Dynasty Grenades: Darren Waller

Shane Manila

When thinking about handling a grenade one, thought comes immediately to mind: get rid of it before it goes off.

The concept of this article, and this series, is simple, but I am a simple man and I have simple thoughts. Who are the players you need to move on from prior to their dynasty value imploding? These are players you should trade away before their value goes boom.

I should note, this is strictly a value proposition, not a production one. The players I will advocate trading away could have multiple years of production left in their fantasy careers, but that doesn’t mean their trade value will remain at their current levels, let alone ever increase.

So far I’ve given you a couple of wide receivers and a running back whose pins have been pulled and you need to toss away. Today we’ll look at a tight end who broke out – out of nowhere in 2019 – but who I believe has seen the apex of his value.

Darren Waller, TE LVR

After battling alcohol and drugs for the entirety of his NFL career and most of his life, Waller exploded on the scene during the 2019 season.

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Statistics from Pro Football Reference.

At a position where low-end production can lead to TE1 numbers, Waller provided both a high ceiling and floor last year. He scored at least 12.3 fantasy points in ten of 16 games, and in five of those games gave you at least 19.7 fantasy points. In his other six games, he never scored fewer than 7.0 fantasy points. So as I said, high floor and high ceiling.

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After spending his first three seasons in Baltimore and never besting a 21% snap share during any of those seasons, Waller played on 91% of the Raiders offensive snaps last year.

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Statistics from Pro Football Reference.

He put up 1,145 receiving yards on 90 receptions, both the second most for tight ends last year, and finished as the TE5. Waller proved to be consistent, durable and a great buy for any owners prescient enough to draft him last year at his TE19.6 price.

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The Hunter Renfrow conundrum

So why do I want to rain on the parade and why am I advocating that you get Waller off your rosters? Hunter. Renfrow. Starting in week eight through to week 13, when his season ended due to a broken rib and punctured lung, Renfrow supplanted Waller as Derek Carr’s go-to receiving option.

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Using the DLF Players Split app, we can see that Waller saw his fantasy scoring decrease by roughly 48% during those six weeks, while his targets decreased by 2.49 targets per game. Over a full season, that would be enough to drop Waller to the TE12, as opposed to the TE5 finish he produced or the overall TE1 he would have been without those six weeks of Renfrow induced reduced fantasy scoring.

Yes, six games is a small sample size, but when the NFL season itself is only 16 games we’re usually going to be dealing with small sample sizes when trying to parse what the data is telling us.

More Competition for Targets

I have concerns when a fifth-round slot receiver can so strongly impact Waller’s production. My concerns are heightened by the additions to the offense the Raiders made via the NFL draft. Henry Ruggs probably shouldn’t have been the first wide receiver off the board in April’s draft but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a burner who was an absolute YAC monster during his time at Alabama.

Ruggs crushed the combine and his college production was only depressed due to playing with fellow 2020 first-rounder Jerry Jeudy, and future NFLers Jaylen Waddle, and Devonta Smith.

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If adding Ruggs to the mix wasn’t enough to concern you, the Raiders further bolstered the receiving corp drafting Bryan Edwards in the third round. He dominated his entire time in college and even broke out at the tender age of 17.6. Edwards only fell to the third round due to a broken foot that kept him from competing at the NFL combine. He can play as equally well from the slot as the outside could crush Waller’s value if he does run routes from the slot.

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For good measure, the Raiders also added Lynn Bowden one pick prior to Edwards and immediately announced that he would play running back. If you’re unfamiliar with Bowden Jr, he lined up as a wide receiver, running back, and quarterback during his time as a Kentucky Wildcat and hauled in 114 receptions in three college seasons.

There’s also been chatter from GM Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden that the Raiders need to include Josh Jacobs more in the passing attack this year than last when he saw a measly 27 targets. If they don’t get Jacobs more work in the passing game, it could be because they signed Devontae Booker, who averaged 26.5 receptions a year over the past four seasons. Or it could be because they decide to further feature Jalen Richard, who was re-signed to a two-year, $7 million contract over the off-season.

The Raiders made it their mission to upgrade their passing attack and they’ve added receiving options to both the wide receiver and running back positions.

If Waller sees a decrease in his targets, his fantasy production will surely suffer. He ranked 11th last year in fantasy points per target at the tight end position, per Fantasydata.com. Last year’s TE5 finish was built off of being targeted the 117 times, which was 46 times more than the next closest Raider, and the third most in the league for tight ends. Targets are finite, and I have a hard time seeing how Waller approaches even 100 targets in 2020 and beyond.

Sell now before Waller’s value sees a precipitous drop.

shane manila