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Jaylen Waddle

Dolphins change Waddle into a long-range weapon

Jaylen Waddle had a weird season last year. After averaging only 9.8 yards per catch as a rookie, he zoomed all the way up to 18.1 – the highest of anyone who caught at least 40 passes.

Miami had a coaching change, and the new group completely changed his role. Round-filed were the quick passes outside (hoping he could create after the catch). Instead, there was more of an effort to get him downfield. Waddle caught 29 fewer passes but finished with 341 more yards.

It was a pretty radical change, and had me looking at other turnaround seasons from the past. It’s not the biggest such season, but it’s up there.

Below see the 32 players since the merger who’ve improved their yards-per-catch average by at least 5 yards while catching at least 40 passes in back-to-back seasons. Only three have had bigger increases than Waddle. Eddie Brown (who was impressive enough in college that the Bengals selected him before smaller-school Jerry Rice). The Hoodie (James Jones). And another James who spent some time in Green Bay and Oakland (James Lofton).

None of this is super helpful for your fantasy draft, but it at least allows us to trot out names like Ted Kwalick and Ken Burrough. A bunch of players will be wearing jersey No. 0 this year. Burrough was the last to do that (only he wore “00” instead of just the solitary digit).

YearPlayerRecYdsAvgTDPrevious YrDiff
1988Eddie Brown, Cin.53127324.0944-608-13.8-310.2
2015James Jones, G.B.5089017.8873-666-9.1-68.7
1987James Lofton, Oak.4188021.5564-840-13.1-48.3
2022Jaylen Waddle, Mia.75135618.18104-1015-9.8-68.3
2004David Terrell, Chi.4269916.6143-361-8.4-18.2
2019Stefon Diggs, Min.63113017.96102-1021-10.0-97.9
2006Bryant Johnson, Ariz.4074018.5440-432-10.8-17.7
2010Johnny Knox, Chi.5196018.8545-527-11.7-57.1
1981Joe Cribbs, Buff.4060315.1752-415-8.0-17.1
2008Steve Smith, Car.78142118.2687-1002-11.5-76.7
2008Bernard Berrian, Min.4896420.1771-951-13.4-56.7
1976Cliff Branch, Oak.46111124.21251-893-17.5-96.6
1998Bobby Engram, Chi.6498715.4545-399-8.9-26.6
2015Allen Robinson, Jac.80140017.51448-548-11.4-26.1
2017Tyreek Hill, K.C.75118315.8761-593-9.7-66.1
1972Ted Kwalick, S.F.4075118.8952-664-12.8-56.0
2008Mark Clayton, Balt.4169517.0348-531-11.1-05.9
2010Josh Morgan, S.F.4469815.9252-527-10.1-35.7
1997Amp Lee, St.L.6182513.5354-422-7.8-25.7
2011Jordy Nelson, G.B.68126318.61545-582-12.9-25.6
2011Steve Smith Sr., Car.79139417.7746-554-12.0-25.6
2021Tyler Lockett, Sea.73117516.18100-1054-10.5-105.6
1979Ken Burrough, Hou.4075218.8647-624-13.3-25.5
2018DeSean Jackson, T.B.4177418.9450-668-13.4-35.5
2008Michael Jenkins, Atl.5077715.5353-532-10.0-45.5
1979Lynn Swann, Pitt.4180819.7561-880-14.4-115.3
1980Cliff Branch, Oak.4485819.5759-844-14.3-65.2
1985Kevin House, T.B.4480318.3576-1005-13.2-55.0
1978Harold Carmichael, Phil.55107219.5846-665-14.5-75.0
2011Larry Fitzgerald, Ariz.80141117.6890-1137-12.6-65.0
1993Mark Carrier, Cle.4374617.4356-692-12.4-45.0
2019Mike Williams, LAC49100120.4243-664-15.4-105.0
1973Harold Jackson, LAR4087421.91362-1048-16.9-45.0

—Ian Allan

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