The Buffalo Bills’ offense hasn’t caught up to the rest of the league in terms of finding a “new-age” tight end—an athletic weapon that threatens opposing defenses in the seam. Scott Chandler is a fine short-intermediate option, but he’s not the type of athlete that can create big plays, as noted by his 10.4 yards-per-reception average.
Without a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills would be wise to give Miami Hurricanes’ tight end Clive Walford serious consideration in the second round. The Hurricanes are known as “Tight End U” as the school has produced top-flight players such as Kellen Winslow, Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen and Jimmy Graham over the last decade. Those are big-time players, and Walford has out-produced them all, ranking first all-time with 121 receptions; the most in school history by a tight end.
Walford was a finalist for the Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end after hauling in 44 passes for 676 yards and seven touchdowns as a redshirt senior. In his career, he’s gained 1,753 yards and 14 touchdowns at an average of 14.5 yards-per-reception.
Walford is an ideal fit for the Bills’ offense, as he’s a traditional tight end that primarily lined up along the line of scrimmage in the Hurricanes’ offense. A willing and aggressive blocker, Walford was a big reason why running back Duke Johnson was able to have so much success throughout his career.
In the following clip, Walford displays his prowess as a blocker, getting his hands inside the edge defender. He maintains a low base and is able to clear a huge lane for Johnson, who gains 40-yards.
At times, he can rely too much on his lower body strength in order to create movement in the run game, which he’ll need to clean up at the next level. However, he’s proven to be effective and even dominant at times in this important facet of the position.Athleticism (6/10)
Clive Walford is an underrated receiving weapon that has the athleticism and fluidity to create separation and make plays in the passing game. While he won’t time as fast as the “oversized wideout” tight ends in recent drafts such as Eric Ebron, or fellow 2015 draft-mate Devin Funchess, Walford makes up for his lack of timed speed with spacial awareness and smooth route running. While his route tree will likely be limited at the next level, Walford is a tough matchup for linebackers and safeties when used on vertical stems down the seam. He’s quick enough to beat linebackers one-on-one and his 6’6” 260 frame is simply too big for a defensive back to match up with.
His big frame and strong hands make him a redzone threat as displayed in the following clip. Walford is split out wide to the boundary in a goal-line situation. Stephen Morris throws up a jump ball on a fade route and Walford is able to position his body in front of the defender and make a spectacular one-handed catch for a touchdown.
Walford can struggle with drops at times, as he can turn his head to start running down-field before securing the ball, but he’s a natural hands-catcher and rarely lets the ball come into his body.
Route Running (9/10)
When he’s not catching passes, opposing defenses are forced to respect Walford’s speed down the seam. In the following play against Florida State, Walford and Hurricanes’ wide receiver Phillip Dorsett run deep vertical routes. As Walford breaks across the middle of the field, the safety is forced to trail him. Walford gets over the top of his man, but Dorsett is left one-on-one with a cornerback and quarterback Brad Kaaya connects with him for a touchdown.
As previously stated, Walford isn’t going to blow up the combine with his 40-time. However, he does have an uncanny ability to find the soft spots in zones and can anticipate when to make his breaks well.
Here against Florida State, Walford makes a nifty jump cut to get in front of his defender, catching a quick pass in stride before taking it 61-yards for a touchdown.
Why He Fits the Bills
Clive Walford is a traditional tight end that’s experienced in lining up as an “F” tight end, or attached to the line of scrimmage. The Bills’ offense uses their tight ends attached to the offensive line as well, as tight ends were in the slot on just 115 of the 1,218 tight end snaps (9.4%) in 2014.
Walford offers more athleticism and versatility than Scott Chandler currently does and could finally be the true middle-of-the-field weapon that the Bills’ offense has lacked for years. He’s physical in the run game and is an intelligent player that would undoubtedly improve the team’s offense.