Raiders Darren Waller is an elite tight end, and here is why
By Daniel Davis
The Next Generation
The next generation of tight ends featured some of the best to ever play. Dallas Clark, Jeremy Shockey, Alge Crumpler, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten, and of course, Antonio Gates. The early 2000s is when the tight end became a focal point of the offense. Offensive coordinators and head coaches began looking for tall, big, and fast receivers who were matchup nightmares.
Clark was lucky, and played with Peyton Manning in his prime, and Tony Gonzalez had Trent Green in his prime too. However, by pure athleticism, Gates is the clear winner here. With 955 receptions and 11,841 yards and 116 touchdowns, he is clearly a Hall of Fame first ballot player.
He was also the leader of first down receptions with 658 meaning 76% of his catches went for a first down as he averaged 12.4 yards per catch.
Then in 2010, the NFL was taken by storm, as Rob Gronkowski was drafted the New England Patriots, as well as Jimmy Graham to New Orleans, two of the most prolific tight ends in the history of the NFL and both products of the modern NFL offense. Graham was specifically used as a wide receiver and played outside, inside, and the slot position as well.
Both players would eventually go on to set the tight end touchdown record in consecutive years.
In 2013, Jimmy Graham destroyed every NFL defense he played against. He led all receivers in touchdowns with 16 and of his 90 catches, 63 went for first downs with only 6 drops on the season.
Drew Brees targeted him 145 times with a 109 passer rating on the season, too. Even with all these accolades, he also had 1,267 receiving yards and in 2011, he boasted 1,457 yards on 110 catches with 14 touchdowns, cementing himself as an elite target in a growing passing league.
Most Recently, the best tight end in the game has been Travis Kelce – since Gronk has officially left the game for good it seems. Kelce was part of the historic 2018 Chiefs where Patrick Mahomes threw for 50 touchdowns, nearly breaking the record of 55 by Peyton Manning set in 2013.
Since he came into the league in 2014, no tight end has had more yards, touchdowns, or first-down catches. He’s been the most reliable tight end – and probably receiver – in the league; so much so the Chiefs went 14 games without throwing a touchdown to a wide receiver.
Statistically speaking, Kelce’s best season was 2018 where he caught 113 of 154 targets with 1,467 yards and 74 first downs with a 118 passer rating, oh, and, by the way, 11 touchdowns to go along with all of that.
So what’s the trend here? So far I’ve blabbered on and on about how great tight ends have been and how they’ve developed into elite pass catchers but nothing about Darren Waller, right?
Hang with me, I’m getting there.