Titans' Delanie Walker approaching elite tight end status
It’s rather fitting that it was against the Patriots and Rob Gronkowski—unquestionably the league’s best tight end and one of the most dominant players at any position—that Delanie Walker decided to go into beast mode by creating highlight-reel plays on his way to a two-touchdown day.
Walker has been quietly having an excellent season, but he may have spoiled the “quiet” part with the earth-shattering sounds of his truck-stick, stiff-arm, and celebrations that followed.
Walker now trails only Gronkowski and Greg Olsen in receiving yards among tight ends, with 935. He has six scores, but has broken 16 tackles after the catch, tied for the most among tight ends with Charles Clay.
Unlike Olsen, Walker has also blocked very well, and has only been flagged twice this season.
When you consider that his quarterback is a rookie in Marcus Mariota—a player who isn’t exactly playing poorly, but is nowhere near the MVP front-runner either—his production really stands out for a Titans’ team that otherwise doesn’t have a whole lot going for it.
Walker’s 76 receptions actually lead all tight ends for the 2015 season; he’s caught 74.5 percent of the passes sent his way, dropping only two of them, and hasn’t fumbled once all year. He has proven to be one of the safest targets a young quarterback could ask for, which has been especially valuable, since the Tennessee wide receiver group has remained in a state of flux, showing very little in 2015 outside of Kendall Wright.
Gronkowski remains the absolute king of the tight end position, and with Jimmy Graham getting injured and struggling to adjust to a new environment in Seattle, this season has seen one less threat to his crown. Cincinnati’s Tyler Eifert has shown stretches of play to approach that elite level at the position, and there are other players in the league that have impressive one-dimensional skills. But it’s Delanie Walker this season that has become the only other player with a consistent campaign of well-rounded play.
Walker has graded well as a blocker and receiver, and has done so more consistently than Eifert. Gronkowski is still our best-rated tight end overall, with a 96.1 season grade (scale 0f 1–100), but Walker is next in line at 94.3, the only other blue-chip elite grade at the position group.