Originally published by RaidersNewswire.com
If there is one certainty with the Las Vegas Raiders, it is that tight end Darren Waller is one of the best pass-catchers in the game.
Waller has served as the No. 1 option in the passing game for quarterback Derek Carr over the last two seasons, and it has led to historic production for the one-time Pro Bowler. This is evidenced by a 2020 campaign that saw him haul in 107 receptions, 1,196 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns.
Waller’s breakout year in 2019 was barely enough to help him crack the NFL’s Top 100 list at No. 99. It is safe to say that the follow-up has never solidified his place among the elite.
Waller took a major jump by being ranked No. 35 on this year’s list going into the 2021 NFL season, via NFL Network:
You probably enjoyed having @Rakkwall83 on your @NFLFantasy team last year
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) August 22, 2021
While fans would argue that Waller could be higher, it is encouraging to see him finally getting the respect he deserves from fellow players. After all, he has become a matchup nightmare for those that have attempted to defend against his rare blend of size, speed, and overall catching ability.
The 28-year-old admits that despite his success, he is still driven by the same sense of urgency that he had when he first joined the Raiders. This drive, paired with his unique skill set, has allowed him to overcome his battle with substance abuse become a household name in this league.
It will be difficult for Waller to top his numbers from last season now that he is the focus of every opposing defense the Raiders will face moving forward. However, there is still good reason to be optimistic that he can continue to serve as the go-to option for Carr since he is still a mismatch for most defenders.
The onus will ultimately fall on the team’s other unproven options in the receiving corps to step up and help take some of the pressure off Waller. Should Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards make some strides in their game, it will open up more opportunities for Carr to find his favorite target.
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