NFL Fantasy Football: Is Delanie Walker a must-play?

Each week, we’ll review a few players being debated as a must-play. Does Marcus Mariota’s development bode well for his tight end?

Veteran tight end Delanie Walker’s career was reborn when he joined the Tennessee Titans in 2013 after seven nondescript seasons in San Francisco. He has averaged 70 catches and over 800 yards in four seasons, including a massive 1000-yard campaign in 2015. 

Last season, Tennessee added a couple of wide receivers in Rishard Matthews and Tajae Sharpe. Walker’s yardage and targets dropped back to his 2014 levels, but he still averaged over 12 yards per catch and scored a career-high seven touchdowns. 

The Titans enter this season with even more weapons. Eric Decker adds a red zone threat, while two rookie draftees, Taywan Taylor and Corey Davis, are sure to warrant targets. Is there a role for an old tight end? 

To be sure, the passing game will play a bigger role in the Titan offense this season. There will be more opportunities for the receivers to divvy up. 

Who are they playing?

The Oakland Raiders defense offered little resistance to tight ends last season, ranking ninth-worst in NFL fantasy points-allowed. You might expect Tennessee to know this and put their savvy veteran to good use. 

But the Raiders’ defense is suspect all over the place. They finished in the bottom third in yardage allowed in 2016. They added a bunch of new draft picks, but it doesn’t look like a lot of them will be starting just yet. They have one really good corner, but the rest of the defensive backfield can be had. Why use your tight end when your new toys can break one for a score every play? 

So, he’s not a must play?

By all accounts, Delanie Walker looks as fast and strong as he ever has. He presents a formidable target for Marcus Mariota. The great unknown here is whether Mike Mularkey’s desire to better balance the Titans’ running and passing games means a whole new passing attack or just more passing plays from the 2016 arsenal. 

We know there are some plays in the 2017 plans that Tennessee rarely used last season. In the preseason, we saw a few three wide receiver sets. (When is the last time the Titans had three good wide receivers?) So, it appears the plays will change somewhat to get the new personnel involved. I am not sure that there can be enough additional passing plays to keep Walker’s target total from slipping. 

He won’t disappear. I believe Mariota will keep Walker and last year’s leading receiver Matthews in the mix. But there is likely to be an impact in their opportunities. This is not going to be a pass-heavy offense with the weapons they have in the rushing attack. 

So you’re saying…

Delanie Walker is a decent play for a tight end, but he is not a must-play until we learn what the mix and style of Tennessee’s passing attack will be. If you have another tight end option, consider using him. Don’t waive Walker, though, until we see what happens. 

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