South Alabama developed into one of the best Group of Five teams in the country in 2022, and wide receiver Jalen Wayne played a key role in the Jaguars’ offense. His presence will be missed by South Alabama in 2023, but the wide receiver has a chance to be a late-round NFL Draft steal.
Wayne caught 58 passes for 816 yards and nine touchdowns in 2022, coming up big in just about every game the Jaguars played. Wayne caught seven passes for 76 yards in a narrow road loss to UCLA, one of the better teams in the PAC-12. He caught touchdown passes in five of his team’s eight conference games, showcasing strong consistency across the course of the 2022 season.
The wide receiver also offers good size at 6-foot-2 and about 210 pounds. Wayne can play outside or inside, offering versatility as NFL teams try to find the best way to utilize the pass-catching threat.
It’s worth noting that Wayne is the nephew of former NFL great Reggie Wayne.
Wayne likely isn’t joining an NFL team and becoming the team’s No. 1 wide receiver, but he’s good enough to serve as a No. 2 or No. 3 option. Wayne looked the part of a top-tier wide receiver against UCLA in 2022, thriving on intermediate routes. He’s a big target, which made him easy for South Alabama’s Carter Bradley to find.
He ran smooth routes against the Bruins, creating enough space to move the chains in the team’s narrow defeat. Wayne belonged on the field against a quality Power Five opponent.
Wayne also produced in 2021, catching 53 passes for 630 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His 2022 season was certainly better, but he showed over his last few seasons in the Sun Belt that he’s among the more consistent receivers at the Group of Five level.
If an NFL team wants a big-bodied receiver to work the middle of the field and add a red-zone target, Wayne should be available in the later rounds. He’s not expected to become an elite NFL talent immediately, but he’s capable of contributing in some capacity early in his NFL career.
At the Senior Bowl, Wayne had up-and-down performances when facing press coverage in drills. A couple of times, he broke free of cornerbacks and quarterbacks found him for long, vertical pass plays. On other instances, cornerbacks were able to disrupt his routes with press coverage, leading to incompletions.
Can Wayne consistently create separation vertically? That’s arguably the top question facing the pass catcher and the No. 1 reason he’s considered a late-round pick.
On the surface, he seems to possess decent speed, but does Wayne have the top-end speed to consistently become a deep threat? If not, teams will likely prefer to have him run short and intermediate routes to take advantage of his strengths.
He could become a possession receiver at the next level, moving in and out of the slot and being called upon to move the chains on manageable third downs.
Bennett Conlin is a college football contributor for HERO Sports, and he works full-time covering sports betting industry news and legislation for Sports Handle and US Bets.