Darren Waller Fantasy Preview
Last season the Las Vegas Raiders made Waller the highest-paid tight end with a three-year $51 million extension. Waller was traded to the New York Giants six months later for a third-round pick.
Waller has missed 14 games in the last two seasons. In 2022 he missed eight games because of a hamstring injury. In the nine games Waller played, his stats were 43 targets, 28 receptions, 388 receiving yards, and three touchdowns. He recorded the most target receptions of 20-plus yards with 13.
Waller finished as TE24 in standard fantasy leagues last year. In PPR leagues, Waller finished as TE31.
Future Odds for Waller
Currently, betting sites have future odds for Waller to win Offensive Player of the Year that are astronomical. Waller’s odds are +12500. The favorite is currently Ja’Marr Chase at +1000. A tight end has never won Offensive Player of the Year. Let that sink in, there are eight tight ends currently in the Hall of Fame, and none of them have won Offensive Player of the Year. Add Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce to the list and see why the odds are a long shot for Waller to win.
Waller is also a long shot for the Comeback Player of the Year. Waller’s odds for this award are also sitting at +12500. Buffalo Bills’ Damar Hamlin is the current favorite at -300. It is hard to bet against Hamlin if he plays this season.
Waller’s current ADP per fantasypros.com is 6.10. He is currently the 10th pick of the sixth round. That makes Waller the 69th pick overall.
Waller is the sixth tight end off the board in standard leagues. He is going ahead of Dallas Goedert and behind Kyle Pitts. In PPR formats Waller is the fifth tight end off the board. He is ahead of Kyle Pitts and behind George Kittle in PPR drafts.
It isn’t hard to imagine Waller moving ahead of Kittle in PPR leagues. Kittle’s quarterback situation is uncertain. Waller’s quarterback is experiencing a positive regression. If Waller remains healthy by the end of August, he is the best receiving option for the Giants. Waller in the sixth round is a steal.
Waller is on a new team, the New York Giants. The Giants gave up the third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to acquire Waller. In free agency and via trades, they also acquired wide receivers Parris Campbell, Jamison Crowder, Jeff Smith, and Cole Beasley. They drafted wide receiver Jalin Hyatt in the third round.
The Giants also have tight end Daniel Bellinger on their roster. Bellinger played 12 games last season. He suffered a fractured eye socket in Week 7 and returned in Week 13. In his 12 games, Bellinger was on the field for a 73.9% snap share and a 10.6% target share.
Per Pro Football Focus, the Giants’ tight ends have been targeted the 14th most since Daniel Jones became quarterback. The target rate remained the same even though the Giants’ tight ends had the eighth-lowest receiving grade. The highest grade for a Giants’ tight end was 63.2. Waller comes in with a 73.4 receiving grade. He is an instant upgrade.
Last season the Giants ranked 25th in pass attempts averaging 30.6 pass attempts per game. Their 51% neutral game script pass rate was the ninth lowest in the league. In addition to Jones having a career low in passing attempts per game last season, he was also 24th in red zone attempts (42), 30th in deep ball attempts (30), and 31st in average depth of targets (6.5).
That’s where Waller’s skill set comes in handy. In 2020, Waller’s last full season, he was first in deep targets, first in red zone targets, and second in air yards. Last year, in his shortened season, Waller had 10 red zone targets, was first in deep targets (13), and first in average target distance (13.6).
If he remains healthy, Waller is the odds-on favorite to be the primary receiver for the Giants.
Fantasy Value Redraft
Waller is the downfield and red zone threat that the Giants’ did not have last season. The Giants’ running back, Saquon Barkley, led the team last year with a 17.2% target share. Wide receiver Richie James led the team in red zone targets with four. The influx of wide receivers is an upgrade based on volume, not a skill set that surpasses what Waller brings to the team.
Waller is the immediate downfield and red zone threat that the Giants lack. His 13 receptions of 20 yards or more downfield was first, even though he missed eight games. Waller also had 10 red zone targets in his nine games.
Waller is being drafted after Travis Kelce, Mark Andrews, T.J. Hockenson, and Kittle. He is capable of outplaying his current ADP. At 6’6, 250 pounds, his big body gives Jones a reliable red zone target. The three routes the Giants’ tight ends ran the most last season, crossing routes, hitches, and speed outs are the routes Waller runs consistently.
Fantasy Relevance Dynasty
Waller will be 31 years old at the start of this season. His contract consists of no guaranteed money after the 2023 season. Waller’s dynasty relevancy is going to depend on your dynasty team.
Waller is a high ceiling-low floor option for win now teams. If your dynasty team is in the championship now mode, acquiring Waller is an option. Although, like the Giants, you don’t want to mortgage your future to acquire him.
The pool for fantasy-dominant tight ends is shallow. If Waller stays healthy, you have your dynasty player for this year and potentially next without having given away your future.
If your dynasty team is in a rebuild and you have Waller, consider trading him. The best scenario is that Waller begins the season as he did last year. His stat line through the first two games was 14 targets, three red zone targets, 10 receptions, one touchdown, and 129 receiving yards. Waller is 31 years old, and his contract with the Giants isn’t guaranteed beyond this season. His injury history makes him a volatile low-floor-high-ceiling option for future years.
My Bold Prediction
I predict Waller comes in healthy, is Jones’s number-one target, and finishes this season as a top-three tight end in fantasy in PPR leagues. In standard leagues, he is a top-five fantasy tight end by the end of the season.
Gladys is obsessive about fantasy football, Pittsburgh Steelers, dogs/cats, pop culture movies and television shows, and Ben & Jerry’s 7 Layer Vegan Ice Cream (although not necessarily in that order). A writer about NFL, college ball, and fantasy football for more than 10 years, she attempts to combine her degree in statistical variance (BS Policy Analysis) with player knowledge and game script. Though her concentration is on IDP, redraft, and PPR leagues, all fantasy formats are fair game. Reach out whenever you can find me on Twitter @gladysLtyler. And remember, don’t suck and tip your bartenders well.