If nothing else, Texas Tech’s Le'Raven Clark, DeAndre Washington and Jakeem Grant going in the first six rounds of the 2016 NFL draft proves the correlation between talent and productivity. The Tech offense finished the 2015 season ranked No. 2 nationally in passing offense, scoring offense and total offense. Clearly Tech had some prime talent on that side of the ball, and that fact was borne out in the draft. Expect Clark, Washington and Grant to not only make NFL rosters, but to have impressive careers in the league.
Clark, who was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the third round, was the first Red Raider to hear his name called. And that was not a surprise. Clark was occasionally a dominant left tackle last season as he earned All Big 12 honors. At 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds, with light feet and long arms, Clark was virtually a prototype at the position. And adding to his value was the fact that he projects at guard almost as well as at tackle. His versatility will help a Colts squad desperately in need of offensive linemen.
Indianapolis selected four offensive linemen in the draft, the most in over 35 years for the franchise. And Indy’s brass expects Clark to come in and contribute immediately.
Ryan Grigson, Indianapolis’ GM, had this to say about Clark: “He’s got 36 1/4–inch arms. I don’t know if there’s longer out there. Joe Philbin [offensive line coach] and I were reminiscing and talking about this player because early on in the process we were trying to find who were the most athletic guys out there and doing some comparison shopping. [Clark] was in that very small, elite group of movement skills and length to where you could stand alone and block sometimes. That’s hard to come by.”
Washington was the next Red Raider to come off the board as the Oakland Raiders selected the running back in the fifth round. This selection, too, was not a huge surprise. Washington, who finished his Tech career with the fifth most rushing yardage in school history, earned All Big 12 status in 2015, and had most of the traits necessary to succeed in the NFL. He has speed, quickness, shiftiness, and most important, the power to run through arm tackles and to finish runs. Washington is also a solid receiver, and despite his lack of size, pass blocks well.
Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie sums up what the Raider brain-trust sees in Washington: “He’s the one guy that every time we watched him play, it was very difficult for the first guy to get him down. He had power, quickness and he had speed. He was the kind of the guy that can do it all. He’s tough, instinctive. We just thought he was a really good football player. We think he’s going to help our team a lot.”
Because he is only 5-foot-6, Jakeem Grant was the draftable Red Raider whose position seemed most precarious. Grant was probably the most electrifying player in college football last season, and he finished his collegiate career as Tech’s all-time leading receiver, but the fact that he is a small target could have prevented Grant from being selected. Didn’t happen. The Miami Dolphins drafted the Mesquite native in the sixth round.
The most obvious positive traits for Grant are his speed—perhaps the best in the entire draft class—and quickness. But it is Grant’s toughness and mentality that really stood out for the Dolphins. Miami GM Chris Grier characterized Grant thus:
“I tell you what, Mike [Tannenbaum], to his credit, he was all over this guy. I was busting his chops the whole time, going, hey, this guy can fit under the table in the draft room here. Seriously, spending time with the kid, we had him in for a 30 visit. This guy is ultra competitive. He walks in the room, he thinks he’s the biggest guy on the field and that’s how he plays, kind of runs. He’s an explosive, dynamic player. He’s got some traits we like. The size isn’t a concern. He’s played in the Big 12 there against all these elite players now in the draft. It’s his mind-set, his toughness. He’s an alpha.”
As of this writing, the only other Red Raider tapped to appear in an NFL training camp is linebacker Pete Robertson who inked a free agent contract with the Seattle Seahawks.
Robertson projects primarily as an outside linebacker in Seattle’s 4-3 base package, and it is not a position overburdened with elite talent. K.J. Wright led the team in tackles last season, but no other outside linebacker made a huge splash last season. What’s more, Seattle didn’t draft a linebacker, so the opportunity is there for Robertson to stick. But to do so he will have to play with a better motor than he sometimes showed at Tech, and will have to show greater block-shedding ability. But at 6-foot-3, 240, with decent speed, and pass rushing ability, he should be in the mix for a roster spot.