Because of a knee injury this offseason in an ATV accident, followed by surgery and rehab, tight end Clive Walford wasn’t active in the Raiders’ organized team activities or June minicamp.
But the second-year player is reported to be making good progress and is expected to be ready for full participation when training camp begins later this month.
If that’s the case, many predict big things from the former University of Miami standout.
Though Walford got a slow start last season, he came on strong in the second half. He caught 28 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns and showed that he had big-play capability. Five of those receptions went for 20 or more yards.
This week, Marc Sessler of NFL.com included Walford in his series “Making the Leap” about players who could make much bigger impacts in 2016.
Sessler noted that Walford had climbed past Mychal Rivera in the lineup by mid-November.
“(He) gave young quarterback Derek Carr an exciting new option through the air,” wrote Sessler. “On tape the 6-foot-4, 250-pounder displays a consistent ability to break off coverage and provide Carr an open window to shoot for.” He pointed specifically to a 33-yard reception against the Broncos as an example of Walford’s big-play ability.
Sessler also compares Walford’s first-year production to that of top tight ends such as Jimmy Graham (356 receiving yards as a rookie) and Tony Gonzalez (368).
Jared Durbin of CBS Sports also pointed to Walford’s potential, based on his limited number of snaps as a rookie.
“Though Walford played only 41.6 percent of Oakland’s offensive snaps (per Football Outsiders), he produced at a level equivalent to a starter-quality tight end on those snaps,” Durbin wrote. “He ranked 31st among tight ends in Football Outsiders’ DYAR (defensive-adjusted yards above replacement) and DVOA (defensive-adjusted value over average, which adjusts performance for down, distance and opponent), for example.
“His athleticsm, combined with his height (6-foot-4) and frame (254 pounds) should turn him into a versatile target for Carr, provided he can recover fully from the injury he sustained in the ATV crash.”