Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller is coming off a disappointing season. He battled injury and underperformed when on the field. Following the Raiders’ trade for Davante Adams, Waller is no longer the alpha in Las Vegas. So what is Waller’s fantasy football outlook for Waller in 2022, and should managers target him at his ADP in fantasy football drafts?
Darren Waller’s fantasy outlook for 2022
My how things change after just one season. Ever since his 2019 breakout, Waller has been the clear top guy on the Raiders. After closing the 2020 season on one of the biggest heaters in fantasy history (26.5 PPR fantasy points per game from Weeks 13-17), Waller’s ADP jumped into the late-second round heading into the 2021 season. With minimal target competition, Waller looked like a sure thing last season.
Instead, Waller flopped. He still finished as a top-six tight end, averaging 12.1 ppg, but you didn’t draft him to just be a regular TE1. You drafted him to be a difference-maker at the position. Waller was closer to C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin than Travis Kelce.
So what happened last season? Truthfully, nothing. Waller regressed slightly, but if you compare his entire 2021 season to his first 10 weeks of 2020, the difference is just one ppg. What really happened is many of us, myself included, fell into a small sample size trap.
Waller had 107 receptions for 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020. An absurd 40% of his receptions, 54% of his yards, and 44% of his touchdowns came in his final five games. That was never going to be sustainable. If it was, Waller would be the undisputed first overall pick. While Waller did miss the final month of the fantasy season due to injuries, he wasn’t producing like a true elite tight end before then anyway. So, is Waller set to bounce back in 2022?
How the Raiders’ depth chart impacts Darren Waller’s fantasy projection for the season
I’m not necessarily banking on Waller rebounding heavily, but his draft position reflects that. One of Waller’s problems over his past three seasons has been touchdowns. He scored just three in 2019 and two last season. His nine touchdowns in 2020 certainly helped contribute to his 17.4 ppg season.
Waller is no longer the top dog in Las Vegas
Over the past three seasons, Waller has been the unchallenged top pass-catcher on the Raiders. He’s had target shares of 24%, 28.5%, and 24%. After the Raiders traded for Davante Adams, that’s not going to happen. Now, Waller is the clear beta behind Adams.
It will likely be Adams serving as Derek Carr’s first read the majority of the time. Adams will be the guy Carr looks for when he’s in trouble. Adams will be getting the majority of red zone targets. And let’s not forget Hunter Renfrow still exists.
More target competition is never a good thing for any pass catcher from a fantasy perspective. At best, it can be a nonfactor, but in most cases, adding a competent pass catcher reduces the target share of the players already there. The Raiders didn’t just add a competent pass catcher, they added one of the best wide receivers in football.
Adams’ lowest target share since 2018 is 29%. Now, Adams may not reach those lofty heights because he, too, has increased target competition playing with Waller and Renfrow compared to what he had in Green Bay. However, Adams is expected to command at least a 25% target share.
Last season, Renfrow felt like he was being heavily targeted, right? He still had just under a 22% target share. The Raiders’ only meaningful loss at wide receiver was Zay Jones. A 12% target share went out, and double that came in. Renfrow will take a hit as well, but that’s the point. Having Adams, Waller, and Renfrow is great for the Raiders but bad for fantasy.
Waller is still a top-five fantasy tight end, but he lacks the same ceiling he has in years past. Fortunately, with his ADP being two rounds below where it was last year, Waller is still someone I’m interested in targeting in 2022 fantasy drafts.
Waller’s ADP for 2022
I mentioned above how Waller is not someone I’m targeting unless he’s falling farther than he should. Well, I kind of think he is. Waller’s ADP is sitting around the late-fourth round. He sometimes even falls into the fifth. At that price, I’d be willing to gamble on Waller.
This is a player I was targeting at the second/third-round turn last season. Of course, his ceiling is lower with Adams in town. But his price is also lower … by two full rounds. In terms of PFN’s consensus 2022 PPR fantasy rankings, Waller is sitting as the TE4 but with an overall ranking of 58. I am the highest on him, with my colleagues lower on him in standard PPR leagues.
Waller still provides an edge at the position, and at that price, you can hedge your bets on him. If the Raiders are more pass-heavy and explosive than we’ve come to expect from a Derek Carr offense, Waller still has double-digit touchdown upside. As the TE5, Waller might just end up being a value.