Oct 11, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets wide receiver Darren Waller (88) runs with the ball against the Duke Blue Devils in the third quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Duke won 31-25. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
It’s no secret that the Bengals will select at least one wide receiver in the upcoming draft. With nearly their entire wide receiving core hitting the market in 2016, Cincinnati must start to ensure the position’s future. The Bengals also want to upgrade the group.
More than this, the team wants to upgrade the group, as they’ve lacked a consistent compliment to A.J. Green since he began donning stripes. Mohamed Sanu looked good in his rookie season, but then suffered an ankle injury, which sidelined him for the season. Marvin Jones had a breakout campaign in 2013, but missed the entire 2014 season with multiple injuries. His replacement, Sanu, started the season on a hot streak, but slowly faded when Green returned; Sanu also proved to have a problem with drops during his decline.
When this year’s draft gets under way, the Bengals could invest in their new receiving weapon early on, but this won’t likely deter the team from seeking another talented receiver in the later rounds. When determining what they’ll do with their later round selections, Cincinnati should give strong consideration to a Georgia Tech wide receiver.
Darren Waller is a physical specimen of a receiver at 6’6″, 238 pounds. And at this impressive size, Waller’s athleticism remains impressive having run a 4.46s 40-yard dash and jumped 37″ at the combine. It’s a rarity to find a receiver with such a build and yet this type of athleticism.
Making Waller even more intriguing is his familiarity and largely effective blocking skills. Having played at Georgia Tech means Waller is well acquainted with blocking down field due to the Yellow Jackets run-first offense; it contributed to Waller’s lack of statistical production and likely to his later round status. Waller ability to block well should be appealing to Hue Jackson and the Bengals. When employing a power running system, it’s only beneficial to have as many effective blockers as possible. With his great size, Waller would present an imposing presence down the field both as a receiver and blocker.
Also making Waller appealing is his willingness to play the game wherever a team would prefer to employ him. According to Tony Pauline, Waller has been willing to work out both at wide receiver and tight end.
"“The same intrigue surrounds Devin Funchess of Michigan and Georgia Tech’s Darren Waller; will they be asked to participate in alternate position drills, specifically at the tight end position?I’ve heard nothing on Funchess, who I presently grade as my number one tight end. On the other hand Waller is ready to complete tight end drills if asked and I’m told he’s also willing to workout at both positions during his pro-day.”"
This willingness isn’t always appealing to prospects, as can be seen in Pauline’s comments: Waller isn’t one of those prospects. This willingness shows Waller is malleable and amendable to doing what’s best for the team that drafts him. Specifically for the Bengals, they could use both a wide receiver and tight end, and frankly they could realistically draft two players at each position. If the Bengals were to draft Waller on Day Three, they could potentially give themselves a versatile player–and we all know how much the Bengals love versatility–who could help at both positions.
But the “devil is in the details” with respect to Waller, which is the most substantial reason for Waller’s Day Three draft projection. Waller isn’t a polished receiver. As noted by several pundits, his route running is raw and in need of much work, yet according to Dane Brugler, Waller seems coachable. While Waller works to improve his wide receiver skill set, as ESPN’s Steve Muench writes, Waller has the size to box out defenders and make plays. With his skills, Waller has a place in the NFL both this coming year and in the future.
This future should be spent in stripes. Bengals fans would be understandably excited to have a player who offers Darren Waller’s blend of size, strength, and athleticism. As with many rookies, Waller would receiver the time he’d need to improve, as Cincinnati prefers to not employ their rookies quickly. He would also have a great mentor to learn from in A.J. Green. The decision for the Bengals may come down to Waller’s ability to play on special teams while sitting behind a few receivers in his first season. If the Bengals feel he could contribute effectively, then they may very well invest in Waller.
The Bengals have drafted at least one wide receiver in every draft since 2007. It means fans will see a new wide receiver in stripes in 2015, and shouldn’t be surprised if they see two. Darren Waller could be that second receiver selected who could also function as Tyler Eifert‘s backup as the Bengals “move” tight end.
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