Since being plucked off the Baltimore Ravens practice squad years ago by then-head coach Jon Gruden, Darren Waller has been a key player for the Raiders franchise. In fact, he became one of the premier tight ends in the NFL once putting on the Silver and Black, though injuries have derailed his career ever since.
Still, Waller is one of those tight ends that can turn a game upside down, and he should still have a lot of good football left in him. This past week, word came out that the Raiders traded Waller away due to the fact he was missing too many games, as he has only appeared in 20 total games across the last two seasons.
Before the last two campaigns, Waller was one of the best in the business, hauling in 90 passes back in 2019, and then a Raiders single-season record 107 the following season. If he can stay healthy with the New York Giants, fans of the G-Men, and especially quarterback Daniel Jones are going to love what he brings to the table.
In Las Vegas, replacing him may be a bit harder than expected.
Can the Raiders replace Darren Waller effectively in 2023?
To replace Waller, as well as his backup, Foster Moreau, the Raiders went out and reinvented the depth chart for the 2023 season at the position group. They brought in veterans like Austin Hooper and OJ Howard, while handing a new contract to Jesper Horsted.
The biggest move, however, may have come in the 2023 NFL Draft, when they traded up on Day 2 to select Notre Dame star Michael Mayer with the second pick that day. Mayer was widely considered the best tight end prospect in that draft class, and a potential first-round pick, so he has the skill set to be very good, very quickly at the NFL level.
He also possesses the kind of attributes that Josh McDaniels loves in a tight end, and was even nicknamed "Baby Gronk" at Notre Dame. Still, he is a rookie, and there are always going to be growing pains in Year 1.
If you are talking about replacing the player Waller has been the last two seasons, then yes, replacing him is going to be an easy task. However, if we are talking about someone stepping in and being to the Raiders what Waller was at the position group in 2019 and 2020, we may be a few years off from that.