Draft Bargains part 4: TE Delanie Walker
I’ve very much enjoyed doing this draft bargain series. I’d like to finish it off with a player who seems to be forgotten in the mix of solid tight-ends. This player is Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans, who has been a strong hold for them every since he has been with the team.
Just a little background; Walker has been in the league for many years as he's quickly approaching his mid 30’s. He started off in San Fran and during the 2013 season, he had a breakout playoff run as the 49ers reached their first Super Bowl in over a decade. With such success, going into the 2014 free agency, Walker signed a big contract with the titans to be their new starting tight-end.
During the last 6 years that Walker has been with the Titans, he has been nothing short of dominant. In the span of those 6 years, he has averaged 106 targets while catching 70.2 of those targets. He has an impressive 11.67 yards-per-catch and that is an average of 831.2 yards each season.
Walker had also a nose for the end zone, where he averaged 5.2 touchdowns during those years. Production like that from your tight-end has to make your mouth water.
If you were to take those averages and project them for his 2018 season (he played one game and fractured his ankle) he would have ranked 5th among tight-ends in a half-point PPR formats.
He would have ranked higher than Eric Ebron, Jared Cook and other young tight-ends who steeped up this year. He is currently being taken 110th overall, which puts him in round 10 in 12-man leagues. The tight-ends, he would have finished above, are currently being drafted between rounds 5-to-9 because of their 2018 finishes.
Why is Walker being forgotten among the best group of tight-ends? Well there are a few reasons behind this; first off Walker did miss the 2018 season due to injury. He will be at the age of 35 to begin the season, which could seem old to fantasy owners out there.
On a positive note, given that he did not play in 2018, that does give him a year off from all the wear-and-tear to his body.
Tight-end is a special position like quarterback, where the players usually are able to produce into their mid-to-late 30’s. He wasn’t the kind of tight-end that he is now back when he was with the 49ers. He wasn’t a focus on those teams because they had Vernon Davis.
Perhaps the offense that Walker is in this year will make you doubt drafting him. He has been solid for Mariota (when healthy). In 42 career games together they connected on 195 receptions for 2,310 yards and 16 touchdowns.
If you break that up per game it's 4 rec for 55 yards and 0.3 touchdowns on average, which is decent to be at least a top half tight-end.
Even without Mariota playing, Walker has been able to produce with journeymen type quarterbacks over his time there. Mariota is in a make-or-break season coming into year five, so if he is going to be successful, he will need to gain back his confidence throwing to a reliable target, a.k.a. Walker.
As for the skill players, Corey Davis haven’t been able to breakout due to Mariota limits, A.J Brown is a rookie and will take time to develop and free agency signing Adam Humphries had his peak season last year. No one in the run game is a huge threat to the passing targets.
Walker isn’t the flashiest tight-end as of those like Travis Kelce or Zach Ertz but is as consistent as they come. If you don’t want to use a high draft pick on a tight-end then stack up on wide-receivers & running-backs and wait until round 10 and draft a guy like Walker. He will give stability at the tight-end position and will be remembered as your draft bargain at the end.