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2021 NFL Draft Profile: WR Jaelon Darden

by Kyle Yates | @KyleYNFL | Featured Writer
Apr 15, 2021

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:

Check out the rest of our 2021 NFL Draft prospect profiles >>

Jaelon Darden (WR – North Texas)

Vital Statistics

Height: 5-foot-8
Weight: 174 lbs.
40-Yard Dash
: 4.46
Vertical Jump:36
Broad Jump: 122
Bench: 11 Reps
Short Shuttle: 3.98
3-Cone Drill: 6.66

College Statistics

Check out Jaelon Darden’s detailed college stats here >>

Skills Legend

80+ Generational Talent
79 Top-10 Skill
78 First-Round Skill
77 Second-Round Skill
76 Third-Round Skill
75 Fourth-Round Skill
74 Fifth-Round Skill
73 Sixth-Round Skill
72 Seventh-Round Skill
71- UDFA

Skills Chart

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.

Video Evaluation

They Said It

Kyle Crabbs on Jaelon Darden: "Darden would benefit from playing in a spread offense that spaces the field and minimizes the congestion he'll have to run through at the NFL level-and teams would be wise to implement him most often on quick Mike Tagliere on Jaelon Darden: "On-demand burst and constantly makes defenders look silly while missing their angles. He's added weight over the years, but is he close to maxed out on his frame? Interested to see where he lands."

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.

Fantasy Comparison

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.

Check out our complete list of 2021 NFL Draft profiles here >>

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Kyle Yates is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Kyle, check out his archive and follow him @KyleYNFL.

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