Pro Football Focus released its list of the top 101 players in the NFL and Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller was ranked #70
To call Darren Waller’s comeback story unexpected would be an understatement. After battling addiction for years, the former Georgia Tech wide receiver has emerged on the scene as one of the best tight ends in the entire league. From the scrap heap of the Ravens practice squad to a Pro Bowl alternate in a year would be impressive enough even without the personal issues involved.
Waller had a historic season with the Raiders, putting up 1145 yards on 90 catches and 3 touchdowns in his first season as a starter. To make these eye-popping numbers even more impressive is that Waller did so as the unquestioned number one target for Derek Carr.
The Raiders revolving door at wide receiver is well documented and in games that Tyrell Williams missed with injury, Waller put up some his best numbers. Most notably against Green Bay in Week 7, Waller hauled in 7 catches for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns and was a key part of keeping that game competitive while the Raiders were still in it.
The best part about all of the recognition that Waller is receiving and the numbers he put up is that there is room for improvement. Waller’s numbers include five drops and a drop percentage of 4.3 which is not terrible but suggests that he can improve in that area.
The other factors that could lead to an even better 2020 season are an additional year in Jon Gruden’s offense, another year building chemistry with Derek Carr, and the Raiders adding more weapons on offense to draw attention away from Waller. Most mock drafts predict that the Raiders will use one of their two first round picks on a player they believe can be a number one receiver and many predict they will pursue other options in free agency.
In the words of Michael Jordan, the ceiling is the roof and that applies directly to Darren Waller and all that be brings to an offense. The Raiders and Jon Gruden are just beginning to peel back the layers of his ability and he is more than ready to shine under the bright lights of Las Vegas.