In his first three seasons in the NFL, Darren Waller caught just 18 passes.
Then in 2019 with the Raiders, Waller burst onto the scene with 90 receptions and 1145 yards. On Monday night, he further proved that he is coming for the top tier of tight ends with 12 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Saints.
Who could have predicted such an ascension for Waller? It turns out that some former members of the Baltimore Ravens had a pretty good idea.
Waller was drafted by the Ravens in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and played for the team in 2015 and 2016. As he shined in front of a national audience on Monday, his former teammates Mike Wallace and Benjamin Watson noted that his performance in practices back in the day had them believing success would eventually come.
I remember being in Baltimore with Darren Waller dude used to go for 250 yards a day at practice 😂😂😂😂😂😂glad to see it all come out in the games for him!!— Mike Wallace (@Wallace17_daKid) September 22, 2020
It’s amazing bro proud of him— Mike Wallace (@Wallace17_daKid) September 22, 2020
Former Baltimore safety Tony Jefferson -- who most likely defended Waller in practice, agreed with Wallace and Watson.
The reason Waller's brilliance was only viewed behind the scenes was due to some off-the-field problems that plagued the beginning of his career. The Georgia Tech product was suspended for four games in 2016 for violating the league's substance policy. He then was suspended for the entire 2017 season for a second offense relating to substance abuse. That marked the end of his time in Baltimore as the Raiders signed him in 2018 off the practice squad.
Still, his work in practice showed others that if he ever was able to get things under control, the talent would be there. Now with the Raiders, Waller looks to have done just that, bringing a sense of pride to his former teammates.
Waller's current success and origin with the Ravens also is another example of the franchise's ability to hit on tight ends through the draft. While adding Waller to Lamar Jackson's arsenal would be great for Baltimore -- and a nightmare for the rest of the league -- the Ravens can take solace in knowing that they still have Mark Andrews.