Here are Darren Waller’s full NFL stats.
|Year||Games||Targets||Receptions||Yards||TDs||Fantasy Finish||Fantasy PPG||PPG Rank|
The Ravens drafted Waller in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft as a wide receiver. Waller saw almost no playing time behind veterans Kamar Aiken, Steve Smith, and Chris Givens, and he eventually landed on injured reserve. After 2015, the Ravens decided to convert Waller into a tight end, hoping that he could provide a new element to their offense.
However, Waller’s 2016 season got off to a bad start when the NFL suspended him for the first four games for violating the substance-abuse policy. He returned and played the remaining 12 games, but unfortunately, there were few opportunities in the Ravens’ offense. Veteran tight end Dennis Pitta led the Ravens in targets with 121, leaving only scraps for Waller. The Ravens also rarely deployed 2TE sets, preferring to use 11 or 21 personnel.
After seeing few chances in 2016, Waller struggled with substance-abuse issues once again. The NFL suspended him for the entire 2017 season, and Waller sought help to overcome his drug addiction. Luckily, Waller became a fantastic redemption story, as he took this suspension seriously and cleaned up his life. He managed to return to the field for Ravens’ camp in 2018, although he failed to make the active roster and landed on the practice squad.
Eventually, the Raiders decided to claim Waller from the Ravens’ practice squad, allowing Waller to see some action on the field. Waller didn’t do much down the stretch in 2018, although he played in all of the Raiders’ final four games. Incumbent starter Jared Cook saw most of the tight end work, with Waller only seeing spot duty.
The Raiders let Cook walk in free agency after 2018, and he signed with the Saints. Therefore, they had a massive void in the receiving department, which they tried to fill by signing Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams in free agency. Head Coach Jon Gruden also praised Waller, stating that he would slide into Cook’s old role as the Raiders’ new starting tight end.
Waller exceeded all expectations, though, exploding for a TE3 season. Even though he only caught three touchdowns, Waller dominated the Raiders’ receiving game, leading the team in targets, receptions, and yards by wide margins. While Waller may have seen some of his volume due to Brown’s absence and Williams’ injuries, it’s impossible to deny that Waller broke out in 2019.
2020 Performance and Outlook
Going into 2020, the Raiders drafted Henry Ruggs in the first round and Bryan Edwards in the third round. They also had 2019 rookie Hunter Renfrow to play the slot and Williams as their leading outside receiver. After the NFL Draft, some people had concerns for Waller’s volume, as the Raiders had funneled him targets out of necessity in 2019.
However, Waller has eliminated those worries through five games. He’s averaging more receptions/game than he did in 2019, and there’s no doubt that both the Raiders and opposing defense see Waller as the team’s top receiving target. While Ruggs and Edwards have both struggled with injuries, Waller has played well no matter who else is on the field. Therefore, Waller is a locked and loaded high-end TE1 for the rest of 2020.
Even though Waller only broke out recently, it’s important to remember that he turned 28 years old in September. The Raiders extended his contract last season through 2023, but they can escape the deal after this year or any year thereafter with no dead cap. Waller’s production makes him the dynasty TE4, behind George Kittle, Mark Andrews, and Travis Kelce, although he’s a steep tier down from those players.
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