Darren Waller has quickly gone from obscurity to one of the best players in the NFL. The Las Vegas Raiders tight end is a dominant receiver and is already considered one of the three best players at the position. The Raiders’ archrival the Kansas City Chiefs may have the best tight in the world in Travis Kelce.
Though the two teams hate each other, Kelce has a ton of respect for Waller. He went out of his way to praise Waller’s skill and his character off the field.
That’s some seriously high praise from a rival but it’s hard not to root for Waller. Just a few years ago, it seemed more likely that he’d be out of the NFL entirely than getting named to the Pro Bowl. He’s always been an elite athlete but troubles off the field kept him from reaching his potential. He’s now in a great headspace and continues to get better. Even Kelce admitted in the above video that Waller is on his tail for the mantle of best tight end in the NFL.
ALL the latest Raiders news straight to your inbox! Subscribe to the Heavy on Raiders newsletter here!
Waller Named Raiders’ Biggest Strength
In the brief time he’s been with the team, Waller has possibly established himself as the Raiders’ best player. He’s simply an unstoppable offensive weapon. In fact, Pro Football Focus believes that he’s the team’s biggest strength:
Darren Waller has at least earned a spot at the table in the conversation for league’s best tight end with his play over the past two seasons. Since 2019, Waller has more contested catches (27) and receiving yards after the catch (1,188) than any other tight end in the NFL. He ranks second to only Travis Kelce in receptions of at least 15 yards over that same stretch (55). The missed time from George Kittle last season due to injury plays a part in some of those ranks, but Waller has been nothing short of elite.
Jon Gruden wants to run the ball a lot but having a guy like Waller makes that difficult. It’s hard not to want to throw it to him every other play. The exciting thing is that he’s still getting better. If he stays healthy, it’s very possible he’s considered the best tight end in the NFL in a couple of years.
Will the Raiders’ Offense Take a Step Back in 2021?
Last year, the Raiders fielded a very good offense. With the further development of young players like Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards, it’s possible that the unit is even better in 2021. However, not everybody believes that. The team retooled the offensive line this offseason and it’s fair to question why they would do that.
The offensive line was expensive but it was one of the Raiders’ strongest units. While the group isn’t likely to be as strong this season, it’s actually not as bad as many believe. The biggest question mark is the decision to replace center Rodney Hudson with Andre James. The other position along the offensive line should be fine but if James struggles, Las Vegas could be in trouble.
READ NEXT: Raiders QB Derek Carr Responds to Damian Lillard Rumors