Why Jaylen Waddle was the right pick at number 6
Why not take Waddle’s more prolific teammate, DeVonta Smith?
Not gonna lie, I was once in this camp. It’s hard to not get drunk on the gaudy stats from last season. Then I took a deeper look into the numbers and watched the film. In the four games before his injury last season, Waddle had 557 yards and 4 TDs, with an average of 22.2 yards per catch. In those same four games, DeVonta Smith had 483 yards and 4 TDs, with an average of 12.7 yards per catch. Waddle also ran fewer routes and had fewer targets.
Waddle’s right ankle fracture was a setback, but it doesn’t carry the same baggage as a ligament injury. Simply put, it is safe to say that Smith wouldn’t have had the same season with a healthy Waddle attracting targets. He was used primarily as a role player and special-teamer his first two years behind the likes of Jeudy, Ruggs, and Smith. 2020 was set to be his breakout year. The draft hype surrounding both guys would’ve looked a lot different had this been the case.
When I watch Davonte Smith, I see a receiver who can play out wide or in the slot and has nearly mastered the position at the college level. He is the most polished route runner since Amari Cooper in my opinion. Smith is so fluid, coming out of his breaks with no wasted motion. He has done just fine in press coverage. Suffice to say there’s only so much better he can get at the craft, whereas he’s just above average athletically and not getting any more athletic. Meanwhile, Waddle has the technique and athleticism to come out swinging this season.
Sure, this line of thinking has led teams down dangerous paths before…like taking Jalen Reagor instead of Justin Jefferson. With Smith and Waddle, it ultimately came down to which guy is the better fit for the system and personnel in place…the master technician or the game-breaking YAC-aholic. It’s close, but if Waddle plays to his full potential, he can lift the most weight off Tua. We’ve never had a playmaker quite like him. I can’t wait to watch him shred across the field come September!