Delanie Walker is Worth a Late-Round Grab in 2019
After four straight seasons with at least 800 receiving yards and a minimum of 63 receptions, Delanie Walker went down with a broken ankle in Week 1 of the 2018 season. At 34 years old, turning 35 in August, he’s been cleared for OTAs and is looking for a bounce-back year for Tennessee.
Whether it’s his age, ankle or his oft-injured QB Marcus Mariota, drafters are cautious with Walker so far this season, selecting him as TE15 anywhere from the late-10th to 12th rounds. I see him with top-10 potential in 2019 and here are some of my thoughts as to why. But first, a chart showing Walker’s production with Mariota for their three shared NFL seasons.
|Year||Targets||Receptions||Receiving Yards||TDs||Total PPR Points||PPR Pts/G|
Walker’s Play is Voluminous
With Mariota under center, Walker has finished as TE1, TE6 and TE3 in targets, respectively, from 2015-2017, averaging 7.33 balls a game in that time frame. Only Zach Ertz cracked the top six all three of those seasons, with Travis Kelce joining him in both 2016, 2017 and then again in 2019.
The 34-year old led the Titans in targets in both 2015 and 2017, and while on the sidelines last year, Corey Davis was the team’s target leader with 7.0 per contest, followed by RB Dion Lewis with just 4.2. Walker’s average target rate per snap of 16.1% with Mariota tossing the ball is nearly six percentage points above his closest teammates, who averaged a 10.6% target rate per snap from 2015-2017.
Walker and Mariota have proven chemistry, and if both can remain on the field, their frequent connection should produce some solid fantasy numbers together in 2019.
So Much Room for Improvement
The Titans offense was a massive disappointment last season, in part due to Mariota’s elbow injury that he never fully recovered from. They finished as the league’s 19th team offense and 23rd in passing.
Tennessee ended 2018 with the second-lowest passing play percentage in the NFL (51.49%), with only Seattle running fewer plays through the air. When it came to red zone attempts, their 2.9 per game was 23rd, and so was their red zone scoring percentage, which was only 53.19% on the season. Ranked in the lower quarter of nearly every passing category last year, having Walker back on the field along with the addition of Adam Humphries, should hopefully bring this offense back to fantasy relevance once again. Despite their tendency to run first, there is plenty of work ahead for the Titans’ TE.
What to do with Walker in 2019
I’m not here to tout Walker as a tier-one TE this season, as his age and injuries are certainly not something to ignore as we head into the training camp portion of the year. However, he’s flying pretty low under the radar so far in both best-ball and redraft leagues. If your plan is to pay up for Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz or George Kittle, Walker could be a great assurance TE2 in best-balls, coming off boards in double-digit rounds. Alternatively, if you’ve decided to pass on that upper echelon in favor of more points in those earlier rounds, Walker could provide solid value at his current TE15 ADP. His bye is not until Week 11, so grabbing the Tennessee TE later in redraft leagues and streaming the position down the stretch could also prove advantageous in 2019.
John Paulson’s early rankings have Walker as TE10 in PPR leagues, with a projected season total of 150 fantasy points.