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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sixth Rd. Brings Dynamic Return Man Clay

The Buccaneers used pick #184 on Utah's Kaelin Clay, a speedy receiver who was among the nation's best kick returners in 2014.


On the third day of the NFL Draft, teams tend to adhere a little more closely to the "best player available" strategy, picking off the players who remain conspicuously high on their rating boards. Obviously, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' board showed a lot of value at wide receiver-slash-kick returner on Day Three in 2015.

With the eighth pick of the sixth round (#184 overall), the Buccaneers selected Utah wideout Kaelin Clay. This came just 22 spots after the team used its fifth-round pick on Nebraska pass-catcher Kenny Bell. The 5-10, 195-pound Clay has good speed and kick return ability, like Bell; in fact, Clay was one of the top return men in the nation in 2014, his lone season at Utah.

READ: Bucs Draft WR Clay

Clay transferred to Utah from Mt. San Antonio Junior College, where he was a Junior College All-American after leading his conference in receiving yards (995) and scoring 16 touchdowns. He made an immediate impact for the Utes, especially as a return man, where he scored four combined touchdowns on punts and kickoff returns. Clay averaged 15.0 yards on 23 punt returns and 24.9 yards on 22 kickoff returns and was named to the All-PAC 12 first team as a return man.  His three scores on punt returns set a school record and tied for the most in the nation in 2014.

Clay also was a significant factor in Utah's passing game, however, catching 43 passes for 523 yards and four more scores and helping the team's offense considerably after a season-ending injury to WR Dres Anderson. A  top-notch high school sprinter in Long Beach, California, Clay has great speed and the ability to make quick, slashing cuts in the open field.

With the Buccaneers, the Utah rookie should have an opportunity to compete for the slot receiver position, where he could be a dangerous catch-and-run threat between the Bucs' giant pair of outside receivers, Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Obviously, he will also get a long look as a return man, where the Buccaneers have been searching for a big-play spark for years. Tampa Bay ranked eighth in the league in punt return average in 2014 but 20th in kickoff return average, and the team hasn't scored on a kick return since 2010.

Tampa Bay continues to find value on the offensive side of their draft board. A year after using all six of their selections on that side of the ball – in the first season under the guidance of General Manager Jason Licht and Head Coach Lovie Smith – the team has now sent five of its first six 2015 selections in that direction as well. Barring a trade, the Buccaneers will wrap up their 2015 draft in the seventh round with pick #231 overall.

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