Positional rankings breed constant debates around the NFL as fans lobby for the best players from their respective teams. Bias undoubtedly clouds these conversations, but this article today is presented from a strictly objective standpoint. With that being said, Jaylen Waddle of the Miami Dolphins is one of the ten best wide receivers in the NFL.
To build a case for Waddle, we must first rule out the pass catchers that clear him in wide receiver rankings. First and foremost, Davante Adams has earned a top-three spot. Three straight first-team All-Pro selections back that up, including his NFL-leading 14 touchdown receptions in 2022. The final hurdle to Adams stamping his legendary status came in his first season with the Raiders when he proved that Aaron Rodgers wasn’t the sole reason for his success.
Another veteran who should hold a spot over Waddle is his teammate in Miami. Tyreek Hill’s speed is arguably the best single trait any player possesses in the NFL — regardless of position. In addition to his otherworldly speed, Hill also flexes capable hands and the vision to create chunk yardage after the catch. Like Adams, “Reek” proved he could produce outside the friendly Andy Reid system.
Next up, I would be remiss to not mention Justin Jefferson. In three years with the Vikings, the former LSU Tiger increased his reception totals and yardage totals each season. From 88 receptions in Year 1 to 108 in Year 2, followed up by 128 of them in 2022. He earned a first-team All-Pro selection, plus the Offensive Player of the Year award. Going further than stats, Jefferson boasts the easy separation, polished route running, and magnetic hands necessary to unseat Adams and Hill from the top of the mountain.
Organizing WRs Into Tiers; Where Does Dolphins Star Jaylen Waddle Land?
A few more young players worth mentioning include Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, A.J. Brown, and DeVonta Smith. Chase and Brown specifically are fixtures in top 10 talks, but expect Higgins and Smith to challenge their teammates for the WR1 gig in their own offense. Unlikely? Sure. But it is well within the realm of possibility.
Back to the veteran front, Cooper Kupp was the best wide receiver in the league in 2021. He dealt with personal injuries on top of injuries to Matthew Stafford in 2022, leading to a disappointing campaign all around. Kupp still flashed top-of-the-NFL talent early in the year, but it is fair to wonder if 2021 was more of an outlier than the standard. He is a difficult name to rank as the 2023 season approaches.
Before Stefon Diggs gets upset, I have to say the Bills wideout is one player I still rank firmly ahead of Jaylen Waddle — even if it’s only a few spots separating them. Since arriving in Buffalo, Diggs recorded 338 receptions, nearly 4,200 receiving yards, and 29 touchdowns. He is the No. 1 reason Josh Allen blossomed into a perennial NFL MVP contender. With top-tier route running and a competitiveness that shows up when catching passes in traffic… Diggs makes his presence felt.
The next tier of names that jump out is a steady mix of mid-20s and early-30s. CeeDee Lamb, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, DK Metcalf, D.J. Moore, and DeAndre Hopkins could all build arguments for a place in the top 10. At the end of the day, there are only ten spots on the list when at least 20 pass catchers have the qualifications to earn a spot.
Guys like Brandon Aiyuk, Garrett Wilson, Jahan Dotson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Mike Williams can ascend to the next tier with one more monster season from them. Wilson, Dotson, and St. Brown have even more room to grow than their peers that took longer to break out.
One last portion that bears mentioning is the “not quite washed” group. Amari Cooper, Tyler Lockett, Michael Thomas, Brandin Cooks, and Keenan Allen still have enough juice to be productive players in 2023. However, their time atop wide receiver rankings is coming to an end sooner than later.
So, with the background knowledge of what the wide receiver group looks like in the NFL, where does Jaylen Waddle factor in?
To keep things concise, I’ll sort the names into tiers and build an argument for Waddle’s place among them.
•Hall of Fame Locks
This group consists of the two active receivers who have already stamped their way to Canton. Davante Adams is looking for a fourth-straight first-team All-Pro appearance and still has plenty of juice in the tank at 31 years of age. Tyreek Hill has ambitions to exceed 2,000 receiving yards in 2023, becoming the only wideout to ever accomplish this feat. These two are playing chess while the rest of the list is still learning checkers.