With Rob Gronkowski out and other tight ends having questionable matchups, the fungibility of the tight end position in fantasy football comes into play week one. Outside of the top tight ends, the position is extremely streamable, with fifty-six different players enjoying top-ten weeks last season and thirty-five having top-five weeks. One player capable of cracking that top five this week is Clive Walford, and he is available in the vast majority of leagues. Walford is a near shoo-in for top-ten production this week given his matchup and opportunity, but my bet is Walford hits top-five numbers.
Last season, the Raiders threw to the tight ends about six times a game, and the unfortunate part of creating any fantasy commodity out of this is that the passes were split almost evenly between Mychal Rivera and Clive Walford. All indications out of Oakland are that Rivera is a strict backup to the sophomore Walford, and should not be a serious threat to poach targets.
Given the frenetic pace of this game, it is likely that the Raiders pass a whole heck of a lot more than they would normally want to, and an increased amount of those will be going to Clive Walford as the Saints defense has fits trying to cover Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. This is an amazing proposition for Walford because the Saints were next-level bad at defending the TE last year, and haven’t done a whole lot to get better. They were the worst in the NFL last year, allowing 12.19 fantasy points per game to the TE position, nearly a full point more than the #2 Giants. Six players received more than five targets against the Saints last year (a feat Walford faces), and there were four touchdowns scored among those six players.
The frenetic pace at which this game will also be played virtually guarantees that Walford will get involved. The Saints throw the ball a ton and force oppositions to get into shootouts with them, mostly to the benefit of the opposing offenses. Opposing quarterbacks last year had a combined 4544 yards, 45 touchdowns and nine interceptions against the Saints defense (making you wonder if The Big Easy is playing offense against them). Derek Carr is set to have a big game, and will likely throw for three or more touchdowns. At least one of these is going to go towards Walford, especially given how poorly tight ends give the Saints defense fits.
Walford is the perfect confluence of availability, opportunity, opposition and talent that make him the perfect streaming target for week one. If you’re unsure about your tight end, or if you were a Gronk owner, look towards Walford, he will make you glad you did.