Game-By-Game Projections: Darren Waller (2020 Fantasy Football)
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Darren Waller enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, but the major question on the minds of fantasy owners is whether or not he will be able to build on, or even repeat his success. Foster Moreau was already splitting red-zone targets, but the Raiders also went out and added tight end Jason Witten to the position group. The Raiders also added three new rookie playmakers in Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, and Lynn Bowden. Waller should still enjoy a strong season for the position, but the potential reduction in snaps and air yards could lead to him failing to live up to expectations. In order to ascertain exactly how valuable Waller may be in 2020, it is helpful to break down his season on a game by game projection basis. Let’s dig in.
Week 1: Las Vegas Raiders @ Carolina Panthers
The Las Vegas Raiders will face off against the Carolina Panthers in Week 1, in what should amount to an easy win. Darren Waller should get going early but may cede targets to explosive rookies Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, and Lynn Bowden in the second half of this contest. Waller should see over 70 percent of the snaps but is expected to lose some targets and red zone snaps to both Jason Witten and Foster Moreau.
Predicted stat line: eight targets, five receptions, 68 receiving yards (8.3 fantasy points)
Week 2: Las Vegas Raiders vs. New Orleans Saints
With the New Orleans Saints projected to jump out to an early lead, the Las Vegas Raiders passing attack should be in for a high volume afternoon. The Saints will likely make it a priority to take Waller out of the game and force the Raiders to try to play catch up by leaning on their wide receivers. Last year this would have been a 90+ receiving yard game for Waller, but with five new weapons now in the fold in Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, Lynn Bowden, Jason Witten, and Nelson Agholor, Waller is likely to see fewer targets and more short work.
Predicted stat line: seven targets, four receptions, 58 receiving yards, one receiving touchdown (13.8 fantasy points)
Week 3: Las Vegas Raiders @ New England Patriots
There should be a relatively even opening line on this game between the Raiders and the Patriots which suggests that there may be a somewhat neutral game script. With Stephen Gilmore capable of lining up against whoever emerges as the Raiders number one receiver, New England is likely to game plan specifically to slow down Darren Waller. This may be a week to fade Waller in favor of a higher upside streaming option.
Predicted stat line: six targets, three receptions, 42 receiving yards (5.7 fantasy points)
Week 4: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Buffalo Bills
Derek Carr should lean heavily on Darren Waller in a tough Week 4 matchup against the Buffalo Bills. There is a strong likelihood that Waller winds up leading the team in both receptions and receiving yards as the Bills project to be more vulnerable in the middle of the field. His stat line would look even better if it were not for Jason Witten and Foster Moreau being projected to combine for six receptions and a touchdown.
Predicted stat line: seven targets, five receptions, 87 receiving yards (11.2 fantasy points)
Week 5: Las Vegas Raiders @ Kansas City Chiefs
Las Vegas is expected to be trailing early in this contest, something that should lead to increased target volume for Darren Waller. Waller projects to see his highest target count of the season in Week 6 against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders will likely try to establish the run in the early going, before leaning on Waller and Hunter Renfrow to move the chains when they fall behind.
Predicted stat line: 11 targets, seven receptions, 91 receiving yards (12.6 fantasy points)
Week 7: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be a team to target due to the obvious shoot out potential they bring to the table. However, the Buccaneers have two elite linebackers who can make life difficult for Darren Waller up the seams. He should have a solid average depth of target in Week 7, but will have a tough time bringing in more than a few balls against an ascending Buccaneers defense in the middle of the field. The Raiders will likely be installing a ground heavy game plan in order to keep Tom Brady and the Buccaneers offense off the field. This should help lead to Waller being a fantasy disappointment.
Predicted stat line: seven targets, three receptions, 32 receiving yards (4.7 fantasy points)
Week 8: Las Vegas Raiders @ Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns appear to be vulnerable in the middle of the field, something that should allow Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, and Jason Witten to combine for over 100 receiving yards on the afternoon. The Browns will likely look to clamp down on Waller’s long gains in favor of letting him eat underneath. However, once they are in the red zone in 12 personnel I expect Waller to get loose for at least one score.
Predicted stat line: six targets, four receptions, 50 receiving yards, one touchdown (13 fantasy points)
Week 9: Las Vegas Raiders @ Los Angeles Chargers
This matchup between the Las Vegas Raiders And the Los Angeles Chargers will likely start out as a run-heavy contest with both teams attempting to assert their will in the ground game. Waller may see fewer snaps than usual in this contest as the Raiders will look to slow down the Chargers pass rush with superior inline blockers Foster Moreau and Jason Witten. Still, Waller will remain one of the first reads on many of his routes, so he should get enough volume to make a fantasy dent if he can manage to get loose after the catch. Unfortunately, these projections do not have him doing so.
Predicted stat line: one rushing attempt, four rushing yards, five targets, four receptions, 39 receiving yards (5.3 fantasy points)
Week 10: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Denver Broncos
Week 10 will be another week that Darren Waller’s snaps drop from the 80 percent range to the 60 percent range. Foster Moreau and Jason Witten are expected to see increased snaps as the Raiders make slowing down the Broncos deadly pass rush a priority. Waller will still see targets when on the field, but it should be the running backs and wide receivers who lead the way in Week 10.
Predicted stat line: five targets, three receptions, 45 receiving yards (6 fantasy points)
Week 11: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Darren Waller projects to have a big game at home against the Kansas City Chiefs. However, if the game is played at a neutral site, he may not have the same success. Las Vegas will likely start with a run-heavy game plan to keep Patrick Mahomes off the field but should be forced to air it out after the Chiefs explode in the second quarter.
Predicted stat line: nine targets, five receptions, 78 receiving yards, one touchdown (16.3 fantasy points)
Week 12: Las Vegas Raiders @ Atlanta Falcons
Darren Waller should be in line for a big game against the Atlanta Falcons linebackers and secondary. Due to the Falcons improvements on the defensive line, the Raiders will no doubt make it a priority to get the ball out of Derek Carr’s hands quickly. This should lead to a number of short receptions for Waller who will pick up half of his output after the catch.
Predicted stat line: six targets, five receptions, 66 receiving yards (9.1 fantasy points)
Week 13: Las Vegas Raiders @ New York Jets
The Las Vegas Raiders should jump out to an early lead in this contest and never look back. This means that they may lean heavily on the running game, thereby limiting their pass attempts. Waller will of course be involved, but he may disappoint if he cannot break loose after the catch.
Predicted stat line: five targets, two receptions, 54 receiving yards (6.4 fantasy points)
Week 14: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Indianapolis Colts
The Raiders should be in for a tough battle against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14. The Colts have the talent at linebacker and safety to hold Darren Waller in check, and should once again keep Waller down to one of his lowest yards per reception totals of the season. He posted his second-lowest yards per reception total against them last season, hauling in seven receptions for just 53 receiving yards. With Foster Moreau and Jason Witten sure to siphon snaps and targets, Waller may disappoint in Week 14.
Predicted stat line: seven targets, four receptions, 32 receiving yards (5.2 fantasy points)
Week 15: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Darren Waller projects to see his snaps reduced back down to the 60 percent range for the Raiders’ second contest against their division rivals in the Los Angeles Chargers. Waller managed just 77 combined yards over his two contests against the Chargers last season and may have even more trouble producing against them with Kenneth Murray, Nick Vigil, and Chris Harris in the fold. Week 15 is set up to be another disappointing week for Darren Waller.
Predicted stat line: five targets, three receptions, 28 receiving yards (4.3 fantasy points)
Week 16: Las Vegas Raiders vs. Miami Dolphins
The Las Vegas Raiders are going to have a tough time getting the ball to their outside receivers against the All-Pro level cornerback duo of Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. This should lead to increased target volume for Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau, and Jason Witten. This contest is likely to be tighter than one would expect, and as a result Derek Carr should have enough pass attempts to push Waller to his best fantasy game of the season.
Predicted stat line: seven targets, five receptions, 93 receiving yards, one touchdown (17.8 fantasy points)
Week 17: Las Vegas Raiders @ Denver Broncos
Darren Waller will be in for another tough test against the Denver Broncos. He will see his snaps reduced as the Raiders once again look to get Foster Moreau and Jason Witten on the field to help in pass protection. He still projects to see a healthy amount of targets, especially if the Raiders fall behind as expected. There should be some offensive fireworks in this contest, but it is likely to be the wide receivers who pace the team in both targets and receiving yards.
Predicted stat line: six targets, three receptions, 65 receiving yards (8 fantasy points)
Season Total Projection
107 targets, 65 receptions, 928 receiving yards, four touchdowns (149.3 fantasy points)
It has been readily apparent for some time now that Darren Waller was bound to see a drop in target share. He welcomed three new receivers, two running backs, and a former Pro Bowl tight end to the Raiders roster, something that suggests he may be hard-pressed to reach the heights of his 2019 breakout season when he was the Raiders only consistently reliable pass catcher.
While Darren Waller is expected to lose about 25 receptions worth of production, these projections suggest that he will still be a TE1 level contributor. His 149.3 projected fantasy points would have made him the TE7 last season. He is still someone to target as a starter, but expectations should be tempered. Waller is currently ranked fifth in our expert consensus rankings and is seventh in ADP.