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- Position: Flex End (FE)
- Class: Senior
- College: Georgia Tech
- Ht/Wt: 6'6", 238 pounds
In Darren Waller, we have the latest untapped receiver talent to come from Georgia Tech. He was built to attend the Combine, with a combination of a huge frame and striking speed and explosion that made scouts take notice. Of course, like Demaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill before him, his athleticism will only give him value if it's paired with solid football skills - and Georgia Tech's offense doesn't exactly do him or the scout favors when it comes to understanding how he fits into the NFL. He only had 26 receptions for 442 yards and six touchdowns this year, mainly because the Yellow Jackets are a team with a running option foundation.
When viewing Waller on tape, his deep speed is immediately apparent. He explodes off the line and is fully capable of meeting his 4.46-second 40-yard dash time on the field. When a pass comes his way, he tracks it, catches it with his hands, and effectively uses his arms and height to separate from a corner at the catch point. He has great awareness of the sideline and nimble feet for staying inbounds. He isn't just a big receiver; he's a jump ball target.
The problems with Waller mainly stem from his college offense. He isn't yet comfortable with a full route tree, and he often has to slow down to track passes early on his deep routes, erasing the separation he earned. Until he runs better routes and develops the muscle memory to trust his quarterback's passes downfield, he will really struggle to see meaningful snaps.
Also, in spite of playing for an offense that heavily features blocking receivers, Waller really isn't that strong of a blocker. He tends to mostly just get in the way of defenders rather than knock them down like Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans can. Whether that's an effort thing or a lack of core power is hard to judge, but I rarely saw him giving up on blocks altogether.
Waller made a strong impression on me when I watched his bowl game. He wasn't the best receiver on his team (that honor went to DeAndre Smelter, another senior who tore an ACL during the season), but he sure looked like a potential No. 1 receiver when he smoked Mississippi State's corners (before slowing down to find the ball and under-running the pass) or out-jumped them for a difficult touchdown catch. Still, I have to acknowledge that while Waller carries some major physical talent, he has a long way to go to be considered NFL-ready, and it will take effort to get there.
I'm grading Waller as a flex end due to his unique size. I think his lack of route tree mastery and his blocking receiver's build suit him for that 'tweener position more than they would a traditional receiving position, allowing him to see the field quicker. Even still, I have him graded as a fourth-rounder. There's too much uncertainty in his game, and while I think he's more physical than Hill (who busted after being drafted in the second round on the strength of a 40 time), I can still see how he might end up a perennial practice squad member.