The class of wide receivers in the 2017 draft is without a doubt talented, but there is a lot of debate about how the top 5-10 players in the group should be ranked. One of those guys has a familiar name for a wide receiver but is in fact his own “Mike Williams.” A four-star recruit in the 2013 high school class, Williams chose Clemson over Alabama, Notre Dame, and South Carolina. Getting to learn from future NFL wideouts Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant during his freshman year, Williams stepped into a lead role in 2014, making back-to-back national title game appearances, including a championship this past January.
Playing against Alabama (again) in the 2016 national championship, Williams showed he was a physical receiver and that he does a great job of fighting and winning those contested 50/50 balls. At Clemson, his reputation grew with highlight reel catch after highlight reel catch and he also showed plus tracking ability to keep the ball in his sights with an aggressiveness to bring them in.
As a route runner, he is pretty raw and needs a lot of work becoming more consistent at running precise routes. He needs to get better at the subtleties of using jab steps and head nods in order to create natural separation. In the 2016 ACC Championship versus Virginia Tech, many of his routes were predictable and it allowed cornerbacks who did not match his physical talent to beat him in man or off man coverage.
If your team drafts Mike Williams this season, you have to understand that you are drafting him based purely on his potential. He needs a lot of work to refine his releases to get separation off the line of scrimmage against the faster, more physical defenders in the NFL. I’m sure as a rookie he will flash an occasional spectacular catch, but, in my opinion, it will be totally up to him to take that next step and develop into a true number one receiver.
Overall, I gave Williams an early second round grade. While I don’t actually see him falling into the second round due to his potential, the consistent lack of separation on his routes while being Clemson’s number one receiver for three straight seasons makes me very wary that he won’t develop beyond a solid possession receiver.
From a pro comparison standpoint, Demaryius Thomas from the Denver Broncos fits him the best in my opinion. Both were prototypical wide receivers with a large catch radius. Also, both had a knack for winning contested throws. In college, neither were good route runners who needed a lot of work to create separation in the NFL. For reference, it took Thomas three full seasons to develop and much of that was due to working with a future hall of fame quarterback in Peyton Manning.
While the Seattle Seahawks don’t need a wide receiver with Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Jimmy Graham, he would be a great developmental talent if he fell into the second round where I currently have him graded. Looking towards the draft, I think his most likely landing spots are the Buffalo Bills with Sammy Watkins and Arizona Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals, for example, need someone to learn from Fitzgerald at the tail end of his career. He could also take over for Michael Floyd’s role in the offense after he was cut for off-the-field issues.