man roster heading into Week 1. Behind Hill and Waddle are Cedrick Wilson Jr., Braxton Berrios, Erik Ezukanma, and River Cracraft.

Following an underwhelming debut season in Miami, Wilson recently restructured his contract to lower his 2023 salary and nullify the final year of his deal, which was set to expire in 2025 and now has him hitting free agency next offseason.

The Dolphins will hope to get more out of the former Dallas Cowboys pass catcher after he recorded just 12 receptions on 18 targets for 136 yards in 2022.

Berrios is likely to see significant snaps regardless of Waddle’s injury status, particularly in the slot. The former Miami Hurricanes star was a first-team All-Pro in 2021 as a kick returner — a role he’ll have in Miami — but he’s plenty capable on offense as well.

Berrios tallied a career-high 46 receptions for 431 yards and two touchdowns with the New York Jets just two seasons ago, so he’ll likely rotate with Wilson as Miami’s No. 3 wideout.

The Dolphins’ coaching staff will hope to see a better return on investment from Ezukanma in his second year. The 2022 fourth-round pick was inactive for much of his rookie campaign despite showing out in the preseason last year.

Ezukanma has shown ample ability with the ball in his hands and is a serious threat to do damage after the catch, but he’s yet to translate that ability onto an NFL field in the regular season.

It’s unlikely he will contribute much early in the season so long as the team’s top wideouts stay healthy, but if he gets an opportunity, he could carve out a role in this Dolphins offense.

Speaking about Ezukanma back in June, McDaniel seemed excited about the leap the former Texas Tech WR has made from his rookie to sophomore season. “He’s put himself in a position to really compete for opportunities — I’m happy for him as it stands, and moving forward, I can’t wait to see what he does.”

Cracraft’s path to playing time in the NFL has been a winding one. After hauling in just seven receptions across his first four NFL seasons, Cracraft followed McDaniel to Miami after their time together with the San Francisco 49ers. A strong training camp helped him crack the 53-man roster just ahead of the team’s season opener against the New England Patriots last season.

The former Washington State standout rewarded McDaniel’s faith in him by exceeding his career numbers in a single season, as he managed nine catches for 102 yards in 2022.

Those figures may not seem like much, but they included two key early-season touchdown receptions, one in Miami’s whirlwind comeback against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 2 and the other in the team’s Week 3 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

Cracraft will play a depth role for the team and will likely only see significant snaps in the event of injuries ahead of him on the depth chart.

Fantasy Football Implications of Jaylen Waddle’s Injury

Waddle’s injury shouldn’t impact his standing in fantasy football. Period.

It appears exceedingly likely that he’ll be full steam ahead for Week 1, and his stature in Miami’s offense is as stable as ever.

The only reason Waddle isn’t the bona fide WR1 on the Dolphins is because Tyreek Hill lines up next to him. But as last season showed, Hill’s presence only opens up more opportunities for Waddle to break the back of opposing defenses.

MORE: De’Von Achane Injury Update

Waddle is, without a doubt, a candidate to once again be a top-10 fantasy football wideout. Yes, Tagovailoa’s health will go a long way toward making that possibility a reality, but Waddle’s ceiling is as high as just about anyone not named Justin Jefferson.

His status as his team’s technical WR2 may be depressing his ADP, as he’s currently the 11th wide receiver off the board in PPR leagues (23rd overall).

The master of the penguin celebration currently sits as the WR12 (27th overall) in our PFN consensus rankings, just behind Chris Olave (WR11) and CeeDee Lamb (WR10).

If Tua stays healthy for the entire season (big “if”), Waddle has a strong chance to be a great value in the third round of fantasy drafts.

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