In 2019, Razzball as a site fell in love with Darren Waller. It started before he became a player to watch on Hard Knocks in August, but the love only intensified. DonkeyTeeth was one of his biggest proponents in 2019 and he and I probably owned him in every league that we weren’t facing each other in.
DonkeyTeeth’s love for Darren Waller has carried over into 2020 and we discussed it earlier this week in our football group chat. We even decided to put our money where our mouth is and made a gentleman’s wager. For the price of a Rotowear t-shirt, I took the side of Mark Andrews scoring more fantasy points than Darren Waller in 2020. I’m going to take it a step further. I don’t believe that Darren Waller will live up anywhere near his draft price in 2020.
Darren Waller’s redemption story is a wonderful story. Waller has overcome drug addiction to become a premiere tight end in the NFL. His 2019 season took the fantasy landscape by storm. After never even registering 100 yards in an NFL season, he caught 90 passes for 1,145 yards in 2019. Waller finished #3 among tight ends with a 90.4% snap share. He finished fifth among tight ends with 11 deep targets and he was also 3rd in the position with 117 total targets. Because Derek Carr dumped the ball off to Waller a lot in 2019, Waller finished 2nd among tight ends with 565 yards after the catch. Darren Waller’s downfall was touchdowns, he only finished with 3. He also barely finished as a TE1 in redzone receptions with 7.
But in 2019, there weren’t many other options for Derek Carr to throw to, and that was an enormous fantasy benefit for Darren Waller. In the 2020 draft, the Raiders went all in pass catchers. In the first round, the Raiders drafted Henry Ruggs III and he should provide a huge impact right away with his speed and explosiveness. The Raiders also added Bryan Edwards from South Carolina who probably would have been a first round draft pick if a broken foot in February didn’t keep him out of the combine.
With two big additions to the receiving corps, I don’t see Waller getting 117 targets again, which he needs to live up to his ADP. The Raider’s 33 passing attempts per game ranked as the 8th least in the NFL in 2020. I fully expect this team to continue to feed a healthy Josh Jacobs so I wouldn’t expect a huge shift in the run/pass ratio. Plus, let’s face it, Derek Carr just isn’t that good.
Waller is being drafted only a few picks after names like Mark Andrews and Zach Ertz. I find Andrews to be a much more valuable asset, and I recently wrote about that. There are still so many dynamic players hanging around in the 4th round, like Calvin Ridley, Kyler Murray, and in some cases, Todd Gurley early on in the round. Tight end should also provide some nice value later on in the draft with names like Mike Gesicki, Noah Fant, and maybe even Jonnu Smith. I expect Darren Waller to continue to be a successful NFL player who earns the raise that he got last year, but I would let another player in your league pay the cost for him while you look elsewhere.