3 best team fits for wide receiver prospect Mike Williams
PFF Analyst Bryson Vesnaver identifies three landing spots that make sense for former Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams in the 2017 NFL Draft.
3 best team fits for wide receiver prospect Mike Williams
As we head into the final few days before the draft, there are a mostly consensus top three receivers in this year’s class: Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, Washington’s John Ross and Clemson’s Mike Williams. The interesting thing about these three receivers is that they each bring a very different skillset to the game of football. Davis is a great route-runner with good hands who can attack every level of the field. Ross is a blazing speedster who can blow by defenders on any route. Williams is a receiver who rarely loses at the catch point, using his size and strength to win in all sorts of contested catch situations. Teams have different receiving needs, and below, we’re going to look at three teams that could really benefit from the skills that Williams brings to the wide receiver position.
What he does best:
- Dominates at the catch point, uses his giant frame to tower over defensive backs.
- Huge catch radius and wing span facilitate spectacular grabs.
- Deep threat, uses his size to box out defensive backs.
- Tracks the ball exceptionally downfield, a constant threat on fades and back-shoulder throws.
- Effective over the middle, made a number of catches in traffic.
- Uses his length to separate at the line of scrimmage, consistently moves the chains on third down.
- Difficult to defend running the slant, makes tough conversions in key games situations.
- Strong hands – dropped only 5.77 percent of opportunities in 2016 (18th in FBS).
- Physical option on bubble screens and other quick throws.
The Bills made the right choice this offseason in keeping quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who loves to push the ball downfield. Last season, 62.9 percent of his passing yards came in the air, third-most among starting quarterbacks. The biggest problem for the Bills offense is the lack of a good receiving threat to catch those downfield passes. While WR Sammy Watkins can do it when healthy (74.9 overall grade last year), he’s missed 11 games over the past two seasons due to injuries. The Bills lost both Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin in free agency, who were the starters for a majority of last season. The Bills really don’t have many options behind Watkins, aside from a few unproven young players or veterans who have never been overly successful.
That’s where Williams can come in. With Taylor throwing the deep pass as often as he does (13.3 percent last year, league-high 18.2 percent in 2015 when he had a more consistent receiving corps), the Bills need receivers who can make plays deep. Williams caught 14 deep passes for 402 yards and two touchdowns last season, on 15 catchable throws. But more importantly, over 41 percent of Williams’ targets at Clemson last year were in the range of 10 to 19 yards downfield. This is important because Taylor shone with his intermediate throwing last season, completing 56-of-92 passes for 888 yards and five touchdowns to two interceptions. Taylor needs a receiver that he can trust to make tough catches even if the throw isn’t quite on target or if the receiver seemingly covered. Williams can provide that. Plus, lining him up opposite Watkins will allow Watkins more space to operate. The addition of Williams combined with the Bills’ strong run game could help their offense bounce back after a tough 2016 season, if they decide to go that route.
The Ravens are another nice fit for Williams if he does fall that far (unlikely, but possible). With the retirement of Steve Smith Sr., the Ravens only have one receiver that graded above 63.0 overall last season, and that’s Mike Wallace (75.7). Wallace is a different kind of receiver than Williams as he’s more of a speedy deep threat and doesn’t win at the catch point nearly as often. Same goes for their young No. 2 receiver in Breshad Perriman. While Smith and Williams are completely different players in terms of size and how they play, Williams could play a similar role in the offense.
Smith was a security blanket for QB Joe Flacco. Whenever he needed a big completion he looked at Smith. Williams could fit that mold, just in a different way. Instead of using quickness and route running to get open, Williams will just use his size and strength to dominate at the catch point. He’ll box defenders out and give Flacco a huge target to throw at as Williams’ catch radius is enormous. Not to mention Williams is a master of tracking and winning jump balls on underthrown deep balls, something Flacco does a lot. Williams can also provide a huge red-zone threat that the Ravens have been missing for years. Having a player like Williams working in that regard will also allow Perriman and Wallace to have more space to operate with their speed. That would open up the offense more and allow them to succeed in ways they couldn’t last year.
The Cardinals have needs elsewhere, but if Williams falls to them in the first round, they should seriously consider picking him up. A year after having one of the best passing offenses in the NFL, the Cardinals struggled last year. They still have star WR Larry Fitzgerald (85.1 overall grade in 2016) but he’ll be 34 years old by the start of next season. The Cardinals need to find a replacement receiver for when he either retires or finally starts to decline. Currently on the roster are John Brown (75.3) and J.J. Nelson (69.1), who are decent secondary/tertiary options but likely shouldn’t be relied upon to be top receivers. If they drafted Williams he would slot in as the immediate No. 2 receiver.
So much of the Cardinals passing game is based on the intermediate area of the field. Last year QB Carson Palmer threw nearly 42 percent of his passes at least 10 yards downfield. The Cardinals could use Williams as a deep threat and red-zone option, as his height and physicality at the catch point will allow him to win jump balls against NFL corners. With Williams working the deep area of the field, Fitzgerald going intermediate and RB David Johnson working the short/underneath area of the field in his hybrid RB/WR role, this Cardinals offense could be extremely hard to stop.