As we gear up to the start of the NFL season, Football Absurdity is going to bring you a comprehensive breakdown of every notable player that will be available in fantasy football drafts. Darren Waller joined DeVante Parker last season as the “totally normal and not at all weird mid-career breakout players that happen all the time” guys. He finished the year as a top-five TE, and is going as… TE5 this year. Is there a deeper, darker secret hiding underneath his fantasy stats that say that that might be a reach for Waller?
Darren Waller ADP and AAV:
Standard Scoring ADP: TE5, 54 overall
PPR Scoring ADP: TE5, 54 overall
Average Auction Value: $9
Darren Waller Statistics:
Darren Waller Overview:
Last year, Darren Waller finished third in tight end targets, with 117. This isn’t that weird, as three or four tight ends get 110+ targets every year. Last year it was Waller, Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz. But, this fails to address The Hunter Renfrow Problem.
The Hunter Renfrow Problem is that when he is available and getting lots of snaps, Hunter Renfrow is the permanent recipient of Derek Carr’s QB Vision Cone. Renfrow had at least five targets in six-of-seven games wherein he played over 50% of snaps. That’s not a huge deal, as Waller still got his. In week nine, however, Hunter Renfrow became an inexorable part of the Raiders’ offense, and it hurt Darren Waller.
In the second half of 2019, minus games where Renfrow injured his rib and lung and missed time, Darren Waller wasn’t nearly as good. He was still really good, he just wasn’t top-five good. Outside of the second-half Hunter Renfrow games, Waller was TE1. Inside those games, he was TE8. Again, he was still really good in those games, just not transcendent. He lost about two targets and 37 yards per game depending on if Renfrow was in or out of the lineup in the second half.
I can’t stress this enough, and I hope it staves off the Waller Hive: still good, just not great.
Darren Waller Draft Strategy:
Here’s the rub, though. Derek Carr can only throw the ball so many times, and the Raiders went out and used their first-round pick on Henry “Hank” Ruggs III, an incredibly talented wide receiver. They also went out and got Nelson Agholor, a… uh… he has drawn an NFL paycheck with the roster position of “wide receiver.” The additions, plus a full season of Renfrow, have me cautious about firing my cannons at Waller. There’s just too much downside there.
Waller sits at the top of a tier of lottery tight ends. That isn’t to say that he’s a lottery ticket, that is to mean that you could put their names on a bunch of ping-pong balls, put them in a lottery machine, and whatever order they come out is a reasonable outcome for the season. This runs all the way down to TE15 or so (T.J. Hockenson/Jonnu Smith range). I’m not investing in one of the more expensive TEs in this range, no matter what. I’m passing on Darren Waller at a high rate because Derek Carr probably won’t pass to Darren Waller at a high rate.
Best Case Scenario:
Darren Waller returns his top-five price.
Worst Case Scenario:
The ping-pong hopper spits out Mike Gesicki, Noah Fant, T.J. Hockenson, Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Evan Engram, Hayden Hurst, Austin Hooper, Dallas Goedert, Rob Gronkowski and Jared Cook before Waller’s number gets called.