By: Hussam Patel
The big question, after drafting Jaylen Waddle, signing Will Fuller and adding them to the receiving corps that includes DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, is this: Who is Miami’s #1 WR?
First, let's take a look of what being a #1 WR entails:
A WR must envision himself as the “big play” guy on every play. He truly defines the skill position. He’s supposed to threaten defenses and attack defenders on every play. He dictates what defenders do, he’s the aggressor, and he dictates what the defender can and cannot do. The biggest thing a WR has to know how to do is catch the ball and make sure they can score every time they touch the ball.
In the past, you could have said a certain player’s role on many teams was X, Z, or slot. Now your role might be X, Z, or slot for a play, and then you move to a different role for the next play. NFL offenses are becoming more versatile and more diverse.
Another aspect is route running, and the best WRs are the best route runners. The illusion of speed is one of the most important parts of running a route. It gives defensive backs the impression that the WR is increasing their speed on a route (like an out route) and going deep. From what I have noticed in continuous studies is that WRs are slowing down to make a cut; they use the illusion of speed (head twisting, long strides, stutter steps) to create separation and get defenders out of their comfort zone. These moves make defenders run on their heels, and turn their hips and body away from the ball.
These are the qualities a WR must have in order to be a great WR
Position Needs and Traits:
Keys to success of being a successful WR:
Whenever you think of a “WR1” the players who come to mind are Calvin Johnson, Julio Jones, DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Evans; big-bodied WR who are always a part of the conversation. The simple description of a #1 WR in our minds is usually a large outside wide receiver who can rack up yards and double-digit TDs, usually the QB’s first read who gets double covered or bracketed in coverage.
It goes without saying that WR1 on the team is the receiver who commands extra attention from safeties, because he’s the first read. That's what makes them the best WR on the team. To me, the #1 receiver is the guy getting the most attention from defenses. Plenty of smaller stature players like DeSean Jackson, Steve Smith, Santana Moss and Tyreek Hill have been considered #1 receivers.
With that said, there are plenty of instances where this prototype of a #1 WR does not exist, or his responsibilities are taken away by other targets. We can use the example of Hakeem Nicks in 2014. He fits the mold on a prototypical WR and was in the “#1” role. However, the bulk of the production went to Victor Cruz, a slot WR, primarily dubbed as the 3rd receiver.
Julian Edelman isn’t a #1 WR in terms of physical measurements, but the Patriots used him as the Y guy on underneath routes for years and dubbed as “the guy.” Even recently on the Dolphins, Mike Wallace was used as a #1 WR, yet Brian Hartline was used as the first read. You want me to go back in time just a bit? I’ll do that too. Back in the 90s, Miami had a big-bodied WR in Oronde Gadsden, but who was really the guy that got the receptions? The guy who you could count on? None other than my friend OJ McDuffie, standing at 5’10” and 194 lbs.; he always made the play. I could also mention Jarvis Landry, but I’m not making a list.
Of course, it’s all contextual. The WR1 term refers to the top WR on the team, but a WR can be “top” in all different ways. It’s really about having the skill set and tools to put it all together and produce. It’s also about fitting into your QB’s strengths. With Tua, we have seen at Alabama and in Miami that his style of play is getting his pass catchers in space, distributing the ball to them, to let them work their magic.
The #1 receiver is your Quarterback's primary threat. There was no real “threat” in Miami last season. There wasn’t any one player who would strike fear into opposing DCs. Miami just drafted a guy who can beat anybody over the top, in the middle, and underneath…and he has all the tools to become a #1 WR- Jaylen Waddle.
I’m not saying he will immediately be the #1, he hasn’t even played a down in the NFL, but the potential is there, and it routinely showed at Alabama. I would say the current WR1 is Will Fuller, as he has NFL Experience, speed, pass catching ability, can gain separation and leverage and fits the type of pass catcher that fits Tua Tagovailoa strengths.
The QB-WR connection is ever-important, it leads to special moments, plays and occasionally deep playoff runs:
The best pairings are those that lead to the ultimate end goal- lifting the Lombardi Trophy:
Go ahead and take a look at this Twitter thread, highlighting how Waddle is able to use his speed to run routes, gain leverage, separate and most importantly catch the ball.
When the Dolphins were evaluating Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, eyes were also focused on Waddle. The Dolphins did just that, hoping the spark between the two will propel Miami’s offense in the future. Waddle encompasses all the makings of a WR1 in today's NFL, checks off all the boxes in the article above.
On Waddle and the fit in the Dolphins offense, Coach Flores points out, “We think he’ll add a speed element…obviously, he has some value in the return game. I think his versatility is a big part of this. His ability to play inside, play in the slot, play on the perimeter, play in the return game. Again, we’re very, very excited to have him.”
The potential is certainly there. It’s going to be up to Miami’s offensive scheme to employ him as a #1 WR who scares opposing defenses, up to Waddle to make the plays, and up to Tua to get the ball to Waddle. He can be the guy Miami has been missing, the WR1.