College football likely lost arguably its most electrifying offensive player for the season on Saturday, and potentially for his college career, when Alabama WR Jaylen Waddle injured his right ankle in Alabama's 48-17 win over rival Tennessee.
Waddle was injured on the opening kickoff when he was tackled from behind by Volunteers LB Kenneth George, and got his right foot caught between George's body and the turf.
"He's got a very similar injury to what Kenyan Drake had (at Alabama in 2014), the high ankle sprain but also a fracture," Alabama coach Nick Saban said following the victory. "They'll probably have to do surgery on him. We'll fly him back privately with the doctors and take him right to Birmingham and see what we have to do right away."
A junior, Waddle was in the midst of his best season as a receiver, having caught 25 passes for 557 yards and four touchdowns in only four games prior to Saturday. Entering the game, his 22.3 yards per catch average led the nation among receivers with 16 or more receptions.
If Waddle chooses to file for early draft eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL Draft, he is considered a strong candidate for first-round selection. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Waddle one of the best run-after-catch prospects he has ever evaluated, noted his speed provides him with "massive separation" on deeper routes, and compared him to former Pro Bowler Santana Moss.
Waddle (5-foot-10, 182 pounds, per school measurements) is also an explosive return specialist. As a sophomore in 2019, he averaged 35 yards on five returns.
He combines blazing speed with quickness in the open field that made him an easy target for former UA QB Tua Tagovailoa and current QB Mac Jones. Teammates considered him as fast as Henry Ruggs III when the two were Alabama teammates, and Ruggs clocked the fastest 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine with a 4.27. A social media video of the two racing in a 40 circulated in the spring of 2019, with what looked to be a photo finish.