Let’s not kid ourselves, here.
The Oakland Raiders depth chart does have Ryan Grant listed as a starting wide receiver along with Tyrell Williams, however, we know who the No. 2 receiver is: Darren Waller.
Waller paced the receiving group with eight targets — one more than Williams’ seven. And while Williams had a more productive stat line (six grabs for 106 yards and a score) to Waller’s (seven catches for 70 yards), Raiders quarterback Derek Carr looked early and often for his athletic tight end.
(Hence, one can make the valid argument Williams and Waller take their turns as the No. 1 and 2 options when it comes to the Raiders aerial attack.)
The Raiders’ infatuation with Waller, a converted wide receiver, was so deep, the team anointed him the starting tight end immediately after letting Jared Cook walk in free agency. Yes, the team brought in Foster Moreau via the draft and verteran Luke Wilson via free agency, but the gig was Waller’s and his alone. He’s pretty much a throwback to the Al Davis’ type. Waller is 6-foot-6, weighs in at 256 pounds and ran a 4.46 40-yard dash time when he came out of Georgia Tech as a wideout. That’s Big Al’s defining numbers.
Like Cook before him, Waller (who’s six years younger than Cook) is the fleet-footed, taller receiving option Carr has the most success with. What began with Andre Holmes dating back to his rookie year, Carr seemingly prefers targets who have a very wide catch radius and can leap over defenders to snag the higher throws. Case in point: Look at Carr’s lob to Waller down the sideline in the first quarter this past Monday night against the Broncos and DC’s bullet to Williams later in the tilt against two defenders. Both were precisely placed in high spots only Waller and Willams could reach.
Now, this isn’t to overstate Waller and Williams or to downplay Grant, Moreau, Hunter Renfrow and the other receiving options. Surely, as teams adjust to the Raiders, taking away Williams and Waller will become focal points necessitating Carr to spread the ball around. In fact, Grant was targeted four times and caught three for 16 yards. Moreau hauled in both of his targets for 20 and Renfrow snagged two of his targets for 13 yards. Expect all three to contribute more as the season progresses. Perhaps offseason darling undrafted free agent wide receiver Keelan Doss gets in the mix, too.
And, while he didn’t see the volume or snaps like he had last year (due to lack of weapons at other positions), expect pass-catching tailback Jalen Richard to get more involved in the aerial onslaught. Rookie running back Josh Jacobs showcased his hands and wiggle on his lone target which resulted in a 28-yard gallop. As mentioned above, as teams gain more film and learn about the Raiders tendencies in 2019 and beyond, spreading the wealth will become a must for Carr.
Yet, that doesn’t deviate from the fact Williams is the No. 1 wide receiver and Waller is the No. 2 receiver, albeit as a tight end — for better or worse.