When the Raiders declined to draft a tight end high during last month’s draft, people raised eyebrows. After drafting Foster Moreau on the third day, the team sends a clear, resounding signal. If you add in the release of Lee Smith, the franchise appears set at the tight end spot. With that said, Darren Waller is in for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Trouble and Glimpses
From the time of his signing, Waller flew completely under the radar. Originally a sixth rounder selection of the Ravens, Waller found himself sitting for the entire 2017 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. However, when the Raiders showed interest, Waller took advantage of his opportunity. Catching six passes for 75 yards and one electrifying play versus the Bengals gave Jon Gruden enough hope to possibly turn the starting reins over to him.
Of the tight ends currently employed by the Raiders, Waller is the most skilled physically. With impressive size and stunning speed, Waller can win down the seam. The speed and explosion will force a decision. Will teams use a linebacker or a safety to stay with him?
In Jon Gruden’s offense, his prefers pinpoint, precision timing. For Waller, he will need to adhere to this standard. Given his athletic ability, sharper routes will turn him into a potential starter into a legitimate threat.
From Roland Williams to Ken Dilger to Lee Smith, Gruden loves blocking tight ends. Waller, a converter wideout, needs refining. In the NFL, just placing hands on a defender is not enough. To secure the starting job for the long haul, Waller needs to finish blocks with a blend of technique and power.
In Jared Cook, Derek Carr enjoyed a nimble tight end that afforded him the luxury of attacking the middle of a defense. Waller can afford him a vertical threat or that safety blanket on drag routes. The key with Carr is trust. If he does not believe in a receiver, he will not look your way. As a result, Waller needs to get up to speed to build trust.
In reality, the Oakland Raiders need Darren Waller to produce. With his skillset, the offense could give opponents fits. Regardless of his path to the team, the time is now for his improvement.