The Sports Quotient’s annual NFL Draft Preview series has returned. Each week, we will analyze the top NFL prospects at each position. This week, the focus is on tight ends. Today’s prospect is Clive Walford of the University of Miami. College Career
While Clive Walford may not be a household name around the majority of the country, the Hurricanes’ tight end certainly made himself known amongst the local South Beachers. At 6’4, 251 lbs., Walford emerged as Miami’s go-to target at tight end as quickly as his redshirt freshman season.
Though, the Belle Glades native really burst into the public eye this past season, including being named a Mackey Award finalist. Walford was also named to the All-ACC Second Team as well as being selected to the Associated Press Third Team All-America. Yet another freakishly athletic product courtesy of “The U”, Walford finished his senior season with 44 catches for 676 yards and 7 TD’s, as his 7 trips to the endzone were tied for second amongst qualified tight ends, while his 15.4 YPC average was fifth-best at his position.Pros
It goes without saying, but Walford is a massive man at his size and weight. He’s not quite the hybrid athlete that teams covet, such as 2014 rookie right end Eric Ebron, but Walford uses more physicality and less finesse compared to the Lions’ 10th-overall pick from a year ago. The ex-Cane’s biggest asset is his ability to block, which will afford him the opportunity to be one the field very early into his NFL career. Walford really drives his opposition out of the play, due to his consistent use of proper technique.
As a receiver, he isn’t the fastest, but he makes up for it with physicality and a frequent yet effective jump-cut. Laterally, Walford is deceptively quick however, and he uses his side-to-side agility to get open in one-on-one situations. His large frame, long arms and leaping ability make him a potential redzone danger, though the Canes lack of attempts to utilize Walford in such a way is mind-boggling. The most impressive quality Walford possesses is his motor, as his Hurricanes were often left for dead early in games, but their tight end never showed signs of quit. Cons
Walford has OK hands, and it seems as if he receives the football in his body far too consistently. Catchable passes were either dropped or knocked away because of his refusal to catch the football away from his body. With the ball in his hands, he’s not the most explosive of runners, and he won’t dazzle anyone in the open field or make a ton of tacklers miss. Walford’s straight-line speed was a bit disappointing (4.79 official 4-time) as well. Grade
While Walford lacks a burst reminiscent of Antonio Gates or Julius Thomas, his pros certainly outweigh his cons. Big pass catchers are always in demand, and with Walford’s ability to dominate at the point of attack, he’ll be given every opportunity to contribute right away. With all of his combined traits, Walford seems like a Day 2 lock, with the end of the second round being a best case scenario. His best bet is somewhere in the third round. Best Fit
A lot of teams are in need of a tight end that can be effective both downfield and in the run game, as the Falcons, Browns and Dolphins come to mind. However, the team that makes the most, if not perfect sense, is the Denver Broncos. With the 28th-pick in the third round, the Broncos could really use an experienced tight end whose biggest asset is his ability to protect his fellow quarterback.
With Peyton Manning’s age and health concerns beginning to raise questions, Walford would help ease the burden of keeping Peyton on his feet. His size and strength along the seams would make Denver fans forget who Julius Thomas is, was and ever will be. Oh, and Dominique Jones (who?) is currently the only tight end on the Broncos roster. Simply, Walford is everything the Broncos need at tight end, and with Gary Kubiak’s affinity to involve the position in his offense, the big man from Miami could really be a surprise early-impact rookie.