clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Film Room: Could Luke Musgrave replace Darren Waller?

A Day 2 option for LV

Boise State v Oregon State
Luke Musgrave
Photo by Ali Gradischer/Getty Images

While the Las Vegas Raiders did add a top 100-pick in this year’s NFL Draft by trading Darren Waller, the transaction does leave the Raiders needing a tight end. One replacement in this draft class could be Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave, who received a second-round grade and has drawn comparisons to Waller from Bleacher Report NFL Draft scout, Derrik Klassen.

“In simple terms, Musgrave is too tall and fast to cover easily,” Klassen wrote. “He’s 6’6” but plays with airy change-of-direction skills and long, explosive strides that allow him to separate in the open field. He excels on deeper routes, such as seam routes, deep overs and corner routes that allow his athletic tools to shine. Moreover, Musgrave has the twitch and route-running chops for a full route tree, even from wide receiver alignments.”

Waller took on a lot of the seam-stretching responsibilities for the Silver and Black that Klassen mentioned are also part of Musgrave’s game. Also, below is a look at how the two compare coming out of college, via RAS, and they have similar measurements as well.

Darren Waller, Luke Musgrave RAS Score comparison. Waller earned a 9.28 score while Musgrave posted a 9.77.
Darren Waller, Luke Musgrave RAS Score comparison

However, the Oregon state product’s production is rather underwhelming with just 47 career catches for 633 yards and two touchdowns. Part of the reason for that though is a knee injury kept him to just two games this past season, and he started the year strong with 11 catches, 169 yards and a score in those two contests. Those outings were even more impressive on film than on paper.

Our first clip is a good example of how Musgrave can stretch the seam and be a threat in the intermediate area of the field.

He’s running a simple seam route here but he releases to the inside to get that linebacker (No. 38) to move off the hash and create some space. Once the backer takes the bait and switches to inside leverage, Musgrave does a great job of working back outside and using his hands to create separation.

When he passes the second level, he knows he’s hit a soft spot in the zone and starts to slow down and gets his head around to find the ball. The quarterback puts it right on Musgrave and it’s an easy pitch and catch for a nearly 30-yard gain. An excellent play call and route running to take advantage of soft zone coverage.

This next route is just a thing of beauty.

Oregon State is running a play-action pass with the quarterback booting to the right and the tight end running a throwback route. In a way, the offense is running two fakes here with the play-action run going to the left, and then influencing the defense right with the boot action, only to throw it up the seam to the left.

What Musgrave does well initially is selling the run fake with an olé block on the defensive end where he pretends to engage and pulls up at the last second to get into his route. It’s executed perfectly as the defensive lineman ends up with a mouth full of rubber pellets after falling on his face.

From there, the tight end works horizontally at first on his route to sell the out, and then he has the speed to turn upfield and beat the safety deep. That’s impressive savvy to sell one route and athleticism to turn up the field and create separation. He finishes by tracking the ball well and showing his hands late to put six points on the board.

This next clip shouldn’t be misconstrued as a dominant block by any means, but it does shine some light into what Musgrave can do as a run-blocker so that you don’t think he’s completely miserable at it because he isn’t.

The Beavers call a zone run (looks like mid-zone) and Musgrave is responsible for the outside backer (No. 30). Despite being nearly 6’6”, he has good knee bend to get his pads down at the point of contact. Notice how his helmet is about even with the defender’s.

Musgrave also does a good job of getting his hands inside and keeping his feet moving through contact to generate a little movement and stay between the linebacker and ball carrier. Again, not an ass-kicking block by any means but a functional one that gets the job done.

We’ll use the endzone view for our next clip as it shows a better angle of Musgrave’s route running that sets him apart as a tight end. He draws the safety in man coverage and is going to run a simple in-route. Off the line of scrimmage, he accelerates to eat the safety’s cushion and gets on the safety’s toes before cutting inside.

Musgrave’s explosion at the top of the route is what allows him to create separation and put the defensive back in a trail position. That makes for an easy throw over the middle of the field and a first down.

There aren’t many tight ends who can move like this and beat defensive backs in space like the Beaver can.

Here’s another example of how Musgrave can be an effective blocker in the ground game without being physically dominant.

Oregon State is faking a split zone run to set up the end around by the wide receiver. Musgrave does an excellent job of selling the fake by buzzing his feet near the unblocked defensive lineman to get the lineman to continue to work flat down the line of scrimmage and go after the running back instead of the wide receiver.

After successfully selling the fake, he works outside to go make a block in space on the linebacker scraping over the top of the formation. Again, Musgrave breaks down so he doesn’t overrun his target, and then rides the defender’s momentum toward the sideline to create a lane for the receiver. That, plus a nice block from the tackle and move to make someone miss by the wideout, leads to a 36-yard touchdown run.

Again, this isn’t a dominant block but Musgrave does a lot of little things well to help set up an explosive play.

I like this route from Musgrave for a couple of reasons. One, its shows off how well he accelerates off the line of scrimmage like a track star getting out of the blocks. And two, it highlights his awareness as the replay shows him start to pull up as he gets close to the sideline, giving his quarterback as much room as possible to make the throw.

That type of speed is rare for a tight end and his instincts to know where he is on the field are impressive.


I hinted at this above but one of Musgrave’s biggest weaknesses is he isn’t very strong or physical at the point of attack when blocking. He’ll often get worked and beat at the line of scrimmage by aggressive defenders, leading to tackles for short gains.

Oregon State often took him out of the game in favor of a better run-blocking tight end in certain 11- or 21-personnel sets. Adding some size and strength could help with that and the good news is he has room for growth on his frame.

Building on that, the Beaver isn’t someone you can trust to help the offensive line in pass protection. His passive blocking style leads to him getting beat and could limit his usage at the next level. In other words, don’t expect Musgrave to be the next George Kittle, who nearly serves as a sixth offensive lineman.

As a pass-catcher, there isn’t much to dislike about the Oregon native’s game. However, he does struggle to make catches in traffic, likely due to a lack of concentration, and fight through physicality during his routes for someone of his size. That’s getting into nitpicky categories, but those are his two biggest flaws as a receiver, and fixing them will elevate his play to the next level.

At the end of the day, if Josh McDaniels is looking for someone to replace Waller on a significantly cheaper contract, Musgrave is the coach’s best option. The Beaver is a savvy route runner and can stretch the seam to be a good receiving threat over the middle. The Raiders could use Austin Hooper as more of the blocking tight end while the rookie spends a year or two in the weight room.