The 2017 NFL draft class is filled with intriguing wide receiver prospects, but there seems to be a lot of debate about who’s best. Is it the well-chronicled Juju Smith Schuster? What about the small school titan, Corey Davis?
When it’s all said and done, it might be one of those guys, but my favorite pass-catching prospect is Mike Williams.
Williams has shined for his entire career in Clemson’s aggressive offense scheme. He popped early; as a freshman in 2013 he posted a 20/316/3 line. He began that season as an 18-year-old and turned 19 during the season.
As a sophomore in 2014, Williams took over the lead role from Sammy Watkins and did not disappoint, turning in a line of 57/1030/6. Williams missed essentially the entire 2015 season as he injured his neck running into the goalpost in the first game.
This season, the Tigers star racked up a line of 84/1171/10. Williams performed at his best when in the spotlight in some of the biggest games of the season, including the following stellar performances:
- 9/174/0 against No. 17 Auburn
- 5/70/1 against No. 15 Louisville
- 7/70/0 against No. 10 Florida State
- 15/202/1 against No. 22 Pittsburgh
Ranks per December 4th, 2016 Associated Press Poll.
Williams’ numbers aren’t Corey Davis good, but he was extremely effective against his toughest opponents. It certainly bodes well for his NFL potential that he wasn’t playing against inferior competition on a weekly basis. Keep in mind that Williams also had to split targets with two other future NFL WRs, Deon Cain and Artavis Scott.
In the big play department, Williams had 19 catches of 20 or more yards. He also converted 65 percent of his receptions into first downs.
Williams stands at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 205 pounds. He is fast for his size with a reported 4.48 forty yard dash. He can win on slants but the back shoulder fade is his calling card. His size and overall athletic profile remind me of Dez Bryant.
There were obviously some concerns about his neck fracture, as the initial talk at the time was centered around whether he would ever play football again. Williams has spent the season demonstrating that the injury won’t physically hold him back from being an elite talent.
Dabo Swinney, Williams’ coach, says he thinks Williams is a more complete receiver than Watkins and Hopkins. He has shown both big play and chain-moving ability, so maybe he’s an unholy, bigger, stronger combination of the two. He has excelled against top-level FBS competition and this gives me confidence he can transition to the next level without much of an adjustment. Also, it’s a bit narrative-y, but we shouldn’t dismiss that Clemson has a strong, recent track record of putting top WRs in the league (Watkins, Hopkins, and Martavis Bryant).
Williams probably would have entered the 2016 NFL Draft if he hadn’t missed the 2015 season with the neck injury. He is entering the league as a 22 year-old. I expect that some age-centric metrics could ding him when compared to some of his classmates, but don’t be fooled. His age entering the league is a result of circumstances, not talent.
Williams has the size, speed, and pedigree of a prototypical alpha receiver in the NFL. He is my top-rated WR in this draft and will be on the short list of players I’ll be considering at 1.01 in 2017 rookie drafts. I expect him to be a valuable dynasty asset for years to come.