Raiders Rookie Tight End Walford Could Challenge Rivera

Walford has the potential to be a better blocker and deep-threat receiver than Rivera

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When the Raiders open summer training camp in July, there will be a number of interesting position battles on offense.

Will Austin Howard beat out Menelik Watson at right tackle? Can rookie Jon Feliciano earn the job over Khalif Barnes at right guard?  And, will running back Trent Richardson challenge Latavius Murray?

In addition, there will be a duel at tight end, where Mychal Rivera has proven over the past two seasons that he can be a very effective receiver. He has 96 catches over two seasons and has become a favorite target of Derek Carr on third downs.

But Rivera is likely to be pushed hard by rookie Clive Walford, a third-round pick from Miami.

Walford has been called a complete tight end by new head coach Jack Del Rio. He’s a 6-foot-4, 251-pounder who excels both as a receiver and blocker. He finished his career at the University of Miami as the school’s all-time receptions leader at the position – above such former Hurricanes as Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey, Bubba Franks and Kellen Winslow.

Bill Williamson, who covers the Raiders for ESPN.com, believes Walford can be a “more dynamic” player than Rivera and thinks he could make an impact as a rookie.

“I could see Walford getting in the 40-50 catch range this season,” he wrote. “If he develops quickly, he could thrive in the fast-pace offensive scheme of new coordinator Bill Musgrave. Walford can stretch the field and quarterback Derek Carr has the arm to find him.”

In addition, NFL.com analyst Bryan Fischer includes Walford among his top 100 rookies for 2015, putting him at No. 46.

“He’ll be a mainstay in two tight-end sets and it wouldn’t be that surprising if he becomes the starter by the end of the season,” wrote Fischer.

Walford says he's not thinking about starting as a rookie. He'll just put in the work and see what happens.

"I'm going out there to learn from the veterans and take some of their advice," he told the Raiders website. "But you know I'm going to compete at the same time."

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