The NFL Network revealed their top-100 players of 2021 last week, so of course, ESPN had to share their list too. But instead of polling players, ESPN’s beat writers and national writers took on this difficult challenge.
The Raiders only had one player inside of the top-100 and that was tight end Darren Waller. He ranked as the third-best tight end in the league, only behind Travis Kelce and George Kittle. However, Waller has closed the gap some on Kittle in recent years, outproducing him in back-to-back seasons.
ESPN was very complimentary of Waller, calling him one of the best-receiving weapons in the NFL. Here is what the site had to say about the No. 45 player on their list:
“A nagging ankle injury sidelined Waller for two weeks of camp, but the Raiders were going to err on the side of caution with their Pro Bowler, who is, at worst, among the top three tight ends in the NFL. On one hand, Waller is not going to sneak up on anyone after consecutive monster seasons. On the other, he doesn’t have to, with his receiver speed, soft hands and the undying trust of QB Derek Carr.”
While Waller did post another 1,100-yard season in 2020, it’s what he did in the final eight games of the season that have so many people excited. In the last two months of the season, Waller averaged over 100 yards per game and 0.6 touchdowns. While that sort of pace is likely unsustainable, it did appear he was really starting to figure out how to play the position.
Heading into his third full season as a tight end, the expectations for Waller couldn’t be higher. Look for him to be their leading receiver once again and challenge Travis Kelce for the most receptions and yards by a tight end this season.
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