In the first five rounds of the draft, the Baltimore Ravens addressed essentially every “need” on the roster. That fact allowed the team to use its sixth round selection on a luxury player, as the 204th overall pick was used to select Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller.
By selecting Breshad Perriman in Round 1, the Ravens had already acknowledged the necessity for more talent at wide receiver, but Waller is another raw player who could contribute to the passing game.
At 6’6, 238 pounds with 33 1/4″ arms, Waller is an intriguing physical specimen and as a developmental, late round option, presents little risk.
The Ravens have used late-round picks on “raw” wide receivers in the past, most notably Tommy Streeter in 2012. Waller may follow a similar career path to Streeter – true physical specimen and athlete but not developed enough to contribute in the NFL – or he may outplay his draft position and provide Baltimore with true value at wide receiver late in the draft.
Waller managed just 26 receptions in 2014 – a career high nonetheless – largely in part to underdeveloped route running ability, lack of diversity in his route tree and Georgia Tech’s run-heavy offense. But while he may not offer much at this stage in terms of route running, his hands are certainly not a question mark:
2 WRs at #NFLCombine had final college years in which they had 0 catchable-ball drops: –> Geremy Davis (44/44) –> Darren Waller (26/26)
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) February 19, 2015
Granted, with just 26 catchable targets, the sample size was small, but Waller’s consistent hands and box-out ability offer some qualities to build on beyond just his size.
With all needs met and the draft nearing its end, taking a shot on a true boom-or-bust late round prospect can be justified. Waller has enough positive traits to warrant excitement, although it should be expected he will not be an instant impact player in any way.
If Waller develops enough in training camp, he could earn a spot on the final 53-man roster. Or, he may be one of Baltimore’s redshirt rookies, a player who spends his rookie campaign either on injured reserve or the practice squad and develops.
Ravens fans should see signs of Streeter – or even Mellette – and be worried, but even if Waller ends up in that category, the team has rebounded from late-round misses at the position before. Best case scenario, though, wide receivers coach Bobby Engram helps aid Waller’s learning process in the NFL and the 6’6″ target eventually becomes a big-bodied option for quarterback Joe Flacco.