The Fantasy Football Impact of Darren Waller to the New York Giants

Mar 17, 2023
The Fantasy Football Impact of Darren Waller to the New York Giants

On Tuesday, March 14, the Las Vegas Raiders traded tight end Darren Waller to the New York Giants for a third-round pick. After extending quarterback Daniel Jones, the move gives Jones and the Giants their potential alpha pass-catcher, something they lacked in Brian Daboll’s first season as the head coach in New York.

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Darren Waller’s Career

Drafted as a wide receiver in 2015 by the Baltimore Ravens, Waller’s career looked like it would never get going until he arrived in Oakland in 2018. A year after his new start with the Raiders, Waller solidified himself as one of the premier tight ends in football, ending 2019 as fantasy’s TE3.

Waller followed up his impressive first year as a full-time starter by setting career highs in every counting category in 2020.

Darren Waller Stats, 2019–2022
Year G GS Tgt Rec Yds TD Y/Tgt Half-PPR FP/Game FP/G Rank
2019 16 16 117 90 1145 3 9.8 11.1 6
2020 16 15 145 107 1196 9 8.2 14.1 2
2021 11 11 93 55 665 2 7.2 9.6 6
2022 9 6 43 28 388 3 9.0 8.9 6

Waller missed time in 2021, but he was still efficient from a fantasy standpoint, posting overall TE6 numbers on a per-game basis. The 2022 season, however, brought on a number of challenges for Waller including a new head coach, a new superstar teammate in Davante Adams, and multiple injuries that led to Waller playing over 50% of snaps just six times last year.

Even when Waller did play the majority of snaps in 2022, he averaged just 16% of the Raiders' targets, a far cry from the 25% target share that he averaged per game when active over the previous three seasons.

Entering his age-31 season, Waller is going to a situation where he can return to peak form.

How Darren Waller Fits into the Giants’ Offense

Waller isn’t going to the most pass-heavy offense—the Giants ranked 24th in passing rate over expectation in 2022—but he is going to one that is trending in the right direction. After ranking 31st in yards per drive and 30th in scores per drive in 2021, New York improved on those efficiency metrics in their first year under Daboll, finishing 15th in both categories.

Although Daboll wasn’t as pass-happy last year as he was in Buffalo, some of that can be explained by the lack of a true number-one pass-catcher. Saquon Barkley was the only Giant to exceed a 15% target share in 2022, while New York’s high target share games were spread sporadically throughout the year.

Giants Games with 25%+ Target Share, 2022
Player Games with 25% Target Share
Richie James 4
Saquon Barkley 2
Darius Slayton 2
Wan'Dale Robinson 2
Sterling Shepard 2
Isaiah Hodgins 1
Kadarius Toney 1

Waller arrives as a player with a track record of being able to handle a heavy workload—from 2019–2021, Waller saw a target share of at least 25% in roughly half of his games played and was targeted on at least 20% of throws in three-quarters of his active contests. Given how and where Daboll asked Jones to throw the ball last season, Waller could return to similar target share numbers after a down 2022 season.

Without a dominant perimeter player to throw to, 59.3% of Jones’ passes last season were in the middle of the field, the fifth-highest rate in the league among passers with at least 200 attempts (SportsInfoSolutions).

If Waller does command the target share that he typically did with the Raiders, he could cut into Wan’Dale Robinson’s work as they both compete for targets over the middle—68% of Robinson’s targets last season came while lined up in the slot. The move to acquire Waller may also keep New York from re-signing Richie James, a player who saw 87% of his 2022 targets come from the slot.

Projecting the Giants' Passing Attack in Fantasy Football

UPDATE: The Giants re-signed Darius Slayton and added slot man Parris Campbell. Slayton can move around the formation, meaning Hodgins should still be the primary perimeter receiver. Slayton's team-leading 12.7-yard average target depth in 2022 could cap Hodgins' upside. Wan'Dale Robinson has a huge hill to climb with so much competition for targets in the middle of the field. Besides Waller, the Giants pass-catchers are all dart throws in 2023 drafts.

Brain Daboll helped the Giants make a huge leap in efficiency in 2022 and the addition of Darren Waller could encourage Daboll to lean more toward the pass in 2023.

Even without a clear top target, Daniel Jones was already projecting as a fringe QB1 in 4for4’s Never Too Early Rankings. With a pass-catcher who has been a true number-one for multiple seasons, Jones has a chance to become an every-week fantasy starter and offers some value in early drafts as the QB14 off the board.

As for Waller, he immediately gets a boost at a perpetually weak position in fantasy. Removed from a seemingly unfavorable situation in Las Vegas and presumably at full health, Waller will have a chance to return to an elite target share, especially if the Giants don’t re-sign Richie James or Darius Slayton or bring in a big-name wide receiver. The TE8 in both ADP and 4for4 rankings, Waller could re-enter the conversation as a top-three tight end if things break right in New York.

That isn’t to say that Waller is necessarily a safe pick if his ADP rises at all—he has missed 15 games over the last two seasons and saw a sharp decline in volume alongside Davante Adams last season. Still, he was fantasy TE6 on a per-game scoring basis last season.

As the current roster stands, Waller could cap Wan’Dale Robinson’s upside since Robinson primarily operates in the middle of the field where Waller will do most of his damage. An elevated passing attack, however, could give Isaiah Hodgins some sneaky value as Jones’ primary perimeter target with Waller commanding safety attention. Robinson and Hodgins both carry an ADP outside the top 120, mitigating much of their risk and inviting Giants passing game stacks in best ball tournaments.

The Bottom Line

  • After resurrecting his career with the Raiders, Darren Waller struggled in 2022 for a multitude of reasons.
  • Being traded to the New York Giants presents Waller with an opportunity to return to an elite target share and possibly re-enter the top tier of fantasy tight ends. Waller does carry risk with his recent injury history and a move to a new team.
  • As the TE8 in both ADP and 4for4 rankings, Waller is fairly valued and still offers some upside.
  • The addition of Waller gives Daniel Jones the true number-one pass-catcher that he has lacked in New York. Jones already ranks as 4for4’s QB12 but could become an every-week fantasy starter with Waller. Jones is a value as the QB14 in Underdog ADP.
  • Waller’s arrival could cap Wan’Dale Robinson’s upside since both players command targets in the middle of the field. If Waller elevates the overall passing game, Isaiah Hodgins could be a sneaky value in fantasy drafts.
  • Robinson and Hodgins both have ADPs outside the top 120, making them prime picks when looking for cheap stacking options in best ball tournaments or deep fliers in redraft leagues.
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