The Oakland Raiders were one of the NFL’s worst offensive teams last year, and they’re hoping to change that in 2015. After adding some depth at wide receiver this offseason, having a tight end that can be a threat in the passing game could really help turn the team around.
Oakland has focused on giving second-year quarterback Derek Carr much more help than he had in 2014, drafting Amari Cooper with their first pick and signing free agent wide out Michael Crabtree. The Raiders didn’t add a tight end that’s had big seasons in the NFL, but they have a few players competing for playing time, increasing their odds of finding a productive tight end.
Wide receiver Andre Holmes led Oakland last season with 693 receiving yards, and tight end Mychal Rivera trailed him by just 159 yards. Rivera has been the team’s top tight end for two years running, totaling 941 yards. He was certainly a steady option for Oakland last year, but the Raiders might have found a better playmaker in the draft.
With the No.68 overall pick in this year’s draft, Oakland selected Clive Walford. The Miami product hasn’t even played in a preseason game, but he seems to have the most potential of any tight end on the Raiders’ current roster.
“I think with the tight end, Clive [Walford], he’s a complete tight end,” head coach Del Rio said after the draft. “Are you a blocking tight end or a receiving tight end? We think he’s both. He can do both.”
Free-agent signee Lee Smith could see a lot of playing time, but he won’t be much of a weapon for Carr. He’s known for his ability to block, having caught no more than seven passes in each of his four NFL seasons.
Brian Leonhardt and Gabe Holmes both went undrafted out of college, and could have trouble making Oakland’s final 53-man roster and seeing time on the field. Leonhardt played in 12 games for Oakland last year, while Holmes caught 65 passes for Purdue in 2014.
Even if Walford has an impressive rookie campaign or another tight end stands out among the rest, none are likely to play at a Pro Bowl level. But the Raiders don’t need an elite tight end to have a strong offense. The Green Bay Packers led the NFL in points per game last year with 323 yards from their No.1 tight end. The Denver Broncos finished second in the league, despite Julius Thomas battling injuries and totaling just 489 yards.
The Raiders have had a bottom-10 offensive team in each of the last two years. They ranked 18th in total offense in 2012 when tight end Brandon Myers led the team with 79 catches and 806 receiving yards.