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What does Darren Waller’s retirement mean for Giants’ 2024 fantasy value?

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Tight end Darren Waller announced his retirement from the NFL on Sunday, June 9, on his YouTube channel. This didn’t come as a shock as rumors were swirling all offseason that he was considering the move. He released a music video in May that came with mixed reviews and made some suspect he was definitely retiring, while others used the music video as a reason that he shouldn’t retire if that were his next plan.

Regardless, Waller appears to be retiring for now. It wouldn’t be the first time we saw a retirement reversal in the NFL, but let’s assume that he is done. The New York Giants will lose one of their best players, and quarterback Daniel Jones will lose what could have been a prominent weapon in the passing game. Let’s take a look at how this decision by the former star tight end affects the rest of the Giants’ fantasy football value for 2024.

Darren Waller

Waller played college football at Georgia Tech as a wide receiver. He didn’t have an eventful collegiate career, playing in 33 games and finishing with 971 yards and nine touchdowns. The Baltimore Ravens selected Waller in the sixth round of the 2015 NFL Draft. He struggled early in his career, having a season-ending injury as a rookie and then missing four games in 2016 and all of 2017 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy twice.

Waller was re-instated in 2018 after going through rehab and signed to the Ravens’ practice squad. He was signed for that season by the Las Vegas Raiders and had only 75 yards on six receptions over four games. The Raiders were featured on 2019’s edition of Hard Knocks, which gave Waller a platform to discuss his past substance abuse problems.

The tight end had his breakout season in 2019, playing in all 16 games and finishing with 1,145 yards with three touchdowns. He expanded on that with 1,196 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020. Waller finished as the overall TE3 in 2019 in half-PPR scoring and followed it up being the TE2 in 2020.

After back-to-back seasons as a top tight end, expectations were high for 2021. Waller fell short of them with only 665 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games. He was given a huge three-year, $51 million contract, making him the highest-paid tight end in the league at the time. Waller fell short of expectations again in 2022 with 388 yards and three touchdowns in nine games.

Las Vegas traded him to the Giants ahead of the 2023 season for a compensatory third-round pick. Waller suffered a hamstring injury that shortened what has become his final season, and he finished with 552 yards and a touchdown in 12 games. While he had gone through a bad stretch, there was hope that he could see a consistent target share since the most notable pass-catcher New York brought in was rookie Malik Nabers.

Daniel Jones

The Giants signed Jones to a four-year, $160 million extension ahead of the 2023 season. The team has an out if they want to take after the 2024 season, but if they don’t, the quarterback will be a free agent in 2027. Jones struggled last season, playing in only six games due to neck and knee injuries. He finished with 909 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions.

Jones has fantasy football upside with his rushing ability. He ran for 708 yards with seven touchdowns in 2022. The addition of Nabers should give him more upside, but the loss of Waller hurts. Jones also won’t be able to rely on star running back Saquon Barkley, who now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. The lack of recent passing success and shallow supporting cast depth has tanked Jones’ ADP. If he is drafted at all, it is as the QB29 late in the draft. He may have a solid week here or there, so he is a decent candidate for best ball, but otherwise, avoid Jones to begin the year.

Devin Singletary

New York’s new running back came out during minicamp and said that he has many of the same skills that Barkley did/does. Singletary spent last season with the Houston Texans and was able to lead the backfield, overtaking Dameon Pierce, who had a breakout 2022 campaign. The veteran moved on to New York for 2024 and beyond, signing a 3-year, $16.5 million deal.

Singletary is heading into his sixth career season. He played on a one-year prove-it deal with Houston, and the Giants must have liked what they saw enough to give him a deal and not bring in any other running backs to compete for the starting job. Singletary has had at least 800 yards and four rushing touchdowns in three straight years. He is being taken as the overall RB33 in the ninth round. Waller retiring shouldn’t improve his draft stock and he should hold steady with where he is being drafted.

Eric Gray

Gray finds himself with an opportunity for work behind Singletary. Backing up Singletary feels like a much better chance for carries than when he was backing up Barkley. Despite the opportunity with Barkley’s injuries, Gray admittedly didn’t produce much as a rookie. He played in 13 games but tallied only 17 carries for 48 yards. He doesn’t deserve to be a high or even middle-round draft pick, but he should be the next option behind Singletary. Rookie Tyrone Tracy Jr. could overtake him, but I think Gray holds onto the RB2 spot and is worth a late-round flier just in case he sees an expanded role.

Malik Nabers

Nabers may be a rookie, but he already has high expectations. Many thought New York could target a quarterback in the first round to take over for Jones, but the Giants used the sixth overall pick to bring in Nabers to lead the receiving corps. Even as a rookie, the LSU product should be able to lead the team in targets based on his talent, playstyle, and, frankly, the lack of depth around him. He is being drafted as the overall WR24, and is going at the end of the fourth round.

Nabers spent three years playing for the Tigers. He had a decent freshman year in 2021 with 417 yards and four touchdowns but really burst onto the scene in 2022, picking up 1,017 yards and three scores. Nabers capped off his collegiate career with 1,569 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2023, taking that momentum with him to New York.

Other Wide Receivers?

Since Odell Beckham Jr. was traded to the Cleveland Browns ahead of the 2019 season, it has felt like New York’s receiving corps has had an island of misfit toys at wideout. No Giants’ wide receiver has had more than 770 yards since the trade. Darius Slayton hit that mark last year and has led New York in receiving yards in four of the past five seasons.

A mediocre season last year wasn’t 100% Slayton’s fault. He caught passes from Jones, Tyrod Taylor and Tommy DeVito. Slayton has shown that he likely won’t be a team’s WR1, but alongside Nabers, he has solid upside. He is being drafted as the overall WR82 in half-PPR scoring formats.

Jalin Hyatt had a lackluster rookie season, finishing with 373 yards and no touchdowns. The presence of Nabers likely caps Hyatt’s upside, but he should still see a more consistent target share this season. Guys like Wan’Dale Robinson, Allen Robinson II, Isaiah McKenzie and Isaiah Hodgins round out the roster but don’t need to be drafted. They should play a bigger real-life football role than they do for fantasy football, even with Waller’s retirement.

Daniel Bellinger vs. Theo Johnson

Waller’s absence leaves a gaping hole at the tight end position for New York. Bellinger has played two seasons in the NFL. He’s combined for 29 games so far with 523 yards and two touchdowns. There was hope that Bellinger would help reset New York at tight end after Evan Engram signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He suffered a freak eye injury, which threw off his season, and then he backed up Waller in 2023.

Johnson was selected in the fourth round of the 2024 NFL Draft out of Penn State. He played four years for the Nittany Lions, totaling 938 yards and 12 touchdowns in 44 career games. Johnson’s best season was his most recent when he picked up 341 yards and seven scores as a senior.

Neither Bellinger nor Johnson are currently expected to factor into 2024 fantasy football leagues. The former is being drafted as the overall TE39 and only in 14-team leagues or larger. The rookie is the overall TE41, also in bigger leagues. If one of them sees a high target share in the preseason or has an impressive training camp highlight, their ADP will likely rise. For now, expect to monitor their progress on the waiver wire.

Final Thoughts

Expectations for New York were already low after losing Barkley, so the news of Waller just makes a rebuilding season more likely. Bellinger and Johnson should be reliable options to pick up some slack, but neither project to have the same upside that Waller did when he was at his best for fantasy football. Waller’s retirement takes away one of Jones’ best targets in an important year for the quarterback. Overall, it hurts Jones, but it should help Singletary, Nabers and Slayton get a slight boost, with Bellinger and Johnson also having upside depending on which one can take over as the starter.

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