After a strange journey through the offseason, the Oakland Raiders have started off 1-1 early in the NFL season. While nobody is happy with the loss, there have certainly been some positive highlights through the young 2019 season.
One of those highlights has been the play of tight end Darren Waller. Waller has emerged as the Raiders No. 2 option in the air, grabbing 13 receptions for 133 yards through the first two games.
Waller is a former wide receiver turned tight end, so he is still learning his new position in a sense, which makes what he has done all that more impressive.
For quarterback Derek Carr, while Waller is getting a lot of well-deserved praise for his receiving ability, he doesn’t think he is getting enough for his blocking as well, via Myles Simmons of the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
“I think he doesn’t get nearly enough credit — and he never will because of what he can do with the ball in his hands — but he’s an exceptional blocker, way better than most at his position,” Carr said. “And that’s saying a lot coming from a guy that came from receiver.”
Waller spent three years at Georgia Tech playing wide receiver. He had a decent collegiate career, totaling 971 yards on only 51 receptions for an average of 19 yards per catch.
After being drafted in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, Waller had his share of trouble. He ended up missing the latter half of his rookie season after going on the injured reserve list. Then in 2016, he missed the first four games due to substance abuse suspension, eventually missing the entire 2017 season due to another substance abuse issue.
Once Waller was reinstated in 2018, he found himself waived from the Ravens 53-man roster and signed to the practice squad. He received a chance for a fresh start through an offer from the Raiders. He joined the Raiders for four games last year although he only had six receptions.
According to Simmons, Waller was able to learn from the Raiders 2018 receiving leader, tight end Jared Cook. Waller learned that running routes as a tight end is different than that of a wide receiver. Now, Waller is starting in Cook’s place and has become one of the Raiders’ best playmakers.
The Raiders will likely lean on Waller heavily again in their upcoming matchup with the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday.