Jaelon Darden Draft Profile
Ever since Tyreek Hill has entered the league, every team has been looking for the “next Tyreek Hill”. Henry Ruggs and John Ross have both received the comparisons in the past, and some people are even comparing Jaylen Waddle to him this year. I’ve struck out on both of my Tyreek Hill pro comparisons, so I’m not going to do it again because he is truly an anomaly. However, if there was one player who has shown some flashes of the “Cheetah” in this year’s draft, it would be Jaelon Darden.
The first thing that stands out on film is Darden’s speed. Him and Waddle are the two fastest receivers in this year’s draft and it’s pretty obvious. Darden was also extremely productive in 2020. He put up 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns in just nine games. After the catch, Darden knows how to get busy and he is able to gain separation through his speed. There are some players that look like they could be olympic track runners, Darden deserves to be in that conversation. He plays with a lot of emotion, which I am a big fan of. He truly cares about winning and despite being at a smaller school, you can tell that he puts his everything into every game. Darden is a smart receiver with a good recognition of the defense and does good job at catching low throws. There may be no better deep threat in this year’s draft than Jaelon Darden.
Darden got open so easily at North Texas and while that sounds great, a lot of it is due to his competition. When on the field it seemed like he was a Varsity player playing against JV teams. That is both a testament to his game, but a fair description of his opponents. At 5’9, he is on the smaller size, however he is going to be used a slot receiver so that isn’t a big deal. My only other concern with Dardon was his drops. He doesn’t have terrible hands, just a few balls get away from him every now and then.
Overall, Darden might not be a hands down number one receiver, but he will find his role. He is going to be used a lot on quick passes where he can make plays with his feet and on deep routes where he takes advantage of one on one coverage. A more reasonable comparison for Darden is Brandin Cooks, I think he’d actually be a good replacement for Cooks with the Rams. He can be the number three guy to Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. He can also be a downfield threat for the Titans and Colts.
Route Running 7/10
Yards After Catch 8.5/10
Contested Grabs 5.75/8
Releases/ Top of Route 6/8
Catch Radius 6.5/8
Final Rating: 80
Pro Comparison: Brandin Cooks
Team Fits: Rams, Titans, Colts
Draft Ranking: Early Third Rounder
Draft Projection: Mid Third Round Pick