Despite the Tennessee Titans being on track to finally make the playoffs, Delanie Walker remains among the most underappreciated players in the NFL.
Week after week, the tight end powers the Tennessee offense, leading the Titans in receptions (58), targets (82), yards (676) and plays of 20-plus yards (9). Among all TEs, Walker ranks third in the NFL in receptions, yards, and 20-plus-yard plays, yet gets nary the national fanfare of flashier players at his position.
“I’m very disrespected in the league,” Walker said after Sunday’s win over the Colts, via ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe. “Commentators, announcers don’t talk about me. I get double and triple coverage. I’m still making plays. Nobody talks about that. That drives me. Don’t talk about me. That makes me hungry. They talk about Gronk, Kelce, but not me. I do it every week. They don’t talk about Delanie Walker.”
We can’t argue with anything Walker said. He’s been a consistent performer during his five seasons in Tennessee. He’s on pace for a fourth-straight 800-plus-yard season. And he provides Marcus Mariota with a go-to security blanket in key spots. Walker blocks with the best, can beat man-to-man converge from linebackers, and finds soft spots in zones. Yet he shows up on an eighth of the highlight shows compared to the likes of Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce.
For reference, Pro Football Focus ranks Walker their No. 4 overall tight end this season. Walker and Gronkowski are the only TEs to rank in the top 10 in receiving, run blocking, and pass blocking by PFF’s grading.
Walker thinks he knows why he doesn’t get the fanfare, like Gronk and Kelce.
“Obviously, I don’t get talked about enough around the league. Probably because I play for the Titans, but the Titans are going to get talked about this year,” he said.
The Titans (8-4) are in a position to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and Walker has played a primary role in helping Tennessee eke out underwhelming wins. Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans was no different.
On a pivotal drive to close out the third quarter, Walker dashed by a linebacker, found a soft spot over the middle and ran away from would-be Texans tacklers to give the Titans a 17-10 lead they never relinquished. Walker accounted for 55 of the 80 yards on the TD drive.
“I’m always open. Can’t no one cover me,” Walker said.
Walker has been among the most underrated offensive players in the NFL since the Titans signed him away from the San Francisco 49ers in 2013 — on what turned out to be one of the best bargain contracts in the league. He might not get the pop of players in bigger markets or with flashier personalities, but Walker deserves to make his third-straight Pro Bowl in 2017.