ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01: Jaylen Waddle #17 of the Alabama Crimson Tide scores a 51-yard touchdown in the third quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs during the 2018 SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 1, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
No one in college football made huge plays at a higher rate than Jaylen Waddle. Every time he touched the ball, there was a chance he would take it to the house-and analytics back this up. The first thing we can do to show this is look exclusively at what he did on deep targets, and like before, compare those numbers with Smith and Chase.
On Passes 25+ yards down the field
Tgts Rec Yds TD PE/Route
Jaylen Waddle-2020: 5 5 306 2 2.357
DeVonta Smith-2020: 21 12 532 6 .834
Ja’Marr Chase-2019: 24 16 651 9 .796
Courtesy of SIS Data Hub Pro
The first and most glaring issue with this data is of course sample size. On just 5 targets it is difficult to know what this would have looked like across a full season. But during his career at Alabama, Waddle was perfect on catchable targets 25 or more yards down the field (13 for 13/619 yards/5 TDs). With only four full games under his belt, Waddle ranked 7th among all Power 5 receivers in yards gained on passes 25+ yards down the field in 2020. Players that came behind him: Tylan Wallace (17 tgts), Chris Olave (9 tgts), Terrace Marshall Jr. (7 tgts).
"“During his career at Alabama, Waddle was perfect on catchable targets 25 or more yards down the field (13 for 13/619 yards/5 TDs)”"
Another stat that shows how much more dangerous and effective Alabama’s offense was with Waddle on the field is total team EPA. Like so many other statistics, Waddle led the nation with an EPA per target figure of 1.219 and his 71.9 positive play percentage (percentage of plays with a positive EPA) ranked second among all Power 5 receivers. When he was on the field, Waddle generated points and he did it better than anyone else in college football.
All advanced stats are courtesy of SIS Data Hub Pro
This all comes with the caveat that he only played in four full games this past season and prior to 2020, he never had back to back 100 yard games (he opened 2020 with four in a row). Trading back and selecting Waddle was a risky move, but we should applaud Chris Grier for doing so. The theme of Miami’s 2021 first round was chasing high end play. Both Jaylen Waddle and Jaelan Phillips showed they were among the most talented players at their respective positions, but with a limited sample size there is consequently a bit more risk.
Chris Grier identified that the current Miami Dolphins roster needed an infusion of talent. That isn’t to say Ja’Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith aren’t talented, but they just can’t do the same things as Jaylen Waddle-very few human beings can. Expectations should be high for his rookie campaign, but we should also remain patient. It might not happen immediately, but Jaylen Waddle has the potential to change how football is played in Miami.