Welcome to my Dolphins Draft Film Room series. For the next two weeks or so, I’ll be doing deep dives into the film of Miami’s 2021 draft picks. First up is Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle who the Dolphins selected with the sixth pick. Miami technically traded up from number 12 to number six to select the speedster. 

Waddle provides the Dolphins with an elite speed threat which is something they sorely lacked last season. Not only that, but with a slightly creative offensive mind, he can provide Miami with much more.

The best and most important thing Waddle provides the Dolphins with right away is the ability to stretch the field vertically. Last season, we saw a Dolphins team unable to push the ball down the field unless Ryan Fitzpatrick needed to beat the Raiders on a last-ditch hail mary. 

When the Dolphins did get someone open deep, they could not connect, or a pass was dropped. I believe Waddle will change that this season. 

Waddle starts this play as the middle receiver at the bottom of the screen. Missouri is playing man across the board with a single high safety, which is laughably funny against this group of pass-catchers. 

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Waddle proceeds to run straight by his man with some wicked explosiveness. He then gets into his post route and does a tremendous job tracking the ball across the field. I made fun of Missouri playing with a single high safety, but Tyree Gillespie (drafted by the Raiders) actually does a good job flipping his hips and making this a contested catch. 

However, this is one of the things that separates Waddle from other “speed guys.” He’s tough and is pretty good at making contested catches above the rim. This high point and finish to the ground are about as good as it gets. The level of athleticism required to make this play is not common and immediately better than everyone on the Dolphins roster except for maybe Will Fuller. 

 

Okay, so clearly, single coverage isn’t effective against Waddle. What about double coverage? Well, Waddle saw plenty of that this past season despite playing in only a couple of games. The play above is a perfect example of Waddle’s speed being an elite trait. 

He starts in the slot and gets doubled by the slot cornerback and the box safety, now Patriot Joshua Bledsoe. Bledsoe’s eyes go immediately to Waddle off the snap, telling me he’s responsible for doubling Waddle. 

It doesn’t matter, though, because Waddle is so explosive and fast; he shatters Bledsoe’s angle and runs right by him, creating separation for a rainbow throw in the endzone. Again, we see a good example of Waddle tracking the ball as he makes this catch right over his shoulder. 

 

I talked about Waddle’s toughness and catch point ability separating him from many other “speed guys” coming out of school already. Another area that separates him is route running. Admittedly, his route tree at Alabama was a little limited, and he’s still got some things to work on, but the foundation and tools are there. 

In this play, Waddle comes in motion to create a stack at the bottom of the screen. Waddle comes out of the stack and immediately starts to head inside. Once he gets to the top of his route, he plants his foot and gets outside, leaving the cornerback in the dust. 

This break is a little rounded off and not as sudden as it could be. However, he does a good job selling the inside route and making good use of his speed. When you’re as fast as Waddle is, you don’t have to be perfect with your routes all the time. 

 

The last play was pretty mundane but served as a good barometer for what Waddle is capable of down to down. This play is what peak Waddle will look like for the Dolphins. When it comes to route running, he’s got significantly more experience running vertical routes. 

Waddle is the top man in the stack at the top of the screen. Waddle runs an absolutely filthy sluggo route on this play. Something I always like to do when scouting receivers is rewind the tape and watch the reaction of the DBs in coverage to their routes. Watch the A&M safety take about three steps downhill, completely biting on Waddle’s initial move. That’s how you know it was a good sell. 

Once Waddle dusts both the defenders with the route, he pulls away from them with pure speed. It is rare to see a college receiver run a sluggo this smooth and then get to their top gear this quickly. 

Waddle is actually forced to throttle down in order to catch the ball. This allowed the A&M DBs to get back into the play. Unfortunately for them, Waddle hits the jets again and dusts them to the endzone. The ability to decelerate and accelerate displayed in this play is elite. 99 out of 100 players get tackled after this catch. Not Waddle; he’s special. 

 

Obviously, Waddle will help the team be more dynamic deep down the field by stretching the field vertically. However, since the team also added Will Fuller this offseason, I think Waddle might serve as the Dolphins’ primary horizontal stretch player in 2021. 

Miami’s offense last season was one of the most stoic in the NFL. There was little pre-snap motion, specifically of the jet motion variety. If you watch all the best offenses in the league right now, the jet motion is a staple. 

To do it right, you need a player who defenders will respect when possibly getting the ball. Alabama used Waddle like this a ton, and I think the Dolphins need to do the same. The push pass above is a good example of what Waddle can do if given the ball on the jet motion. 

He’s obviously got the speed and quickness to pick up yards and make guys miss in the open field. Waddle’s also got pretty good vision with the ball in his hands and will allow blockers to set up in front of him before making his move. 

 

Giving fast players manufactured touches isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination. Heck, Miami gave Lynn Bowden and Jakeem Grant some of those touches last season. However, when you have a real threat like Waddle as the jet motion player, it affects the defense’s eyes. 

This play against Ole Miss is a good example of that effect. Waddle comes in motion from the bottom to the top of the screen. Watch the reaction and the eyes of the Ole Miss defensive backs. Their heads and eyes all immediately snap to see where Waddle is going. 

They also ran a play-action fake to Najee Harris, pulling another defender to the slot. With everyone looking left at Waddle and Harris pulling a defender to the flat, the middle of the field is wide open. This gives the Alabama tight end plenty of space to make the catch and turn up the field. 

This is the advantage of having someone defenses have to constantly account for on the field. Even when they aren’t making catches or even running routes, they positively impact the offense. 

 

Waddle can help the Dolphins become a more diverse team in the red zone as well. This was a pet peeve of mine, but Miami’s RedZone playbook was archaic at best. It was mostly “throw ball high to tall man” or “pound running back into brick wall.” 

Alabama used Jaylen Waddle in the red zone a ton as they frequently got him manufactured touches like the one you see above. Waddle starts like he’s going to get a reverse behind the backfield but quickly plants his foot, redirects, and heads to the flat where he’s wide open. 

Waddle bobbles the catch a little bit but still has the burst to beat the Missouri defender to the corner and dive into the endzone. Waddle will instantly allow the Dolphins to be more creative in the red zone. Not using his ball in hand ability down there would be a travesty. 

 

I tweeted about Waddle playing running back as mostly a joke. Although, he did get a decent number of reps in the backfield. Waddle certainly has the speed to rip off big runs, but I was impressed with his vision. 

Here, we see Waddle make a decisive cut and get upfield for good yardage. It’s nothing crazy, but not allowing Waddle to take some reps in the backfield would be foolish on the Dolphins’ part. He will demand attention back there as a potential pass catcher while also being a sneaky threat to tote the rock. 

 

Final Thoughts: 

I want to caution Dolphins’ fans about expectations for Waddle’s rookie season. Waddle’s impact will go beyond the box score. He’s going to consistently force defenses to make adjustments which will open up things for other players, including the running backs. 

Also, I do not have a lot of faith in the Dolphins’ offensive coaching staff to maximize Waddle’s talents. If you ask him to line up in the slot every snap to run curls, whips, and speed outs, you’re going to be disappointed. He’s a player that needs to be given a certain amount of touches per game. 

I assume there will be a trial and error period with Waddle and the coaching staff. Not to mention, Will Fuller will probably be taking a fair amount of those vertical routes this season. All I’m saying is have some patience. This is a unique player going to a team that hasn’t had someone like him with this coaching staff.