Fantasy Football Cheatsheets & Rankings

Fantasy Players - Rookie Watch 2015

Rookie Watch - Clive Walford, TE, Oakland Raiders
TJ Yeldon Rookie Watch – Clive Walford, TE, Oakland Raiders

The gray-haired, sunglass-wearing ‘wise guy’ may be gone, but his methods still permeate the Raiders’ way of thinking. This team is still about speed and athleticism – rare freaks to fill seats.

Al Davis probably would have loved Clive Walford. The 6-foot-4, 251-pound tight end averaged 15.3 yards per catch during his final three seasons at the University of Miami (Florida). He’s an athlete, and his frame makes him a favorable red zone target, too.

His draft stock was affected by a late-season knee injury, but he has shown no signs of it so far. Early reports out of Raiders camp suggest Walford will challenge for a starting job, and the buzz is that the team’s third round pick has been every bit as delightful as first round receiver Amari Cooper. In time, perhaps, the tandem will resurrect the Raiders passing days of old.

Dissecting the depth chart: The Raiders have Mychal Rivera, who has caught 96 passes in his first two NFL seasons – not bad for someone picked 184th overall. Rivera has comparable size to Walford, but lacks to physical skillset. He’s the early favorite to win the Raiders starting job due to experience and built-in chemistry with Derek Carr, but once Walford gets a few miles under his feet that will change. The team is building and in search of weapons, so the door is open for all comers. Beyond Walford and Rivera the Raiders have little else at tight end (Brian Leonhardt caught six passes last season).

Just the stats: Walford’s catch and yardage totals increased in each of his four years with the Hurricanes (no surprise) but his numbers remained steady. Last season he recorded 44 catches for 676 yards and seven touchdowns. That total was boosted by late-season 100-yard efforts against Florida State and Virginia. His best statistical game came during his sophomore year (135 yards against South Florida).

2015 Projection: 29 receptions, 368 yards, 3 TDs

2014 rookie comparison: Jace Amaro, Jets The name may not excite fantasy owners but the fact is Amaro had the best rookie numbers among tight ends last season (38 catches for 345 yards and two touchdowns). The same could be true of Walford in 2015. But whereas Amaro’s numbers came mostly in September and October, expect Walford’s spree to come at the end of this season.

Interesting fact that won’t help you: Walford jumped 6-foot-2 in the high jump during his sophomore year of high school.

What he’s worth: Walford has good upside in dynasty leagues, but for those drafting for 2015 he’s best left for the free agent bin. Even if Walford wins the job in Oakland Rivera will at least push for time, somewhat limiting Walford’s year one potential. He’s an attractive backup fantasy tight end for those in search of hidden gems, but that’s true of a hundred prospects.

Follow Mike Beacom on Twitter @mikebeacom

By Mike Beacom