Our position battle series rolls on, as today we take a look at the Oakland Raiders tight ends.
While Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree, and Co., deservedly get a lot of the attention, let's not forget that in 2016, the team's tight ends accounted for nearly 600 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
While Mychal Rivera left in free agency, General Manager Reggie McKenzie signed Jared Cook, and after recovering from injury, Lee Smith will be back in the fold in 2017 as well.
With training camp rapidly approaching, let's take a closer look at the Silver and Black's tight ends, and who you should be watching when the team reports to training camp.
2016 Recap (WITH OREGON DUCKS: 33 Receptions, 426 Yards, Five Touchdowns)
Give Brown credit, after a gruesome injury sustained in 2014; it was unclear whether or not the dynamic tight end would ever walk – never mind play football – again.
While the injury likely affected his draft stock, Brown nevertheless now finds himself on an NFL roster with a chance to compete at training camp.
The physical tight end was a viable receiving threat during his time as a Duck, and he'll have to take advantage of his opportunities at training camp and during the preseason if he wants to stick around in Silver and Black.
2016 Recap (WITH GREEN BAY PACKERS: 30 Receptions, 377 Yards, One Touchdown)
After spending the 2016 season with the Green Bay Packers, the veteran tight end signed with the Raiders in mid-March.
While Cook appeared in just 10 games last season, he's typically been the model of consistency, playing in all 16 games five times throughout his career.
Although he's been a Raider for just a few months, Cook has already received high marks from his teammates, and adding him to a talented group of tight ends will only up the level of competition when the team gets to Napa.
There are big expectations attached to Cook in 2017, and I for one, am excited to see how he progresses throughout the preseason.
2016 Recap (Raiders Practice Squad)
Helfet was signed to the Raiders practice squad prior to the team's Week 6 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs, where he remained for the rest of the season.
Now entering his fifth NFL season, Helfet has 23 games under his belt, and hopefully a year in the Raiders offensive system will prove beneficial for him once Training Camp 2017 gets underway.
You'd have to figure that carving out a role on special teams would go a long way in helping him land on the final roster.
2016 Recap (Reserve/Injured List)
Unfortunately for Holmes, an injury sustained in the team's preseason opener cost him his entire 2016 season.
The expectation is that the former Purdue Boilermaker will be healthy, and ready to contribute when the team arrives in Napa, and he's certainly a guy to keep an eye on.
Physically, Holmes looks like a prototypical tight end, and he was enjoying a quality 2016 before that fateful injury in Arizona. I've long been a fan of Holmes, and if he's healthy, I think he can be a dynamic piece on the Raiders roster.
He's one under-the-radar player that I'll be keeping tabs on at training camp.
2016 Recap (Appeared In One Game)
Following the season-ending injury to Lee Smith, O'Malley was elevated from the practice squad to the Raiders active roster.
O'Malley remained on the active roster through late-November before returning to the practice squad, and once again in 2017, he'll have to battle for his spot on the roster.
2016 Recap (Six Receptions, 29 Yards)
Smith is the epitome of a player who can't be judged entirely on his stats.
The imposing tight end has been in the NFL since 2011, and his career-high for receiving yards in a season is 78, but that's not where he really makes his impact felt.
Smith is an absolute machine in the run game, in fact, the Raiders offensive line adopted him as an honorary lineman, and when he was placed on the reserve/injured list after just four games, it completely changed the team's offensive makeup.
Big No. 86 looks poised for a big return in 2017, and while you probably shouldn't expect Smith to produce huge statistical numbers, his return to the field is likely one of the most impactful returns the Raiders will have in 2017.
2016 Recap (33 Receptions 359 Yards, Three Touchdowns)
The former Miami Hurricane built on a solid rookie season, improving his stats nearly across the board during his sophomore campaign.
His receptions went up, as did his total yards, and his 359 yards were not just the best by a Raiders tight end, but were also good for fourth on the team.
With Jared Cook now in the mix, Walford will get a chance to learn from yet another veteran tight end, and hopefully that wealth of knowledge will pay big dividends for him as he enters his third season.
Storyline To Follow:
How does the new guy look?
Seemingly everywhere Jared Cook has gone throughout his NFL career, he's produced, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he finds a role for himself in Todd Downing's offense.
If Cook can establish himself as another threat in the receiving game, it not only makes the Raiders offense even more potent, but it also makes Bobby Johnson's tight end group even more complete.
The Silver and Black are stacked with offensive playmakers already, but having another one would likely be welcome news for quarterback Derek Carr.