The Oakland Raiders found an absolute diamond in the rough when they snagged Darren Waller from the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad. His well-documented backstory is why it took him until his fifth year to breakout. He’s always had all the tools to be great and he’s finally figured out how to use them.
Waller finished the season with 90 receptions and 1,145 receiving yards on the season, which were both second-best among tight ends in the NFL. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the NFL’s Next Gen Stats revealed a crazy stat from Waller’s season. They decided to find the plays where a player ran the fastest in the NFL. Waller was the only tight end to break the top 10.
The play where Waller hit 21.76 MPH came in the last game of the season against the Denver Broncos on a 75-yard reception.
For context, speedsters like Tyreek Hill and Dalvin Cook didn’t match Waller’s speed on a single play this season. The tight end is 6’6 and weighs 256 pounds. Also, no other Raider has matched his speed in the last four seasons.
Considering the Raiders have always held an affinity for speedy players, it’s no small feat that Waller is among the fastest.
What’s Darren Waller’s 40 Time?
For those who have been paying attention, it’s no surprise that Waller is among the fastest tight ends in the NFL. At his combine back in 2015, he ran a 4.46 40 yard dash. While Vernon Davis and Even Ingram ran faster times, there’s no doubt Waller is one of the most athletic tight ends in NFL history. One thing is clear form Waller’s play on the field is that he plays just as fast as his 40-time, if not faster.
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The Greatest Story in the NFL
Jon Gruden tried to tell the world just how good Waller was going to be. There were plenty who listened, but nobody could’ve seen this kind of dominance from him. Especially since he was the Raiders’ only real receiving threat throughout most of the season.
“I think it’s the greatest story in the game this year,” Gruden said back in December, per NBC Sports. “I haven’t seen anything like it. I’ve been coaching a long time and I’ve seen the game played at every level.
“This guy had hit rock bottom, was a wide receiver at Georgia Tech just starting to play the position of tight end. You know, he came to us about this time last year, and it’s an unbelievable accomplishment — what he’s done to get his life together off the field. It’s really a rare, almost unprecedented thing that I’ve seen happen. Where a guy comes in here really as a rookie tight end and catch 80 passes and, I think, prove that he can do just about anything you ask him to do. I’m so proud of him.”
If he’s not already considered a top-five tight end in the NFL, he’s certainly on his way to getting there. Waller still doesn’t have much experience and should get even better with a year as a starter under his belt. If the Raiders can add a wide receiver to help get some of the attention away from Waller in 2020, he could be unstoppable.