The Antonio Brown era is off to a terrible start, which means increased opportunities for Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller. Brown reportedly got in a fight with general manager Mike Mayock and is going to face some form of suspension. He’s unlikely to play in Week One and sources around the league speculate that Brown might not ever play a snap with the Oakland Raiders. With Brown presumably out of the way, are Tyrell Williams and Darren Waller capable of being fantasy relevant?
Fantasy Football: Tyrell Williams, Darren Waller Outlook Without Antonio Brown
Tyrell Williams essentially went undrafted, simply because nobody wants Oakland’s WR2 for fantasy football. However, without Brown, Williams could see the largest target share in the offense. This alone makes him worth rostering, but he might not be worth a start. Let’s take a look at how Williams fits Oakland’s offense and see what we can project.
Tyrell Williams makes his living in the deep part of the field, which makes him an interesting fit with quarterback Derek Carr. Carr is notorious for checkdowns and a reluctance to push the ball down the field. Last year, Carr averaged just 4.9 completed air yards and 6.7 intended air yards. Both numbers ranked near the bottom of the league and made Carr one of the NFL’s least aggressive passers.
That said, Carr had no reliable weapons in 2018. It’s hard to successfully throw deep when your best weapon is an age-33 Jordy Nelson. On a throw-for-throw basis, Carr was actually Pro Football Focus’ best deep-ball passer in the league. This wasn’t entirely due to a small sample, as Carr ranks third in deep-ball accuracy since 2016, according to Pro Football Focus. He rarely tests the deep part of the field, but he usually connects when he goes deep.
There’s an argument to be made that Tyrell Williams is the best deep threat Carr ever had. Amari Cooper is at his best in the short and intermediate areas of the field, while Michael Crabtree was nothing more than a chain-moving threat during his Oakland tenure. Williams is the first player who specializes in stretching the field, and head coach Jon Gruden should call up more deep shots in 2019. Williams has flex potential, so you should definitely pick him up if he’s not on your waiver wire. Worst comes to worst, you cut him after two weeks.
The tight end landscape is a nightmare, and Darren Waller has a chance to break out. Waller has been one of the stars of Oakland’s offseason program, and his ability to work the shallow part of the field aligns well with Carr’s preferred play style. He’s no Rob Gronkowski, but Waller is a great athlete who has a chance to develop into a top-10 tight end if everything breaks right.
Last year, the Oakland Raiders turned tight end Jared Cook into one of the better tight end options in fantasy football. With nobody else to target, Cook thrived as the star of Oakland’s passing attack. The longtime NFL veteran had a career season, recording 68 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns. Cook’s strong performance made him the TE5 in standard scoring.
Cook is now on the Saints, so Waller has a chance to take in all those targets. While Cook has the proven track record, Waller is the better athlete and has a higher ceiling. Darren Waller has the ability to match or even exceed these numbers in 2019. He’s completely free and is definitely worth roster. With so few reliable tight end options, he’s a top streaming candidate for Week One. Don’t play him over a guy like Eric Ebron, but you should start him over David Njoku.
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