Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller has not had a straightforward NFL career. After being selected in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Ravens, his rookie campaign was cut short due to injury.
After a decent sophomore campaign, Waller’s career took a dive in his third season. He was suspended for the entire year for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
After he was reinstated in 2018, he was immediately waived and placed on the Ravens practice squad. By November, Waller made his way to Oakland and put on the Silver and Black. After only playing four games off of the bench, Waller’s second season with the Raiders is already looking much better.
“It felt good to contribute,” Waller said. “Once [Derek Carr] knows who he has on the field, he was like, ‘I’m coming to you, so win every route.’ So I’m trying to win every route. I am expecting the ball to be there and if it is not there, that’s fine and if it is there, I’m trying to make something happen.
Although quarterback Derek Carr did not look to Waller on every snap, he did haul in seven receptions on eight targets, going for 70 yards. Those 70 yards were only slightly fewer than Waller’s career-high for an entire season at 85.
Waller also showed off his versatility during the Raiders season opener. Of course, his receiving skills were well utilized, but he also was counted in 28 run-blocking snaps as he did not miss a single offensive snap.
Although the five-year veteran had his most on-field time in over a year, he said that he felt great to be out there and contributing for his team:
“I felt a calm that I have really never had before in football,” Waller said. “Usually there is anxiety, but today it was like OK, I know that I belong. I know that I could make something happen.”
It appears that Waller is ready to take the next step and develop into an elite tight end in the NFL. He is expected to be one of the Raiders’ main offensive contributors this season along with Josh Jacobs and Tyrell Williams.