Eighth-tier English rugby player selected in the NFL Draft

By Thomas Kelly

Travis Clayton was playing in the eighth tier of English rugby for Basingstoke… that is, before he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the NFL Draft in Detroit on Saturday night. Clayton was the 221st player selected and the first player off the board in the final round of the event.

Clayton stands at  6′ 7″ and 301 pounds and caught the eye of NFL scouts after he tested at South Florida’s pro day. He had previously played at the NFL Academy in Loughborough but had chosen to play rugby instead, before restarting his NFL career by joining the International Player Pathway program (IPP), alongside another former rugby player Louis Rees-Zammit.  

Clayton is expected to play offensive tackle in the NFL. He has the prototypical size for the position and is excited to play in the trenches: “Being on the offensive line, being able to take your anger out on people legally, it’s great,” he said. “I can just use my strength to my abilities.”

Clayton has great athleticism for his size as a former winger in rugby, and he ran an impressive 4.79 in his 40-yard dash at the IPP pro day. Clayton posted with an 8.38 relative athletic score (RAS), a popular metric to show NFL prospects’ athletic abilities from @MathBomb on Twitter. 

Clayton will have to first prove himself at the Bills’ Organised Training Activities (OTAs) and if he performs well he will earn a roster spot for the 2024 season. Bills’ GM Brandon Beane projects him as both a left and right tackle but his best chance to see the field early would be as a swing tackle or on special teams.

Beane had never seen Clayton play football before selecting him with the team’s last pick in the draft. “You know, I’ve never seen him really, truly play football,” Beane said. “But I know he was a rugby player, boxing and by all accounts a great young man. And his measurables are wowing off the page.”

Clayton believes that his rugby background will translate well in the NFL: “With rugby also being a team sport, I believe that helps tremendously, my team knowledge and what it takes to communicate properly here and in the future, hopefully in the NFL”.

Clayton was selected before plenty of college prospects from some of the top-tier programmes in the US which goes to show the potential that the 23-year-old has. If given time to develop, Clayton could become the latest in a line of UK talent impacting the NFL. 

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