In a season dominated by impressive performances, the Tennessee Titans saw some glimpses of stardom that went under the radar for the most part. One of those performances was by wide receiver Kalif Raymond. While Raymond caught just nine passes last season, he made the most of those opportunities.
Raymond’s road to the NFL
Raymond played four years of college football for the Holy Cross Crusaders at wide receiver. He failed to catch a pass in his freshman season but gained 1,683 yards receiving throughout the next three seasons, including 978 yards his senior year. Raymond also tacked on 14 touchdowns during his time with the Crusaders.
Raymond was not selected during the 2016 NFL Draft and later signed with the Denver Broncos on May 3, 2016, as an undrafted free agent. The Broncos released him on September 3 during the final roster trimmings and he was signed to the practice squad. Just under a year later, Denver waived Raymond on September 2, 2017.
One day later, the New York Jets claimed the WR off waivers and Raymond made his NFL debut in the Jets’ first game of the season against the Buffalo Bills as the kick and punt returner. New York waived Raymond on September 19, 2017, and re-signed him to the practice squad before releasing him on September 26.
Following his stint with the Jets, the New York Giants signed Raymond to their practice squad on October 11, 2017. He was released on the 31st, but the Giants re-signed him the next day and then promoted him to the active roster on November 14. New York waived Raymond on September 1, 2018.
On September 25, 2018, Raymond began his first stint with the Tennessee Titans when the team signed him to the practice squad. However, the WR was released not too long after on October 2. The Giants signed him to the practice squad again on October 16 but released him two days later.
Raymond received his second chance with the Titans on December 24, and signed a reserve/future contract on December 31, 2018. On September 7, 2019, he was waived and re-signed to the practice squad. Tennessee promoted him to the active roster on October 26, and Raymond finally saw some of his first meaningful offensive snaps in an NFL game.
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A glimpse of Raymond on the field
Titans WR Kalif Raymond was on the active roster for Tennessee’s final nine games of the season. During those games, he saw 98 total snaps, just over four percent of all the snaps by Titans’ wide receivers last seasons.
In those snaps, Raymond caught nine of his 12 targets for 170 yards receiving and one touchdown. He boasted a great average reception of 18.9 yards and made his mark catching a few deep balls for the Titans offense.
The Titans signed QB Ryan Tannehill to a 4-year/$118 million extension over the offseason after the former Dolphins QB took the reigns in Tennessee and helped lead the team to the AFC Championship game. Tannehill saw much better protection from the offensive line during his 12 games in Nashville compared to what he received in Miami. This time allowed him to allow plays to develop and have time to set and connect on the deep passes.
Raymond was the recipient of a few of those long balls. Two specific examples would be his 52-yard reception in the Titans Week 10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, which was a hand graze away from being a 72-yard touchdown and the infamous deep touchdown catch against the Ravens during the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
Kalif Raymond did Marlon Humphrey
SOOO DIRTY on his 45 yard TD catch!
— It’s Titans Time (@itsTitansTime) January 14, 2020
While there is not enough data to develop any sort of OSM or Next Gen Stats numbers due to a lack of receptions, there are other areas that would bring hope for an impressive season. First and foremost is the 18.9 yards per reception average, which immediately cements him as the Titans deep threat. Next would be the 75% catch percentage, while he only saw 12 targets Raymond showed off a wide catch radius and a great set of hands.
Back in the 2016 Draft, Raymond earned a Relative Athletic Score of 8.17 in the elite range. His score was almost entirely due to his elite composite speed grade. Raymond ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at Harvard’s 2016 Pro Day, which included a 1.48-second 10-yard split. His speed is elite and can be seen in the touchdown catch against the Ravens as he leaves defensive back Marlon Humphrey in the dust.
Can a more significant role lead to a breakout?
The Titans have their starting three receivers set between A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, and Adam Humphries. However, there is uncertainty behind those three. WR Tajae Sharpe had the third-highest percentage of snaps for the Titans offense in 2019 at 18.36%. Sharpe signed a one-year/$1.5 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency, leaving 444 snaps to be filled by someone.
Raymond currently sits at the fourth receiver on the depth chart at this time, and if he continues to perform like he did last season, it should be relatively easy to lock up that role. With his ability to get down the field, the Titans could add yet another weapon to their juggernaut of an offense.
It remains to be seen how the departure of Jack Conklin, who signed with the Cleveland Browns during free agency and drafting Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson with the 29th overall pick in the 2020 Draft will mean for Tannehill’s protection. Things seem bright for Raymond’s future in Tennessee after quite the journey to stick with a team.