May/11/15 10:51 PM Filed in: Clive Walford
This wasn’t considered a good NFL draft class for tight ends, but it could be argued the Raiders selected one with the potential to be an impact player in the third round.
That’s when Oakland took the University of Miami’s Clive Walford with the 68th overall choice in the three-day draft that concluded this past Saturday.
Walford came to Miami as what the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post described as a “gangly former basketball player who took up football full time as a high school senior.” But over his time at Miami, Walford improved his size and strength – he’s now 6-foot-4 and 251 pounds – and finished as Miami’s all-time leader among tight ends, with 121 catches for 1,753 yards and 14 touchdowns.
And remember: Miami has produced some great NFL tight ends, including Jimmy Graham, Kellen Winslow and Greg Olsen.
Now Walford will compete with incumbent Mychal Rivera, who’s proven to be a reliable receiver, for the starting job. He’ll also team with Rivera and free-agent veteran acquisition Lee Smith, a strong and proven blocker from the Buffalo Bills, to give the Raiders plenty of options in different sets and circumstances. In 2014, the Raiders were notably thin at the position.
Walford had a solid senior season at Miami, where he earned third-team All-America honors with 44 receptions for 676 yards and seven TDs, then turned in a very good week at the Senior Bowl, where he caught the notice of many scouts.
Said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, after Walford’s Senior Bowl experience: “He showed his athleticism. I think he’s a nice combination of size, good speed, strength, run-after-catch, has movement skills.” Mayock also noted Walford’s 34-inch arms, which give him “a nice throwing radius for a quarterback.”
Mel Kiper Jr., the longtime NFL draft analyst for ESPN, said Walford was the first or second best tight end available in the draft.
New Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio calls Walford a “complete tight end,” meaning he’s equally adept as a receiver and blocker. And general manager Reggie McKenzie said he believes Walford has big potential.
“He’s not only a receiver or a blocker-type guy,” McKenzie told the media. “He’s a guy that’s big and strong enough to pound it versus the D-linemen and he can flex out and run the routes and be that pass receiver. He’s pretty much the total package.”