Darren Waller: 2015 Ravens Rookie Predictions


Oct 11, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets wide receiver Darren Waller (88) runs with the ball after a catch against the Duke Blue Devils in the third quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Duke won 31-25. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Generally, once NFL teams start using their late round selections in the draft, every player available has a certain mixture of talent and question marks.  Some have flawed technique, inadequate size, a history of character issues, or perhaps a lack of experience.  Many are simply intriguing athletes that are basically the equivalent of taking a flier.

The Baltimore Ravens sixth round pick of 2015, wide receiver Darren Waller, is a mixed bag for sure. He’s got great size (6’6″ and 238 pounds), freakish speed for somebody that size (4.46 40), and a decent amount of experience as a blocker.  But Waller also lacks ideal experience as a pass catcher (51 receptions in four seasons) and has technical flaws.

It all adds up to one giant question mark.  Can Darren Waller learn the pro game and develop enough as a route runner and offensive weapon to contribute as a rookie?  Outside of his freakish athleticism, Waller is smart (34 Wonderlic score) and flashed dominant high-pointing ability in his limited opportunities at Georgia Tech.

Waller has massive upside as a starting caliber outside receiver if he proves to be a quick study.  You can’t teach size, speed, 37 inch verticals, and 10-5 broad jumps.  You can teach playbooks, how to use your hands, how to beat press coverage, and route trees.  But as we saw at the Senior Bowl, Waller currently struggles to separate from corners on anything other than straight, vertical routes.

The Ravens obviously love Waller’s upside enough to spend a late round pick on him, and it was a worthwhile choice for a team still unsettled at wide receiver despite using a first round pick on Breshad Perriman.  If both Perriman and Waller live up to their respective potential, they could form a dominant duo for years to come.

But even if Darren Waller catches on quickly and remains at wideout (which I suspect he will, despite mumblings of him seeing action at tight end), he has a steep hill to climb in 2015.  Steve Smith and Perriman figure to soak up targets, along with Justin Forsett and possibly Maxx Williams or Dennis Pitta.  There won’t be many scraps to go around.

Waller must also battle Marlon Brown, Michael Campanaro, and Kamar Aiken for snaps.  He’s obviously got more natural talent that that trio, but much less experience simply playing the position of wide receiver.

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In a best case scenario, I can imagine Waller catching 20-30 passes as a rookie and racking up 2-300 yards receiving with a pair of touchdowns.  That’s a little optimistic, of course, for a guy who may essentially redshirt this season or wind up on the practice squad.

But the Ravens are very unlikely to not at least give Waller a full year to develop.  It’s just not something they do very often, and they were very aware when they used a draft pick on the young man that he would need time to develop.  His ceiling is just too high not to get excited about his potential, regardless of the flaws.

Next: Who will win the Ravens' third wide receiver job?

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