Name: Clive Walford
Position: Tight End
Pro team: Oakland Raiders
College: University of Miami
Draft Status: Round three, Pick #68 overall
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Against Virginia (2014)
Weight: 251 pounds
Arm Length: 34”
40-Yard Dash: 4.79 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.57 seconds
Clive Walford is made for today’s game. He has the requisite size and length teams look for in a tight end, with the strength to physically dominate defenders and the speed to threaten the seam. Add in experience playing in-line, the slot, and as an H-back and you see the versatility that is so important to create mismatches and opportunities for a quarterback. Walford has tremendous leaping ability for a tight end which, combined with his arm length and hand size, is a red zone threat and can be a real jump ball option. He is also a reliable blocker in the run game so he is more than a situational player.
Walford is a good athlete, but don’t confuse him with Travis Kelce or Rob Gronkowski. He will never be a transcendent performer on his own, making his ceiling limited to what the offense gives him. He had drop issues in the past, largely due to lack of focus, so that is always a possibility to resurface. Since he has only played football since his senior year of high school, Walford still needs refinement on his routes and consistent effort on every down. He tends to round off a route, especially if he is not the primary option on the play.
The Raiders are a team in flux, especially on offense. With a new coaching staff on board, every skill position is up for grabs outside of the quarterback spot. With only holdover Mychal Rivera around to provide competition, Walford could see significant playing time early. Even if the Raiders decide to go with Rivera, Walford is capable of playing the slot or see time in two tight end sets as the wide receiver depth chart is, to put it nicely, deficient.
Derek Carr will be operating with a whole new set of receiving options, so Walford has a chance to impress him early. There were 103 targets to the tight end position last year from Carr, which would make Walford the second highest targeted player on the team if he manages to wrest away the job from Rivera.
The most obvious threat is the futility of the Raiders. They were the worst offense in the NFL and were second worst in scoring (15.8 points per game). The passing game was 26th in yards and had the shallowest yards per attempt (5.5, next worst was 6.2) and the fewest first downs in the NFL. It is hard to be successful or see any significant offensive volume if you are throwing short passes and failing to convert for first downs.
The other threat is the new coaching staff. Bill Musgrave takes over as offensive coordinator and he has directed exactly zero top ten passing offenses (he has four top ten rush offenses) in his six years as OC on other teams. Head coach Jack Del Rio is no more encouraging. He has zero top ten pass offenses in his nine years in Jacksonville and places more of a premium on limiting turnovers and running the football. Doing Del Rio’s past in Jacksonville, no tight end has surpassed 90 targets (or 60 catches) and besides Marcedes Lewis’ fluke 10 touchdown season, no tight end has scored more than three touchdowns in a year.
The length of the threats section should be an indicator that I worry for Walford’s short-term future. This offense will not be a high volume passing game and will be looking for the tight end to block first and foremost. That said, Walford is capable of beating out Rivera as he is a superior blocker (Rivera was rated last at Pro Football Focus for run blocking) and is the type of large, physical tight end Jack Del Rio prefers. The ceiling is low with 30-40 catches being the high point in his rookie season, but little growth in this offense.
Tight ends take a little longer to reach their ceiling (Gronkowski excluded) so you have to be patient. Once you are, Walford is capable of evolving into a low-end TE1 in the right offense. In a few years, I expect the Raiders to have switched coaches at least once so maybe they will be a little more adventurous and choose an offensive mind.
There are a pair of players that remind me of Walford. A more established comparable would be Dwayne Allen. He has a similar physical game and a nose for the red zone with just enough speed to make a defense pay for sleeping on him. Crockett Gilmore fits a similar physical profile and may be a good example of how Walford can be used as a supplement to a receiving tight end early in his career.
Rookie Draft Advice
Walford is being drafted, on average, at the middle of the fourth round in rookie drafts. He is the second tight end taken, which is where I would rank him as well. Clive has a clear opportunity for playing time but the upside is limited with the offensive personnel and coaching staff. Draft Walford if you are willing to wait on a tight end prospect who can develop into a low end weekly starter.