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Countdown to 2021 fantasy football drafts: Darren Waller No. 32

Darren Waller comes in at 32 in our fantasy football rankings countdown to the 2021 NFL season.

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller (83) reacts against the Miami Dolphins during the second half at Allegiant Stadium. Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Waller had a breakout 2019 season and upped that in 2020. Derek Carr’s lack of risk taking or a true No. 1 receiver leads to plenty of targets for the huge, sure-handed tight end. Waller will look to extend his 90-plus receptions, 1,100 yard seasons to three straight in 2021.

To commemorate the 2021 NFL season, we’ll be counting down the 75 best fantasy football players in the league. Picking a Top 75 is subjective, especially when you are projecting a whole season of accumulated fantasy points, but that’s part of the fun. We’ll assume what I see as an average league, which is 12 teams, .5 PPR scoring and a roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, & 1RB/WR/TE. Kickers and defenses need not apply.

Change is the nature of the NFL beast, so trades and injuries will likely impact this list as we go along, but hey, this isn’t rocket science. We’re here to have a little fun and build up some much needed anticipation for a league cast in the shadow by baseball, soccer, hockey, etc. Sarcasm aside, the NFL is addictive and we’re here to give your daily fix as we close in on the season.

The official and often updated fantasy football drafting tiers can be found here.

No. 32, Darren Waller, Las Vegas Raiders, TE

Waller has been the second-most consistent tight end in fantasy over the last two seasons. Travis Kelce is in his own realm, but Waller’s consistency has made him extremely valuable. This season will likely have him going in drafts at a spot where his margin for error is much thinner than the last two years, but his outlook remains strong.

Competition for touches

The Raiders have some promising young receivers in Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. They also picked up veteran John Brown this offseason. But Waller should remain Carr’s top target. If any of these other guys can demand more targets, I’d expect Waller’s touchdown numbers to get a boost along with the offense as a whole.

Team offensive expectations

The Raiders ranked 14th in Football Outsider’s offensive DVOA last season and they should be able to keep their above-average status going into 2021. If Ruggs or Edwards can help elevate Carr and the passing game, they could take a step forward.

What’s his upside?

Waller’s upside is right around his 2020 numbers of 107 receptions, 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns. We could see double-digit touchdowns, but I’d expect his total receptions to dip if the offense were to improve overall.

What’s his downside?

Waller’s downside would likely be tied to the Raiders offense moving toward Ruggs as the first read and lead target on the team. I don’t expect that to happen with Carr at the helm, but it is a possibility.

Projection

100 receptions, 140 targets, 1,150 yards, 9 touchdowns