Miami Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle set a record for most receptions in a rookie season with 104, flashing the building blocks of a star receiver. The former Alabama product could be in for an even bigger 2022 in new head coach Mike McDaniel's system.
Dolphins new wide receivers coach Wes Welker spoke glowingly this week about what Waddle brings to the table.
"I remember him coming out (of Alabama)," Welker said, via SI.com. "You know how much I liked him. His speed. You know the urgency and the passion he plays a game with and you can tell he was a guy that was going to come in and be a pro early on and and really excited to be working with him.
"We'll be working hard to make him the best player that he can possibly be and I know he's gonna work his tail off to be the best player he can be as well."
Waddle flashed speed and playmaking ability after the catch during the 2021 season. As a rookie, he generated 1,015 yards on 104 catches with six TDs. Welker went so far as to compare Waddle's talent to Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowler Tyreek Hill.
"I think it's acceleration," Welker said. "Especially like when he gets a ball in my hand. We've got the ball in his hands, it's kind of Tyreek Hill-ish, how he's just able to get that ball and really burst out of it. A little bit different body types and stuff. But I kind of that's what came to mind whenever I was kind of watching him coming to Alabama and seeing him on film here."
Waddle did most of his damage as a rookie close to the line of scrimmage, netting just 12 targets of 20-plus air yards, catching four for 141 yards with three INTs on those targets, per Next Gen Stats.
For Waddle to make a leap in Year 2, he'll need to use that speed as a field stretcher. Of course, first, the Dolphins need to upgrade the offensive line for those routes to develop, and Tua Tagovailoa must show a willingness to take shots.
With McDaniel and Welker joining Miami from San Francisco, much of the talk has surrounded how Waddle could be the Dolphins Deebo Samuel. Welker's comparison to Samuel adds to the notion that Miami will likely look to get the ball to Waddle in both the run and passing game. But Deebo is a unique talent, and it could take time for Waddle to grow into that role.
"I think you build around your personnel, and you kind of build from there," he said. "It's not like we drafted Deebo right off the bat and said, all right, we're gonna make him a running back. We were going to build him up as a receiver and coach him up as a receiver and then it just kind of happened to start using him at running back a little bit. It's all about the skill sets of your guys, how comfortable they are, with all those positions. You can't sit there and start right off the bat, OK, you're gonna play receiver and running back your rookie year or anything like that. It's something that happens over time and you continue to work with guys and prepare them and get them ready and some guys can handle that. Some guys can't. And Deebo is just one of those special players that can handle it."
We should see if the new Miami staff thinks Waddle can handle it, too.