CFF Player Profile: Maxx Williams, TE
After taking a look at TCU linebacker Paul Dawson and Alabama safety Landon Collins, we’re switching back to offense to examine tight end Maxx Williams. This tight end class appears to be somewhat average overall. Outside of the top couple of players, how the rest of the group stacks up depends more on how you weight blocking vs receiving.
The Minnesota product is widely considered to be at the top of this year’s group after a redshirt sophomore season that saw him selected to the First Team All-Big Ten and Second Team All-American. We agree after he finished the season season as CFF’s highest-graded TE (including non-draft eligible players), despite below average QB play and logging more than 100 fewer snaps than others at the position.
Overview and Stats
As is becoming increasingly common at the position, Williams lined up all over the formation for the Golden Gophers, playing out wide and in the slot (29.2% of snaps), as well as inline (62.2%) and in the backfield. Interestingly, his slot snaps were more heavily weighted towards the second half of the season and he also graded a bit better at the end of the year with big games against Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin.
While he’s not an exceptional athlete, Williams has the requisite size for the position, measuring at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. He used that size to gain yards after the catch, averaging 8.4 YAC per reception, a figure that ranked seventh overall in this class and second when limiting that to players with at least 10 receptions. That ability was on display against Nebraska (4Q, 5:11) and Missouri (2Q 5:24).
Further looking at his physical traits, Williams isn’t a burner, but possesses enough speed to threaten the seam, as evidenced by his 4.78 40-yard time. He saw more targets (17) and gained more yards (166) on deep passes (20+ yards) than any other draft eligible tight end last season. One of the limitations I saw was stiffness changing directions and that he plays somewhat upright, which hindered his ability to gain separation at times. However, he made up for that with subtle leans and fakes (e.g TCU 1Q 5:09) as well as good hand use (MIZ 4Q 1.55) to create space when possible.
Williams’ body control is also excellent, allowing him to bring in some spectacular highlight-reel catches (Iowa 2Q 8:34 and 0:35). With a 7.69% Drop Rate, he’s not the most natural hands catcher in this draft – Florida State’s Nick O’Leary might have him bested there – but he still flashed a wide catch radius with the ability to extend away from his body (including on the aforementioned plays) and was generally reliable catching the ball.
Given his level of involvement in the Minnesota pass offense, Williams was rarely asked to pass protect, though he ended with a clean sheet surrendering no pressure in his five snaps there.
He received plenty of work In the run game, though he doesn’t yet have the strength to drive defenders off the ball as an inline run blocker, rather he uses his size and mobility to wall off defenders. There was movement against smaller linebackers and defensive backs, but more often that came on down blocks where the defender didn’t see him coming.
He’s a very willing blocker, maintaining solid balance and hand placement for the most part when engaging at the second level. Moves his feet and actively tries to stay on and finish block. Take a look at Wisconsin 1Q 14.54 or Nebraska 3Q 11.20 for positive blocks. Conversely, he doesn’t fare as well against stronger players or when defenders see him coming and can square (Ohio State 4Q 14:36, Northwestern 4Q 15:00). It will be interesting to see how he handles the jump up to NFL level competition against players more adept at stacking, shedding at the second level.
While Williams may lack the elite athletic traits of a high first-round pick, his production, despite lackluster quarterback play, is hard to argue against. More than three quarters of his catches (28 of 36) resulted in a first down or touchdown (13 of those were caught short of the sticks) and against Power 5 opponents he gained 2.71 Yards per Route Run, ranking third among his peers in this class and besting Rob Gronkowski’s NFL-leading mark. He graded negatively overall just twice last season, both against teams in the top five cumulative defensive grades (TCU, Ohio State).
Whether Williams sneaks into the late first round or becomes a second day pick, he will likely be an appealing player that should be able to contribute as a rookie, potentially on all three downs if his blocking translates.
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