Fantasy Outlook: Darren Waller

Darren Waller Raiders

Darren Waller is a very good example of “bursting onto the scene”.  He went from ~80 yards a season to over 1100 yards in 2019 and followed that up with another 1100 yard season in 2020.  Waller is by far the favorite target for QB Derek Carr, but young receivers could start to eat into Waller’s targets.  Let’s take a look at his fantasy outlook for 2021.

2020 Season

Darren Waller expanded on his breakout season from 2019 by catching 107 passes for 1196 yards and 9 touchdowns in 2020.  Waller played in all 16 games and averaged a whopping 9 targets a game.  He has now cemented himself in the top 4 TE talk, joining the ranks of Mark Andrews, George Kittle, and Travis Kelce.

Waller started off slow in 2020 but exploded in the final 5 games of the season.  In those 5 games alone he had 654 yards receiving, including one 200 yard, 2 touchdown game.  He saw 17 targets in that game.

Rookie WR Henry Ruggs III showed some promise, and Hunter Renfrow had over 600 yards receiving, so Waller does have some competition at WR.  However, it’s tough to argue against the fact that Waller is the main piece of this passing game.

Off-Season Notes

The Raiders did make some roster moves this offseason, adding WR John Brown and Willie Snead IV as free agents.  Brown and Snead are both viable receivers, although they have never really broken out after years of playing in the NFL.  2 nd year WR Bryan Edwards is also garnering some attention after a quiet rookie campaign, so if he takes a step he could take some targets away from Waller as well.

The Raiders also added RB Kenyan Drake, a solid backup that could take on a bigger role in the offense.  There also has been a bit of talk about the future of Derek Carr and back up Marcus Mariota, who performed decently in 1 game last season for the Raiders (he rushed for 88 yards and passed for 226 yards in a loss to the Chargers).  If Mariota does take the reins, it’ll be interesting to see how Waller fares.  Waller did catch 9 passes for 150 yards that game, so it’s safe to say he is QB-proof for now.

Waller is currently being drafted at 2.11 in 12-team PPR mock drafts.  He is the 2 nd TE off the board after Travis Kelce.

2021 Outlook

At a 2.11 ADP, Darren Waller is a pricy TE option, although well worth it.  There has been a lot of research in TE drafting strategies, and typically once the first few TEs go off the board the rest are all a crapshoot.  If you want to spend the draft capital, you can’t go wrong with Waller based on the previous 2 seasons.

The Raiders’ offense remains mostly the same, with the only risks coming from Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards taking big steps forward and John Brown potentially becoming a big addition.  Hunter Renfrow will still take plenty of targets as well, and RB Kenyan Drake is a very capable receiving back.

It’s hard to say whether or not opposing defenses will start guarding Waller a bit more closely now that they have a few years of film, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Kelce and Kittle, so it shouldn’t impact Waller’s stat line too much.  You could argue that the other receivers could help take some heat off Waller as well.

Waller is a top 4 TE and is making a case to be one of the top 2 (it’s hard to beat Kelce and Mahomes).  A 2.11 ADP is a bit high for me, however, streaming TEs is always a hassle and it’s always nice to have a sure thing….which Waller is.

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