Heading into training camp, the Oakland Raiders have a huge question mark lingering at the tight end position. With two unproven veterans and two late-round rookies on the roster, it’s going to be interesting to see if any of the four candidates can pull away from the rest of the pack.
Surprisingly, sixth-rounder Mychal Rivera will be a legitimate candidate to start for the Raiders come Week 1, a worrisome notion for a team already boasting minimal offensive talent.
Despite his standing as a late-round rookie, Rivera does bring some value to the Raiders offense that could put him in position to contribute in 2013. Known for his receiving skills, the Tennessee product spent his career with the Volunteers making his mark in the passing game. Considering that he broke Jason Witten’s school record for receiving yards in season by a tight end with 563 in 2012, there’s hope that he can develop into a capable target for the Raiders.
If anything, the Raiders could use Rivera as a red zone threat with this tall frame and reliable hands. He scored five touchdowns during his senior season at Tennessee, so he’s no stranger to the end zone.
Before he sees consistent snaps, though, Rivera will have to prove that he can be more than just a pass-catcher in Oakland.
Measuring in at only 6’3’’, 242 pounds, Rivera will be a liability as a blocker once his NFL career gets under way. Putting up only 17 bench press reps at the Combine, Rivera is relatively weak for an in-line tight end, making him a bit of a one-trick pony. Even if he improves during training camp, there’s still too much ground to gain for him to be a reliable blocker during his rookie campaign.
Either way, the Raiders’ situation at tight end isn’t pretty. No matter unprepared he may be for a significant role in the offense, Rivera will be at the heart of the battle once training camp gets under way.
If his blocking improves immensely, the Raiders might just have a decent tight end in Rivera. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though.