Can Raiders TE Darren Waller overtake George Kittle as the No. 2 tight end?

After another fantastic season with the Las Vegas Raiders, it feels like Darren Waller is finally getting the respect that he deserves. He was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2020 and is now routinely mentioned among the best tight ends in the NFL.

With Travis Kelce having a firm grip of the No. 1 spot at tight end, is this the year that Darren Waller surpasses George Kittle as the second-best tight end in the NFL? To Waller’s credit, he has more receptions, yards and touchdowns than Kittle over the last two years as he has been able to stay healthier.

In a recent article by Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, he ranked the top-32 tight ends in the NFL heading into the 2021 season. Not surprisingly, Waller came in at No. 3. However, Monson admitted that the gap between Waller and Kittle is shrinking. Here are his thoughts on the Las Vegas tight end:

“Waller has crept closer to the Kittle-Kelce tier at the top of the position with his play over the last two seasons for the Raiders. He’s earned PFF receiving grades of at least 85.0 in each of the past two years, falling behind only Kelce in receiving grade during the 2020 season (90.9).

While some tight ends need to be schemed production, Waller is fully capable of lining up out wide and beating cornerbacks as a receiver. His 2.3 yards per route run when lined up outside in 2020 were more than any other tight end with at least 75 such routes, including Kelce.”

The fact is that if Waller has a season similar to what he did last year, he probably will overtake Kittle as the No. 2 tight end in the NFL. Waller will never be the blocker that Kittle is in San Fransisco and that will limit his ceiling some, but he has improved in that area over the last few years.

Look for Waller, who has on a 1,600-yard pace over the last eight games of the 2020 season, to have the best year of his career in 2021 as the focal point of the Raiders’ offense.

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