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Why Clive Walford is the Raiders’ breakout player this season

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Retired NFL defensive end Stephen White explains why Walford’s athletic ability is a great match for the Raiders offense.

Kansas City Chiefs v Oakland Raiders Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

There is a lot to like about Raiders tight end Clive Walford.

He has tremendous athletic ability to go with good size at 6'4 and around 260 pounds. He also moves well for a tight end. Rather than just being an athlete, you can see that Walford understands how to get in and out of his breaks and how to separate from tight coverage by using good technique with his hands as well as by being able to change speeds suddenly.

I swear, he kind of reminds me of Antonio Gates when I watch his film (ducks). He might not approach Gates' ridiculous level of production this season, but I can definitely see Walford being featured more in Oakland's offense in his third year in the league — especially since the Raiders let Mychal Rivera walk. Plus, Jared Cook, who they signed in free agency, is mostly fool’s gold, so I would expect Walford to see the ball coming his way early and often this season.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr's continued development will also be a boon to Walford's production. As long as Walford gets the ball in his hands, he can make positive things happen. The better Carr plays, the more likely that Walford goes off week in and week out.

Truthfully I can't overlook the fact that Walford needs a big year if he expects to cash in with a new deal any time soon. Money can be a great motivator, and Walford already has all the talent in the world. And hey, the better Walford plays, the more likely the Raiders will win, so fans shouldn't mind him being a little selfish this year. It’s just gonna help everybody.

Walford could be the long-term solution for the Raiders, much like Antonio Gates has been for the Chargers, but now is the time for him to step and go awf. I believe that Clive Walford will do just that, and he is going to be hell for opposing defenses to deal with. That's why I chose him to be the Raiders' breakout player of 2017.