The Dynamic Darden Would be a Difference Maker in Washington
Updated: Apr 19, 2021
By Adam Aniba
Draft Prospect Spotlight; Jaelon Darden
The situation at wide receiver for the WFT is, arguably, one of the top roster needs this offseason. Luckily for Washington, this year's crop is deep with a ton of talent at slot receiver. For the second year in a row Terry McLaurin led the team in all receiving categories and it wasn't close. Former Alabama UDFA Cam Sims showed promise during the stretch run of the 2020 season at the X receiver. Although Sims converted some critical 3rd down conversions in key wins, he has a tendency to disappear in games, while struggling to gain separation. Sims will likely have a role in the receiver rotation along with unproven small schooler Antonio Gandy-Golden, but their options at slot are bleak.
After showing some promise as the starting slot in 2019, Steven Sims Jr is no longer in the team's plans. At pick #19, top receivers Ja'Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith will be off the board, which will lead to Washington likely going for BPA at another position of need.
Washington and other receiver-needy teams will find future starters and potential gems on Day 2-3 of the draft. The Burgundy and Gold Report has just the weapon that could be the perfect compliment to #17.
5'9" 174 lbs
4th-6th Round Grade | WR | Univ of N.Texas
Career Stats 230 rec 2,782 on 38 td's and 12.1 ypr average
2020 74 rec for 1,119 yards 19 td's (2nd in the NCAA td’s) and 16.1 ypr average
Awards and Accolades
* 2020 Conference USA MVP
* ESPN All American
* Finalist for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award
* Biletnikoff Award Finalist
* 2nd in the nation with 19 td's (DeVonta Smith 1st)
Tale of the Tape
* Strong hands, routinely snatches the ball away from defenders
* Shifty with little wasted movement
* Can stop and redirect on a dime
* A zone buster waiting to happen
* Although still perfecting his route running, will never round off a route
* Has multiple gears and shows it when being run down in the open field
* Elite understanding angles and is rarely caught from behind
Fit in Washington
Washington's opening at slot receiver is a glaring need and has lacked consistency since Jamison Crowder departed for New York. Regardless of what they do in free agency or in the draft's early rounds, multiple receivers will be needed to build their passing game for whomever is the next starting quarterback.
Although used sparingly as a returner in college (PR 35 ret for 310 yards 1 td & KR 17 ret for 299), Jaelon Darden is a Day 3 prospect that would boost Washington's lackluster return game. Darden's attributes as a receiver and a weapon make him an ideal fit for OC Scott Turner's scheme that emphasizes a ton of slants, crossing routes, screens and quick passes to the flat.
The level of competition will always be a knock on Darden but he displayed that he could take over a game against higher ranked competition. The 42-31 loss for N.Texas vs Louisiana Tech 12/3/20 polarized how explosive Darden can be against better competition, recording 8 rec 135 yards 3 td's 16.9 ypr average. Darden's team had no business being competitive against a superior program, but the N.Texas receiver was was in the zone.
Prospects like Jaylen Waddle and Kadarius Toney will garner attention in the early rounds as plug and play slot receivers. Although not as highly rated as some of his draft eligible peers, Jaelon Darden is the type of late round gem that can add to the foundation that the WFT has started with McLaurin, Gibson and Thomas. One thing is certain to The Burgundy and Gold Report; the team that makes the investment in Darden, will inherit an explosive playmaker that will keep defensive coordinators up at night.
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