Former Georgia Tech wide receiver Darren Waller said he spoke with more than 20 teams at the East-West Shrine Bowl, an indication of the interest that he is attracting after his strong performance at the end of the Yellow Jackets’ season and in practices at the showcase game. He's now getting ready for the NFL draft combine.
“I thought I did better than I thought I would going into that kind of competition,” Waller said. “I thought I did some things well. There were some things I’ve got to work on, but I was happy overall.”
Waller’s size and strength enabled him to stand out in practices.
“When (cornerbacks) did press coverage and things like that, just bringing that physical mindset that we had at Tech (helped),” Waller said. “When somebody gets in your face, you’ve just got to beat them.”
He said he felt that he adjusted well to the different facets of the pro-style offense, such as timing routes and lining up closer to the ball. He was particularly proud of a catch made on the second day of practice in a one-on-one drill. Against a cornerback lined up on Waller’s outside hip, Waller ran a corner route and made the catch over him for a touchdown.
“I wanted to prove I could do some things in the intermediate game, that I wasn’t just coming in like a one-trick pony where I could just run deep plays,” he said.
Among teams who spoke with Waller: Houston, Carolina, San Diego, Kansas City and the Falcons. The interviews lasted between five and 20 minutes. He was asked more than once if he would be willing to play tight end.
“I was telling them I was open to anything,” Waller said.
In the actual Shrine Game, Waller had two targets on the opening drive with no catches but was sidelined for the rest of the game after tweaking his ankle. Waller said he is fine.
Waller has begun preparing for the NFL draft combine, held in Indianapolis in February. He is training in Phoenix. The days consist of speed work, position drills and weight sessions. His goal is to run the 40-yard dash in the 4.4-second range. Waller said that his 10- and 20-yard splits have correlated with a 4.4 time. He recorded a 37-inch vertical leap on his first day of training.
“If I can improve, then that’d be great,” he said.
In the past three drafts, 22 wide receiver prospects ran under 4.5 and jumped 37 inches or higher. Of the 22, 18 were drafted (though many ran significantly faster than 4.49 or had verticals higher than 37 inches).
Waller received his combine invitation following the Orange Bowl. His performance in his final two games didn't hurt, with a combined 10 catches and 187 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State and Mississippi State.
He and former Tech wide receiver DeAndre Smelter both have combine invitations. Smelter, recovering from an ACL tear suffered in the Georgia game, obviously can’t participate in drills, but can undergo physicals and take part in team interviews.
“I’ve been talking to him all the time,” Waller said. “He’s coming along with his rehab and things like that. I told him once I get back to Tech (after the combine), we can start working out.”