Williams, Walford in Sprint for Top Tight End

Maxx Williams and Clive Walford are among at least four tight ends to have met with the Packers. Who will be the first tight end off the board? That could be determined during Friday's 40-yard sprints. Williams, the son of a former NFL player, and Walford, a relative newcomer to the sport, have high ceilings.

Who will be the first tight end selected in the draft?

That question might be settled in less than 5 seconds on Friday.

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That’s when the tight ends will go through their physical testing at the Scouting Combine. Minnesota’s Maxx Williams and Miami’s Clive Walford are considered the top two tight ends in this draft. Williams is deemed the No. 38 overall prospect by the NFL’s scouting department while Walford is No. 55.

Both players could be in play, even though last year's third-round pick, Richard Rodgers, impressed late in the season. Rodgers' lack of game-breaking speed and generally subpar blocking mean he might be best in a complementary role. The Packers are looking hard at the position. Walford said he had met with the Packers, Williams has met with the Packers and at least two other tight ends had meetings in the works, as well.

Both are talented players but neither is blessed with game-breaking speed. For now, their “official” 40 times for the league's scouting department are 4.87 seconds for Williams and 4.93 for Walford – times that seem a bit slow when you watch Williams hurdling over two defenders for a 54-yard touchdown vs. Missouri and Walford running away from Florida State’s defense for a 61-yard touchdown. Those in-pencil times, coming from on-campus testing, will be erased and replaced by in-ink times on Friday.

Their 40 times notwithstanding, both players are ascending talents.

Williams, 20, entered the draft after his redshirt sophomore season of 36 receptions, 569 yards (15.8 average) and eight touchdowns. Compared to the 23-year-old Walford, who started playing football as a senior in high school, Williams is a veteran of the game. That’s because his father, Brian, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1989 who played in 129 games (62 starts) in his career.

Williams has fond memories from his dad’s playing days. More than any of them, it was “hot-tubbing” with his dad after the games. While Dad would hop in a tub of ice water to numb away the aches and pains, Maxx would enjoy a relaxing soak in warm water.

“It was a great experience having my dad play in the NFL and growing up around that kind of atmosphere, being in the locker room and seeing what the game's all about -- actual inside the NFL, what football truly is,” he said. “I think that's helped me in my career knowing that I know what it's like and I can fall back on my dad if I have any questions. He's one of those guys I've always relied on for those questions because he's been there, he's done it, he's succeeded at the highest level.”

Walford’s memories come from a darker time. For most of his sporting life, basketball was his passion. Then a cousin, Alonzo Jones Jr., died in a car accident in 2010. Jones loved football; Walford learned to love it, too.

“I was honestly doing this for him, playing football for him,” Walford said. “He passed, so it changed my life. It just changed my whole perspective on how I look at things. It makes me want to work twice as hard.”

Both players acknowledge they have work to do to become quality NFL players. For Walford, he said his second-level blocking “needs a lot of work.” Williams pointed to his blocking, too, but though he thought that was something that would improve through maturation.

“Being only 20 years old, knowing that my body's not fully developed into what it could develop into, is a strength,” Williams said. “I feel like my biggest weakness could turn into one of my strengths, as I turn 21, 22, and get those years and experience in the weight room developing my body.”

So, who’s No. 1? For now, they both say they are.

“Because I can block, I can catch, I can run after the catch, do everything that a tight end is expected to do,” said Walford, who aspires to be the next Rob Gronkowski.

Williams, who aspires to be the next Jason Witten, gave a more modest answer.

“I'd like to say I'm one of the tight ends here and I hope this week helps me show that I do have the talent to be considered that.”

The other tight ends who have met with the Packers are Penn State's Jesse James, an excellent prospect in his own right, and South Alabama's Wes Saxton.


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Related: NFL Scouting Combine Coverage

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.

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