A Hurricane of Production
The University of Miami has a history of producing top-flight NFL tight ends. As such, this dynasty profile will canvass once such prominent Hurricane tight end, Clive Walford. During his tenure at the University of Miami (2011 – 2014), Clive Walford was coached by former Hurricanes HC, Al Golden. In 2015, Golden was relieved of his duties at Miami, but notably, was hired by the Detroit Lions on February 1, 2016, as the team’s tight ends coach. This fact, helps his pedigree because we now know that during his time in college he was coached up by a guy who has the mettle and knowledge to be an NFL tight ends coach. Furthering the point, Walford, a tight end, spent four years under the tutelage of a now-professional tight ends coach. That’s a feather in his cap if you ask me, which makes him much more than simply a fly by night prospect.
In his four years, at Miami, Walford racked up 121 receptions for 1,753 yards for 14 touchdowns. He averaged 14.5 yards per catch and put up seven of his fourteen TDs in his senior season. That upward trajectory is a positive sign; thusly, he entered the NFL on a hot streak. These are certainly solid college numbers for a guy with the type of athletic ability Walford possesses.
Walford has been a widely scouted tight end for sometime. In fact, talent evaluators had been touting Clive Walford early on in his collegiate career. In fact, Walford was widely considered the second-best tight end in the 2015 draft class, behind only Maxx Williams.
Ultimately, the Raiders selected the University of Miami product with the fourth pick in the third round (number 68 overall). Typically, where a player is drafted is an indication of how the team values said player. By comparison, (and this is only for purposes of comparing draft spots and not an indicator of raw talent) Rob Gronkowski was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft (42nd overall), Tyler Eifert was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft (21 overall), while Jordan Reed was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft (85th overall). Now, this is not too say Walford will be as good or better than any of the aforementioned players, only that he was valued by the Raiders with such a high pick investment.
Additionally, for the Raiders to spend a top-70 draft pick on a young tight end tells you that they have faith that Walford can develop into a top-tier tight end. By extension, it allays any fear, which we as dynasty fantasy football players, may have had about the viability of this particular rookie TE. Based solely on draft position and how high the Raiders took Walford, you can invest in the Oakland TE knowing that he will be a staple on that team for the foreseeable future.
Note: Since the goal, in dynasty fantasy football, is to build around young players and to structure your team so as to have long term production and staying power, Walford is a guy you should be targeting and adding to your roster with the expectation that he will play a prominent role in your lineup.
Welcome to Raider Nation
Coming into the 2015 season, the expectation was that Walford was a big-bodied tight end with good speed, while possessing above-average hands. In reviewing his NFL tape, we see that Walford was able to separate from defenders and get open, providing QB Derek Carr with a big target on short, intermediate and deep routes.
Overall, Walford managed to catch 51 passes for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns in his rookie campaign. This is an exceptional floor for a guy who was highly regarded coming out of college and who boasts ideal measurable of 6’4”, 258 lbs. While Walford’s season started slowly, which is to be expected for any rookie offensive player, he picked up considerable steam as the season progressed and began racking up more snaps and offensive plays. In fact, over the final five games of the 2015 NFL season, Walford averaged five targets per game, which tells you that the coaching staff sought to include their rookie tight end more and more as the year went on. This demonstrates a level of trust, by the coaches and quarterback, in the player and familiarity, by the player with the offense.
According to the eye-test, it was evident that Walford closed out the 2015 NFL season as the Raiders’ top tight-end threat. It’s clear that Mychal Rivera, the incumbent Raiders’ tight end, had been outperformed and will inevitably take a back seat to Walford moving forward. Rivera simply was not and is not the answer. In Walford, the Raiders finally have a tight end who can handle the target load, block when needed, make contested catches, while being a true security blanket for Derek Carr.
Note: It takes most tight ends 2 to 4 years to hit their stride and reach top-level production. In that vein, it is a special event when a rookie TE authors a season of high production during their rookie year. This is a good benchmark and barometer for future success. If Walford continues to progress and develops and by extension, is able to build upon his rookie production, it is not a stretch to say that he could become a fantasy TE1 in the next couple years.