The Las Vegas Raiders head into the 2020 NFL season with several offensive weapons. Out of the bunch, tight end Darren Waller appears to have the most upside, could he take his game to another level this year?
Thanks to Waller, the Raiders don’t have to worry about the tight end position for a long time. At the age of 27, he has already become quarterback Derek Carr’s favorite target. His 117 targets in 2019 are indicative of that. In a year when the offense will have many new young faces, Waller will return as a safety blanket for Carr. Those young faces are Henry Ruggs III, Byran Edwards, and Lynn Bowden Jr, and they all will be major contributors one day. Before they can get to that level, however, Waller will continue to be Carr’s most reliable receiver besides maybe Hunter Renfrow.
The Next Level
By getting to the “next level,” we’re referring to Waller possibly becoming an All-Pro. Such a distinction would be difficult, considering there are only two spots, First-Team and Second-Team. However, Scott Bair of NBC Sports recently predicted that Waller will be in a prime position in 2020 for such a feat.
“He was awesome last year, with 90 catches for 1,145 yards without a quality receiver corps to divert coverage. Waller regularly was blanketed without threats on the outside, but he should roam more open space with Henry Ruggs III’s speed, Tyrell Williams’ renewed health, and Hunter Renfrow’s increased respect from opponents each demanding attention.”
Let’s not forget that Waller, in all honesty, should’ve been a Pro Bowler last year. Admittedly, standing out at tight end is incredibly difficult, considering the amount of talent in the NFL. Bair mentioned this as well: “He’s currently not mentioned in a truly elite tight end group that includes George Kittle, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. He should be, and after 2020, he will.”
A lot of how Waller produces will hinge on Carr but it will also depend on head coach Jon Gruden’s plan of attack. Waller started out red hot last year, but once opposing defenses zeroed in on him due to a lack of weapons, it was a different story. With more speed, experience, and reliability in the offense, Waller should be able to exploit matchups and build upon last year’s campaign.
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*Top Photo: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal