The 2019 regular season is officially in the books, and while we're already looking ahead to the 2020 offseason, let's take some time to look back at the Raiders' roster, position by position, to see what the new year could hold for the Silver and Black.
Next up, the tight ends.
Top to bottom, there probably wasn't a group on the 2019 Raiders' roster that performed better week after week than the tight ends, and what makes their performance even more impressive is that by and large they entered the season as a bit of an unknown entity.
Before Darren Waller established himself as one of the premier tight ends in the NFL, he entered his first full season as a Raider with just four games in Silver and Black under his belt, and while he unquestionably had all the potential in the world, there's a big difference between production and potential.
Along with Waller, the Raiders drafted Foster Moreau out of LSU in the fourth round, and then rounded out the position group with veteran Derek Carrier, who ultimately outlasted Luke Willson during the team's stay in Napa for training camp.
With two, young guys and a veteran who only hauled in 13 receptions the season before, Frank Smith's group entered 2019 with something to prove, but give credit to all parties involved, because they certainly did that – and more.
When all was said and done, Waller led the Raiders in both receptions (90) and receiving yards (1,145), permanently etching himself in the annals of franchise history in the process.
Oh, and as Head Coach Jon Gruden, Derek Carr, and nearly everyone else in the Raiders' locker room said – No. 83 showed that he was indeed one of the best tight ends in the NFL, which is wild considering the man spent much of 2019 on a practice squad.
While Waller was certainly the crown jewel of the group, he also undoubtedly got a lot of help from his friends too, particularly young Mr. Moreau, who delivered a rookie campaign that got better and better, until it was unfortunately cut short due to injury.
Before the former LSU Tiger got injured Week 14, Moreau emerged as a consistent, red zone target for Derek Carr – hauling in five touchdowns – and also proved to be a valuable asset in the running game as well, providing excellent work at the line of scrimmage.
Not to be forgotten, Carrier also put together a quality 2019, appearing in all 16 games, scoring one touchdown, while also contributing on offense as well as special teams.
Eric Tomlinson also joined the squad for the stretch run, appearing in three games in Silver and Black before season's end.
Number to Know:
That's how many times in 2019, Darren Waller hit the century mark in receiving yards in a single game.
Not too shabby for a dude who had 75 receiving yards all of 2018.
Derek Carrier – Under Contract
Foster Moreau – Under Contract
Eric Tomlinson – Unrestricted Free Agent
Darren Waller – Under Contract
The health of the Las Vegas Raiders' tight ends group headed into 2020? In a word, strong.
The trio of Carrier, Moreau, and Waller – the main contributors from Frank Smith's group a year ago – are all under contract, and there's no reason to think that they won't be able to replicate their production from 2019.
That said, could I see the front office either using a late-round draft pick on a tight end or picking up another veteran in free agency to bolster the depth of the group? Surely, but at this point in the year, you can never have enough talent at any place on the roster.
Regardless of what moves are – or are not – made over the coming months, the nucleus of the tight end group is strong, and I expect that once again they'll be key contributors to the Raiders' offense in 2020.
Position Group MVP:
Come on, you guys know where this one is going.
Week after week, defensive coordinators knew – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that the Raiders wanted to get Darren Waller the ball, and knowing full well that was the plan, the athletic tight end still managed to eat.
As I said earlier, Waller hit the 100-yard mark five times in 2019, and really became the de facto No. 1 option out wide for much of the year.
What started as just the tiniest bit of hyperbole became a concrete fact by the end of the season; not only was Darren Waller the best tight end on the Raiders last year, he was one of the best tight ends in the NFL as well.
Check out part two of the best images taken during the Raiders' 2019 Season.