Darren Waller could be a name to remember come Draft Day if he opens the season as the starting tight end for the Raiders. With Jared Cook (New Orleans) gone, coach Jon Gruden said Waller has the "chance of a lifetime" to earn the starting job. His main competition could be blocking tight ends in Lee Smith and Derek Carrier, as well as rookie Foster Moreau, but Waller has a higher ceiling as a receiver. Waller is a converted college wide receiver from Georgia Tech who ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Combine before Baltimore selected him in the sixth round. He only has 18 receptions in 22 NFL appearances, but this could be his chance for a bigger role. Keep an eye on what the Raiders do at tight end, and Waller could be worth a late-round flier in deeper leagues.
Waller is getting regular first-team work as the primary receiving tight end in the Oakland offense, Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. Coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock both talked up Waller earlier this spring, noting that the 26-year-old would have a big opportunity after Jared Cook left for New Orleans. A converted college wideout, Waller ran a 4.46-second 40-yard dash at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, but he caught just 12 passes in 18 games for the Ravens after they selected him in the sixth round. He then latched on with Oakland last season and had six receptions for 75 yards over the final three weeks. The competition at tight end appears soft, consisting of Luke Willson (concussion), Erik Swoope and rookie fourth-round pick Foster Moreau. There's a real chance for Waller to carve out a handful of targets per game.
General manager Mike Mayock hopes Waller can become the Raiders' top receiving threat at tight end, Vic Tafur of The Athletic reports. There was buzz about the Raiders using an early draft pick on a tight end, but they instead waited until the fourth round to select Foster Moreau, who caught 52 passes in 49 games at LSU. The rookie figures to compete with Lee Smith and Derek Carrier (concussion) for inline blocking snaps, while Waller and Luke Willson (concussion) will battle for the pass-catching role. None of the bunch is likely to come anywhere near Jared Cook's 2018 production, but there's at least a hint of upside with Waller, a converted college wideout who ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the 2015 combine. He flashed his potential at the end of last season with six catches for 75 yards on six targets over the final three weeks in December.
Coach Jon Gruden said Waller has the "chance of a lifetime" with Jared Cook leaving for New Orleans, Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. Waller won't enter training camp atop the Oakland depth chart, but the guys he's behind -- Lee Smith and Derek Carrier (concussion) -- are noted for blocking far more than pass catching. Waller, on the other hand, is a converted college wide receiver who ran a 4.46 40-yard dash at the 2015 combine before Baltimore selected him in the sixth round. He only has 18 receptions in 22 NFL appearances, but raw athleticism and special teams experience should at least get his foot in the door. Of course, it's a good bet the Raiders add to their tight end room during the upcoming draft, potentially as soon as the first round.
Waller hauled in all three of his targets for 23 yards during Sunday's 35-3 loss to the Chiefs. Waller logged a season-high 15 offensive snaps during the Raiders' season finale behind starter Jared Cook, as the former totaled 75 yards on six catches in four contests with the silver and black in 2018. Waller would be inexpensive to keep on the roster in 2019, though he'll likely need to earn his spot with the Raiders expected to make an effort to re-sign Cook.
Waller notched two receptions for eight yards Monday in the Raiders' 27-14 win over the Broncos. One of five tight ends on the roster, Waller appears to have emerged as the Raiders' No. 2 pass-catching option at the position behind Jared Cook. A wide receiver during his college days at Georgia Tech, Waller showcased his athleticism with a 44-yard catch and run in Week 15 in Cincinnati, but he wasn't quite as productive Monday with the Raiders opting for a run-heavy game plan.
|* indicates player did not play that week|
|WK||DATE||OPP||OPP RANK||OPP FPTS|
|2||09/15||Kansas City Chiefs||31||9.56|
|7||10/20||@Green Bay Packers||8||5.50|
|10||11/08||Los Angeles Chargers||10||5.67|
|12||11/24||@New York Jets||6||4.88|
|13||12/01||@Kansas City Chiefs||31||9.56|
|16||12/22||@Los Angeles Chargers||10||5.67|
Red Zone Trends
|3 Year Avg||8||5||53||1||4||10.60||11|