With the start of the 2022 NFL season just days away you should be neck-deep in your fantasy football prep work. You should have read everything in the free Fantasy Alarm fantasy football draft guide, made your own personal adjustments to our fantasy football player rankings and, hopefully, at this point, taken part in a few fantasy football mock drafts. If you haven’t, then you’re missing out on some interesting draft trends to which need to catch up. For example, wide receivers have been all the rage this year. One position that fantasy players tend to be very split on is when to draft your tight end? Fantasy Alarm's tight end guru Andrew Cooper has provided a plethora of tight end strategy options in the fantasy football draft guide but this offseason one of the more debated tight end options has been that of Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller.

Dan Malin goes toe-to-toe with Howard Bender as they answer the question of whether Waller should be drafted at his current ADP or if you should seek alternatives at that point in your draft.





Draft Darren Waller in Fantasy Football with Confidence

By: Howard Bender

After two-straight seasons with at least 90 receptions and over 1,100 receiving yards, the fantasy world is done with Darren Waller. He caught three touchdowns during his first year with the Raiders and nine the following year, but after dealing with an assortment of injuries in 2021, fantasy owners want nothing to do with him. Not many people seem to know the true story of Waller and his bout with drug and alcohol addiction, but anyone who understands this man’s character knows that he is far from finished and those who are bypassing him in drafts are going to regret it.

First of all, let’s talk about this guy’s talent. He’s got the size every coach and coordinator likes to see in a tight end, he’s got the speed to run his routes like a wide receiver, the hands to bring down the ball from any angle and the strength to break tackles and pick up yards after the catch. He put that on display for two years with the Raiders while basically serving as Derek Carr’s only legitimate receiving threat. In 2019, Tyrell Williams was a bust and neither Hunter Renfrow nor Zay Jones was going to carry the receiving corps and in 2020, they replaced Williams with Henry Ruggs and we all knew how that turned out. But there was Waller – super reliable, even in the face of the opposition’s top coverage.

As for last season, do we really need to go over it? The guy got hurt, but no one is willing to give him a pass? Why not? Christian McCaffrey has missed an insane amount of time over the past two seasons and we’ve got morons still taking him first overall. Saquon Barkley is working on rebuilt knees, but he’s still an early second-rounder. So why are we so unforgiving with Waller? It makes absolutely no sense.

Are we that worried about the arrival of Davante Adams? You would think people would relish in the fact that Waller finally has some legitimate help. Yes, everyone knows about the relationship between Carr and Adams and how it dates back to when the two played together at Fresno State, so don’t you think the opposing teams understand that as well? Adams is going to see the top corners and will also likely see some safety help float over to his side of the field. If the defense is so preoccupied with Adams and, to an extent, an emerging Renfrow, then who’s covering Waller? Some small slot corner? An undersized free safety? I’ll take Waller running a seam route downfield against those guys all day, every day.

We need to stop overreacting to things without evidence. So what if Waller was dealing with a hamstring issue this preseason? I don’t see any other stars being downgraded for it. So what if he is in the middle of contract negotiations? It sounds like that is coming to an end and Waller could end up the highest-paid player at his position. What it sounds like to me, is a bunch of panicky, unforgiving fantasy owners who got burned by Waller’s lack of production during an injury-plagued 2021 season and now the herd mentality is taking over. We continuously tell you to zig when everyone else is zagging in drafts right? Well if they’re going to zig away from drafting Waller, you need to zag right into drafting yourself a top-5 tight end and remember, that all those beautiful hotels you see in Vegas were all built on the public being wrong.

Avoid Darren Waller at His Current Fantasy Football ADP

By: Dan Malin

As someone who has largely been absent from training camp, Darren Waller certainly isn’t being drafted as a player that has missed time despite some red flags. Over the last five days, Waller is still being selected as a top 60 player according to Fantasy Football Calculator. If we knew for certain we were getting 2019 and 2020 Darren Waller, then that’s an easy steal. However, let’s take a look at why this is a bold decision and why fantasy football managers should consider pumping the brakes a little bit.

For starters, Waller hasn’t been at training camp with the Raiders and you can spin that however you want, whether it’s because of his hamstring issue or is in the middle of negotiating a contract, the fact remains that he’s missing valuable reps under a new coaching regime.

Josh McDaniel isn’t “comfortable” making a prediction about his Week 1 status? Yikes! Waller didn’t miss a single game in 2019 and 2020 where he totaled 197 catches and recorded 1,100+ receiving yards in each season. But keep in mind, Waller’s breakout came later than normal and he’s about to turn 30 years old in a couple weeks. We’re looking at a player that is on the cusp of a large contract that would pay him handsomely.

No one should ever be faulted for not risking injury without getting paid what they think they’re worth. But that also looks like the Raiders making a drastic financial commitment to an older offensive piece that could cost them down the line. The Raiders don’t seem like an organization that spends money wisely. After all they just waived 2021 first-round pick, Alex Leatherwood, and they’ll now eat $7.9 million against the cap. Waller managed to miss six games in 2021 with a knee band strain and he ultimately found the end zone just twice last season. Even if he does take the bag and gets paid there are injury concerns that should be baked into determining if the risk is worth the reward and a lingering hamstring issue isn’t an endearing quality.

Additionally, target share has to be considered when looking at his 2022 fantasy football outlook. Over the last three seasons, Waller averaged over eight targets per game and was utilized as a featured weapon in the offense. However, the emergence of Hunter Renfrow and the acquisition of Davante Adams could see that number dip. The Raiders gave sizable contracts to both Renfrow and Adams in the offseason as well. It goes without saying, those two are going to be heavily involved in the Raiders’ offensive plans in 2022 and Waller is no longer the lone red zone threat in the offense.

Let’s be honest with ourselves, the tight end position once again sucks for fantasy football. There’s clear talent at the top of this position’s rankings, but Waller comes with some uncertainty. He’s in that tier of tight ends with George Kittle, Dalton Schultz, and Dallas Goedert where the ceiling is high but we’re asking ourselves if the ADP is worth it. He’s currently going at the round 4-5 turn just ahead of Allen Robinson, Lamar Jackson, Brandin Cooks, Jalen Hurts, and Kyler Murray. If I miss out on Travis Kelce or Mark Andrews, I’d rather wait on the position later in the draft and target a player in this range I have more confidence in. Unfortunately for Waller, he no longer fits the bill as a slam dunk at tight end and the juice just isn’t worth the squeeze anymore.

Now that you've heard both sides to the argument, which one speaks to you the most? Tell us on the Fantasy Alarm Twitter page!

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