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2015 Position Review: Tight Ends

Posted Feb 18, 2016

As the NFL offseason gets underway, Raiders.com takes a look back at the current Raiders roster and breaks down each position.

More Position Reviews: Quarterbacks, Safeties, Offensive Line, Cornerbacks, Defensive Line, Wide Receivers

Overview: The tight end position went through a bit of an overhaul heading into the 2015 season, as Mychal Rivera was the only holdover from the season previous.

In the offseason, a pair of key additions were made – first veteran tight end Lee Smith signed with the Silver and Black in March, and then General Manager Reggie McKenzie selected University of Miami-product Clive Walford in the third round (No. 68 overall) of the 2015 NFL Draft.

The trio of tight ends were all contributors to the offense in their own way, whether it be in the run game, as vertical threats in the passing game, or in Walford’s case, a little bit of both.

Also in the mix was rookie Gabe Holmes, who after a very impressive training camp, spent the first half of the season on the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster November 13.

Although he never dressed for a game, he’s definitely going to be an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on as the Raiders head into the offseason.

By The Numbers: In total, the three tight ends combined for 72 receptions, 679 yards and five touchdowns.

Going Forward: Heading into next season, all three of the Raiders’ tight ends are under contract.

Both Rivera and Walford are still playing out their rookie deals, and Smith is entering just the second year of his contract that he signed last offseason.

This continuity and consistency will be key going forward, especially for a position group that has seen a lot of turnover in recent years.

What will be the most interesting thing to keep an eye on in 2016, is if Walford can truly emerge as the dual-threat tight end the Raiders envisioned when they selected him in last year’s draft.

Smith served primarily as a run blocker – a role he thrived in - and Rivera was effective in the passing game, but Walford is a unique player who, in a perfect world, would serve as both an asset in the run game as well as downfield threat in the aerial attack.

After a slow start to his rookie campaign, primarily due to an injury sustained in training camp, Walford’s game matured as the season wore on, and he flashed glimpses of brilliance over the last quarter of the season.

Standout Performer: Clive Walford.

While his final statistics might not jump off the page, Walford was definitely an impressive piece in the Raiders’ offensive arsenal in 2015.

He undoubtedly improved and made more of an impact as the season progressed, and he has all the physical attributes to be a quality NFL tight end.

This season could spell big things for the former Miami Hurricane.