In One of the Best WR Rooms in Recent History, How do they Rank?
All four of the Alabama wide receivers (Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle) are elite talents and will most likely all end up as first-round players in their respective draft classes. The tough task arises when trying to rank the four. They all have very different skillsets and can win in different ways. With all four of them on the team, Alabama was able to thrive through the air regardless of who was playing quarterback, whether it was Tua Tagovailoa or Mac Jones. Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs are now off to the NFL, leaving Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith as Mac Jones (or whoever ends up starting for Alabama) as the top options. Waddle and Smith were the 3rd and 4th options most of last season and will now get a chance to show what they can do. So without further ado here is how I would rank each of the Bama receivers.
These rankings are based on my final film score for Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs and the preliminary film grade for Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Athletic testing for Jeudy and Ruggs will not be factored in order to level the playing field.
1. Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos
Jerry Jeudy was my 2nd ranked wide receiver (based on film grade, dropped to WR3 after Ruggs combine performance) last season behind Oklahoma and now Dallas Cowboy Ceedee Lamb. Jeudy was one of the highest floor players in the entire class and while he isn’t an athletic marvel was able to win with his elite route running and movement skills. Jeudy was easily the best route runner in the class and there are countless highlight reels where his brutally quick breaks put defenders on skates. He also had some of the most spectacular release moves in the class. While he may be limited to a slot role in the NFL (although this remains to be seen as the Broncos also added slot menace KJ Hamler) he should be able to thrive as a high-volume number one target. NFL teams often look to find who are the best separators play in and play out, Jeudy fits this bill.
2. Devonta Smith, Alabama Crimson Tide
Devonta Smith probably the most well-rounded receiver in this entire group. He isn’t the speed demon that Ruggs is or the route runner that Jeudy is but he takes pieces of their game and molds them together. Smith is an excellent route runner who comes screaming in and out of breaks. But like Jeudy he is also fantastic after the catch, he understands how to make defenders miss in the open field and it helps that he has some of the quickest feet in the 2021 class. One area where Smith can outperform Jeudy is in contested catch situations and dealing with physicality. He better understands how to naturally position himself and go up for the tougher passes. Smith is also one of the most versatile of the group due to his well-rounded skill set, he can thrive wherever the team needs him to play. Look for Smith to be a first-rounder in the 2021 draft.
3. Henry Ruggs, Oakland Raiders
If you want the speed in this group Henry Ruggs is your man. He clocked a 4.27 40 Yard Dash at the combine and was an angle wrecker during his time at Alabama. For the Raiders he will add an element of speed that will help to keep the defense honest to allow more room for their targets underneath. This is the understated value of Ruggs’ game, while he may not end up as a high volume target like the other three receivers on this list he will always have a role because defenses have to know where he is at all times. Ruggs is not all speed though, he can hold his own in contested situations and understands how his speed can benefit him as a route runner. Ruggs should turn into a star at some point early in his career.
4. Jaylen Waddle, Alabama Crimson Tide
Jaylen Waddle is most raw of any of the other three on this list but by the end of this season, he could be number one on this list. Waddle was buried on the depth chart last season and didn’t see as many targets as the other three which shows the embarrassing amount of riches this group has. Waddle might be the most naturally gifted athlete out of these guys. He has elite deep speed, jumping ability, and short-area quickness. Like Ruggs, defenses have to be aware of him at all times due to his versatility and speed. Alabama got him the ball in so many creative ways whether that was screens or sweeps, they knew he just needed the ball in his hands. Waddle has yet to scratch the surface of his potential, he can burn you deep but also elevate over defenders in the redzone or take a punt or kickoff to the house. He will be one of the most electrifying players in all of college football this season.