Despite a disappointing 2021 season, Las Vegas Raiders star Darren Waller is still one of the league’s elite tight ends. What is his outlook for 2022?
2021 was a down year for Darren Waller
Statistically, Waller had his worst season since his breakout 2019 campaign. A large part of that was due to an injury that caused him to miss five games. Still, while injuries are easily attributable to Waller’s stats on the season being down, his per-game numbers were significantly down as well. Even so, he had the fewest catches and yards per game this year compared to 2019 and 2020. In the two games he played after the injury (Week 18 versus the Los Angeles Chargers and the Wild Card round at Cincinnati), Waller caught just nine passes on 21 targets. He simply was not the same player.
On top of that, the landscape of the offensive roster did not bode well for Waller either. Teams began to key on him this past year more than ever. That problem became exacerbated with the departure of Henry Ruggs III. It is tough sledding for a tight end when you’re consistently drawing the opponents’ biggest, most athletic defensive back, and they have help. I think that 2021 was more likely an aberration than the beginning of a trend.
2022 will be different for the Las Vegas Raiders tight end
Having Davante Adams on the outside should take a ton of attention off of Waller. Hunter Renfrow’s emergence last season shouldn’t hurt either. Perhaps the most important addition is head coach Josh McDaniels. His offenses in the past have allowed dynamic tight ends to thrive. These things, plus a clean bill of health, could lead to a resurgence for Waller.
As long as he stays healthy all season, Waller is a lock to have better numbers this year. The real question is whether or not he will be able to get back to the crazy production levels of 2019 and 2020. That is trickier to discern.
On one hand, Waller’s life will be much easier this year. He will likely see many fewer double teams than he has in a long time. For that reason, I would expect him to have career highs in catch percentage and yards per catch. He is not going to have to make plays with defenders draped all over him. I also think that he will get back to being more of a redzone target and get close to the nine touchdowns he scored in 2020.
On the other hand, with all of these weapons at Derek Carr’s disposal, there are only so many balls to go around. Also, McDaniels will likely get the Raiders back to running the ball again. These things could hurt Waller’s volume stats. I don’t see him getting close to the 107 catches for 1,196 yards he put up in 2020.
2022 Stat Predictions For Waller
102 targets, 86 receptions, 84.3 catch percentage, 1,109 yards, 12.9 yards per catch, eight touchdowns
*Top Photo: Chris Unger/Getty Images