2021 NFL Draft Profile: WR Jaelon Darden
NFL teams have different characteristics that they prioritize differently in their wide receivers. Some NFL teams prefer to have receivers over 6’0. Some prefer them to have a minimum weight threshold, etc. However, there’s seemingly one trait that always is in hot demand, and that’s speed.
No matter what the offense is, NFL coaches will always be looking for speed and a way to keep NFL defenders on their heels. Players who can threaten defenses with their speed do nothing but open everything else up for the offense. Jaelon Darden out of North Texas has plenty of speed and shiftiness to go around.
Darden is leaving North Texas as the school’s leader in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns. He exploded for 74 receptions in 2020 for 1,190 yards and 19 total touchdowns. He dominated his competition and set himself squarely on the NFL Draft radar.
Does the fact that Darden’s coming out of a small school prevent him from being a useful fantasy asset? Or do the traits translate enough that Darden could be a steal in Dynasty rookie drafts?
These questions are answered here in our scouting profile on Jaelon Darden:
Weight: 174 lbs.
40-Yard Dash: 4.46
Broad Jump: 122
Bench: 11 Reps
Short Shuttle: 3.98
3-Cone Drill: 6.66
Skills Breakdown (out of 100)
Route Running (74.5): Darden’s not the most diverse route-runner, but he shows the tools and potential to develop off of the route tree he’s used to at North Texas. He shows an excellent understanding of how to navigate traffic and also how to identify the soft spots in zones to help out his QB. Can be used as an underneath threat but then also has the explosiveness to help stretch the field from the slot.
Athleticism/Agility (78.5): Excellent agility. Undersized player but keeps his frame clean through his burst. An angle-buster in the open field. Able to set up defenders extremely well and then accelerate to go around them. The competition level wasn’t as high-end, but the traits translate. Incredibly shifty player.
Hands (77): Good hands and good hand-eye coordination. Only one drop on tape, and that was due to interference.
Contested Catch Ability (72): Won’t be the type of player to go over the middle and make difficult contested catches. Operates better in space and could struggle with tighter windows.
Run After Catch Ability (77): Excellent RAC ability with his speed and acceleration. Can be used heavily on screens and allowed to pick up yardage after the catch frequently.
Release (73.5): Will struggle if he’s asked to line up directly on the line of scrimmage repeatedly due to his smaller size. He shows a good understanding of how to get defenders backpedaling quickly, though, when in tighter coverage off the line from the slot, but he’ll be relegated to purely a slot or pre-snap motion role at the next level.
Deep Ball Tracking (76): Good ability to track and locate the ball deep downfield. Used occasionally on deep crossers, posts, slot fades, etc., and showed an excellent ability to adjust to the ball while it’s in the air.
Speed (78.5): Fantastic speed. Able to threaten defenses in short to intermediate levels of the field, but then can also take the top off the defense and blow right past sleeping corners.
“A wildcard name to watch in this year’s Draft is WR Jaelon Darden out of @MeanGreenFB. He’s as shifty a wide receiver as there is in this year’s crop and he had 19 TDs. His name will be bubbling up in front offices quite a bit in the coming months.” — @PSchrags pic.twitter.com/DLUxn6V1uO
– GMFB (@gmfb) March 1, 2021
Jaelon Darden. WHEW!
Watch this footage and tell me you don’t want him in your favorite NFL team’s offense next season ???? pic.twitter.com/CMIcomrBqE
– The Lefkoe Show (@LefkoeShow) March 21, 2021
They Said It
Projected Draft Range
Darden’s going to surprise some people and most likely be drafted early on Day 3. He has the speed and alpha mentality that NFL teams are simply going to love.
Ideal Fantasy Landing Spot
The Chicago Bears took a swing on a small school prospect last year in Darnell Mooney out of Tulane, and it worked out pretty well for them. Darden could step right in as the slot receiver for this offense, assuming that the Bears move on from Anthony Miller and provide those easy completions for Andy Dalton.
KJ Hamler had a lot of hype surrounding him last year before the NFL Draft. He ended up going in the 2nd round to the Denver Broncos, and he’s a very similar size to Darden. Hamler is 5’9/176 and didn’t run the 40-yard dash, but it would’ve been in the 4.4’s given his speed on tape. Darden is 5’8/174 and ran a 4.46 40-yard dash.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, be sure to check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup, based on accurate consensus projections – to our Trade Analyzer – that allows you to instantly find out if a trade offer benefits you or your opponent – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.