The Las Vegas Raiders traded superstar tight end Darren Waller to the New York Giants in exchange for a third-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, according to multiple reports. Waller’s departure leaves the Raiders with a sizable hole at the tight end position. Fellow tight end Foster Moreau is an unrestricted free agent and may not return to Vegas.
The Raiders also signed wide receiver Jakobi Meyers to a three-year contract on Tuesday worth $33 million. With so many veteran mouths to feed in Las Vegas’ new-look offense, general manager Dave Ziegler may look to draft Waller’s replacement. Luckily for Ziegler, the class of tight ends is a deep one.
We’ve identified three tight ends Las Vegas could draft to be Waller’s substitute.
TUCKER KRAFT, SOUTH DAKOTA STATE
South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft is one of the most explosive and dynamic tight end prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft. Kraft was electric as a sophomore in 2021 by accounting for 780 receiving yards and six touchdowns via 65 receptions. An injury derailed Kraft’s junior campaign, but he’s still widely regarded as a top-64 selection.
Kraft possesses the size and passing-game traits to develop into Waller’s replacement. Speed, short-area quickness, and ball skills are plus-level aspects of Kraft’s makeup as a prospect. Kraft is a better overall blocker than Waller is, making him a tad more versatile, but whoever drafts Kraft should feature him as a pass-catcher first and foremost.
Kraft was excellent at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.90 in the 40 and leaped a 10-foot-2 broad. The Raiders could target Kraft with the 38th overall selection in the second round.
SAM LAPORTA, IOWA
Sam LaPorta entered the pre-draft process with a surprising amount of passing-game production under his belt given Iowa’s routine struggles to create explosive passing plays. Over the previous two campaigns, LaPorta accounted for 91 receptions and 1,327 receiving yards. He was the clear-cut No. 1 option in Iowa’s air attack.
LaPorta also proved he possesses high-level athleticism with a standout showing at the combine. LaPorta’s three-cone time of 6.91 is especially outstanding for a 245-pound pass-catcher. LaPorta scored a Relative Athletic Score of 9.25 out of 10, which ranks 77 out of 1,020 tight ends from 1987 to 2023. There’s untapped potential for LaPorta at the next level. The Raiders now have three selections between 70 and 106th overall as a result of the Waller trade. That’s prime LaPorta territory.
DARNELL WASHINGTON, GEORGIA
Waller wasn’t a dual-threat option due to a lack of prowess as an in-line blocker, but Georgia’s Darnell Washington is. Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels once worked alongside the greatest dual-threat tight end of all time in Rob Gronkowski. It’s easy to envision McDaniels begging to get his hands on a moldable talent like Washington.
There’s nothing Washington couldn’t do in McDaniels’ offense. He’s a mismatch weapon in the passing game that’s a difficult coverage assignment for opposing linebackers and safeties. Washington could also play a traditional “Y” role and help clear rushing lanes for returning running back Josh Jacobs.
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