The Miami Dolphins selected Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday, reuniting last year's top Dolphins pick, Tua Tagovailoa, with one of his college targets.
Improving the offensive weapons around Tagovailoa is an obvious draft priority for the club, and Miami wasted no time in selecting an explosive receiving talent.
Alabama teammates considered Waddle (5-9, 180) Alabama's fastest player when healthy after he ran step for step with former UA star Henry Ruggs, the fastest player at the 2020 combine, in a friendly 40-yard dash competition two years ago. Along with blazing speed, his open-field quickness and change-of-direction skill made solo tackles on Waddle highly difficult. He averaged nearly 19 yards per catch for his college career, showing both deep speed and the ability to break big plays from short throws.
Waddle also brings stellar return skills; he averaged a whopping 24.4 yards per punt return as a sophomore in 2019 (20-487-1). In returning the opening kickoff against Tennessee last year, he suffered a high-ankle sprain with a fracture that sidelined him for the remainder of the regular season. He returned, albeit hobbled, to play a limited role in a national championship game against Ohio State.
The Dolphins turned to the defensive side of the ball with their next first-rounder, spending the No. 18 overall pick on Miami Hurricanes defensive end Jaelan Phillips.
The former UCLA player had wrist and concussion injuries with the Bruins that threatened his career, but following a transfer to UM, he emerged as a dominant pass-rushing force after sitting out the 2019 season. Phillips posted 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks for the Hurricanes in 2020.
"I compared him to Montez Sweat," NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on the draft broadcast. "(He's) had some health issues that teams had to get comfortable with. But at some point in time, you had to take him. He's too talented. His athleticism shows up when he plays in space."