He was a guy that we targeted early. —Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s biggest NFL draft class since 2010 concluded with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking return specialist/wide receiver Kaelin Clay in the sixth round with the 184th pick overall.
“He was a guy that we targeted early,” said Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht. “We were hoping to get him right about where we did. So it worked out for us.”
Licht noted that the Buccaneers needed a return specialist and that the job was probably Clay’s to lose. Licht added that Clay would be a combo guy returning kicks and punts. He also said that the 5-foot-10, 193-pound receiver gives the team some value on offense as well.
In his pre-draft profile on NFL.com, Clay’s size and playmaking abilities as a receiver were described as not going to do much for most teams. However, “his return ability gives him a shot at making a team.”
After beginning his college career at California and ultimately transferring to Mount San Antonio College, Clay made a big impact in his one and only season of eligibility at Utah. He made four All-America teams as a punt returner after taking three back for touchdowns and leading the Pac-12 with 15.0 yards per return.
Clay’s scores on punt returns came against Idaho State (46 yards), Washington State (58 yards) and Michigan (66 yards). He earned Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week after his first game, adding a 100-yard kickoff return to his punt return against Idaho State.
As a receiver, Clay topped the Utes with 523 yards. His four touchdown receptions tied for team-high honors with three others and the 43 catches he made ranked second.
Utah football's official Twitter feed posted a statement from Clay after the draft.
"When you pray and ask God to watch over you there’s nothing to worry about. I am beyond blessed with this opportunity that was given to me by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers," Clay wrote. "To all the young kids and JUCO athletes worldwide this goes to show you that dreams can become a reality. Never give up on a dream and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. This is just the beginning. There’s more work to be done but for now I’m enjoying this.”
Clay was the fourth Utah player drafted over the three-day event. On Friday, cornerback Eric Rowe (Philadelphia Eagles, second round, No. 47 overall), defensive end Nate Orchard (Cleveland Browns, second round, No. 51 overall) and offensive lineman Jeremiah Poutasi (Tennessee Titans, third round, No. 66 overall) were selected.
It’s the highest number of Utah player taken in a single draft since 2010 when Koa Misi, Zane Beadles, Robert Johnson, David Reed, Stevenson Sylvester and R.J. Stanford were picked.