Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens: Finding A Fit for TE/WR Darren Waller (Oakland)

Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens profiles Darren Waller’s 2018 stretch-run with the Raiders and what it reveals about Oakland’s potential use of him in 2019. 

A former big-play, split-end at Georgia Tech, Darren Waller has always been an impressive physical specimen. A 6’6″, 238-pound option, Waller had impressive pre-draft marks: a 37-inch Vertical Jump, a 4.25-second, 20-Shuttle, and a 4.46-second, 40-Yard Dash.

His first three and a half years as a pro was nothing but obstacles. Waller suffered injuries, failed a drug test, and then violated the substance abuse policy a second time in a year.

The Raiders signed Waller in November and used him down the stretch. Let’s look at Waller’s limited reps with Oakland to see why Gruden gushed about his new addition:

“Since the time he’s walked in here, he’s been one of the most impressive guys on our team,” said Gruden. “He learns fast. He is fast. He’s extremely talented. I think he’s going to be one of the best-kept secrets in the league.”

Although Gruden earns criticism as a coach stuck in the past, there are still elements of his scheme that will be effective. Having a big receiver at tight end who can help Oakland achieve a great deal of flexibility with alignments is an excellent thing.

This is especially true when considering how the speedy Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams can stretch defenses and allow Waller to operate underneath. Or, use Waller in run-heavy packages as an isolation matchup in space (short or deep).

The real questions about Waller come down to the frequency that the Raiders will use these multiple tight end packages and if Waller can show enough as a blocker to earn Cook’s role in the offense. If not, will Waller be the unofficial third receiver posing as a tight end?

We’ve seen the way Gruden can exploit Waller’s athletic ability and receiver skills. However, we need to see if it translates to sustainable volume.

This is where scouting the individual talent differs from scouting the talent’s match with the team. Think about coaching history and tendencies. Things you learn to do with projection models.

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