Raiders tight end Darren Waller had a great season for the Raiders in 2019. Not only did he become the team's top threat in the passing game, but should be considered an NFL elite.
Darren Waller has taken his opportunity as the Raiders top target by the bull horns, displaying the kind of pass-catching ability that made him the top target in the Silver and Black in 2019. While tight ends used to be seen as just another blocker, they have taken on a new form in recent years, and Waller certainly has the physical gifts to follow in the footsteps of those before him.
Mike Ditka was one of the first to pave the way for the modern tight end. In 1961 he had 12 touchdowns and 1,076 yards in a league where passing was nearly never.
The '60s brought on the modern offense where the quarterback led the team and before then, it was more about the tough run and gun offenses. Ditka ended his career with 427 receptions and 5,812 yards with 13.6 yards per reception and 36.8 yards per game to go along with 43 touchdowns.
Then in 1978, Ozzie Newsome walked on the field and took the NFL by storm. The Cleveland Brown tight end became one of the most prolific pass catchers up until that point at the tight end position. TE's were mostly looked at as an extra blocker rather than a matchup receiver.
On teams with ran the ball more than passed it, tight ends were used on off-tackle and toss plays to get out ahead of the fast linebackers or defensive ends which swung out in contain. They were normally about the size of a tackle but much more athletic.
At 6'2" weighing 232 pounds, Newsome could use his size against blitzing safeties and cornerbacks and even pancake them too. While Ditka was looked at as a run blocker first, Newsome was a focal point of the offense in Cleveland and was looked at as the first option in the said offense.
Newsome ended his career with 662 receptions and 7,980 yards for an average of 12.1 per catch and 47 touchdowns. Eventually retiring in 1990, this was the year that the modern tight end really became a reality.