Philadelphia Eagles draft watch: Should Jaylen Waddle be their pick at six?

Another year of Philadelphia Eagles football passes, and another year of talking about how incompetent the wide receiver play was. It’s becoming a yearly tradition at this point. The good news for Eagles fans, however, is that the 2021 NFL Draft is loaded with talented wide receivers. Guys like Ja’Marr Chase and Jaylen Waddle headline the class, but lesser-known receivers like Marlon Williams and Dazz Newsome will make this wide receiver class stand out.

Jaylen Waddle, in particular, has an extremely intriguing skill set. Before breaking his ankle against Tennessee in 2021, the Alabama star was electric in the 2020 season. In his first four games, he recorded 25 receptions for 557 yards and four touchdowns. At over 22 yards per catch, Waddle is a big play waiting to happen.

Here’s what Philadelphia Eagles fans need to know about Waddle as a player.

Many consider Waddle to be the third-best wide receiver in this draft class behind Ja’Marr Chase and Alabama teammate DeVonta Smith, but with a full 2020 season, he might have leapfrogged one or maybe even both of them. While Waddle’s speed jumps off of the screen, it’s his ability to use his acceleration in combination with his route-running that sets him apart.

With soft hands and an impressive catch radius, there’s a lot to like about Jaylen Waddle. While DeVonta Smith received all the attention late in the year, Waddle was garnering some serious Heisman Trophy attention before his injury. Don’t let recency bias fool you. Waddle is a serious threat to defenses at the NFL level.

Waddle’s positional versatility might be his most attractive trait. In today’s NFL, offenses love to move their star receivers from the outside to the slot. Occasionally, they’ll even throw them in the backfield. Waddle is someone that can be sent in motion and force defenses to gameplan for the occasional jet sweep or gadget play because of his explosiveness.

How might Jaylen Waddle fit on the Philadelphia Eagles?

While talent is important, what should be more important to NFL teams (namely the Eagles) is how a prospect might fit on their roster. In Waddle’s case, he’d be best utilized as a complementary receiver rather than a bona fide WR1 or ‘X’ receiver. While he can break big chunk plays, he may not be an 8-10 reception per game guy in the NFL. That’s just not his game.

This should be a red flag for the Philadelphia Eagles. While Jalen Reagor and Jaylen Waddle have almost identical first names, the similarities don’t stop there. After a lackluster rookie season, it’s possible that Reagor might not be anything more than a complementary piece for a true number-one receiver moving forward. Having two receivers with the same skill set isn’t the best strategy for an offense that struggled to move the ball downfield consistently in 2020.

Here’s the verdict on Jaylen Waddle joining the Philadelphia Eagles.

If the Eagles want to go all-in on Jalen Hurts, they need to surround him with a quality group of pass-catchers, and while Waddle is an exciting prospect, he simply won’t fit in the Philadelphia Eagles offense. Drafting him would essentially mean giving up on Jalen Reagor after one year or having two guys like Reagor on the roster.

If the Birds want to grab a receiver in the first round, they should focus on targeting a true WR1 such as Ja’Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith. They’ll likely lose a consistent pass catcher this offseason at the tight end position in Zach Ertz, and even though Dallas Goedert appears to be ready to take over, Goedert alone won’t give Hurts enough security.

That still isn’t enough of a reason to take Waddle. The Eagles might want to invest in his teammate instead. On the right roster, Waddle can be an absolute menace, but on others, the question becomes how his team can consistently integrate him into the offense. The evidence of that can be found in all of the issues the Eagles are having with incorporating someone who looks like Waddle, last year’s first-round selection Jalen Reagor.