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Silver Minings: Darren Waller ranked 3rd-best tight end in ESPN poll

Raiders TE still considered one of the best after down year

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals
Darren Waller
Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller quickly ascended from an unknown commodity to one of the best players at his position.

From 2015 to 2018, Waller participated in 22 games but only had 18 receptions for 178 yards and two touchdowns to show for it. However, in 2019 he burst onto the scene by finishing with the second-most receiving yards (1,145) and receptions (90) among tight ends. He followed up that campaign by topping the charts for catches (107) and another second-place finish in yards (1,196) in the corresponding season.

From that point forward, the Raiders’ Pro Bowler was widely considered to be in the same category as Travis Kelce and George Kittle as one of the three best tight ends in the NFL.

But last year was marred with injuries for Waller, keeping him to just 11 games, 55 receptions, 655 yards and two touchdowns. That was by far his least productive year since taking over as the Silver and Black’s starter, which very easily could have dropped him down the perceived positional rankings.

However, NFL executives still hold the six-year veteran in high regard.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler conducts a study every offseason where he surveys more than 50 league executives, coaches, scouts and players to rank the top 10 players at each position. Waller came in at No. 3 heading into the upcoming season, still behind Kittle and Kelce, and below is what one NFL Coach had to say about the Raiders’ tight end:

“I don’t even really look at him as a tight end, though he can function as one. You can line him up anywhere. He can bully smaller DBs and has the speed to separate. He’s a guy you can throw vertically to and have no reservations, can throw him jump balls, quick passes over the middle. His range is pretty incredible.”

Hopefully, a clean bill of health and Davante Adams’ presence can help Waller regain his 1,000-yard form and climb up the charts to the top spot in next year’s poll.

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