NFL Draft Preview 2015: TE Maxx Williams
The Sports Quotient’s annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the ten weeks leading up to the 2015 NFL Draft, we will take a look at the top NFL prospects at each position. This third week, the focus is on tight ends. Our first TE prospect is Maxx Williams out of Minnesota.
After redshirting his first year as a Golden Gopher, Maxx Williams played two years at Minnesota, racking up 61 receptions for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns. He tallied an impressive 16.2 yards per catch, and a whopping 82% of his catches were for either a first down or a touchdown. In 25 games at Minnesota, Williams never turned the ball over.
Williams has great acceleration and good speed. He has proven to be a reliable red-zone target, even on a run-first team. He can beat defenders downfield and runs a great wheel route. Williams has plenty of experience with pre-snap movement and was used for screens at Minnesota. He is rarely knocked off his route by defenders.
Williams also has great hands and impressive extension. Check out this incredible sideline grab against Iowa, this past season:
At the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, Williams finished near the top of his position in most major drills. He came in third among tight ends in the 40-yard dash (4.78 seconds), fifth in the vertical jump (34.5”), fifth in the broad jump (9’9”), and tied for third in the 20-yard shuttle (4.37 seconds).
Above all else, Williams could stand to bulk up a little before training camp. At just under 250 pounds, he has about 15 pounds to gain in order to put him at the same weight as current NFL tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham and Dwayne Allen. In terms of his game, Williams needs to work on both his route running and running less upright. It will also be interesting to see how Williams plays in a pass-first offense, as he was rarely the first look at run-heavy Minnesota.
Though not directly related to his on-field performance, an NFC regional scout told NFL.com that Williams “came across as all about himself” during Scouting Combine interviews, and that teams there were “a little turned off by him.”
Tight end is not one of this draft’s stronger positions, but Williams appears to be the best at his position this year. He is a good pass catcher and could step in right away for a team needing receiving targets. He is likely to be a deep threat and red-zone threat, both of which are huge for NFL tight ends. With a solid quarterback under center, Williams could be a huge addition to whichever team drafts him.
Which player a team drafts, of course, depends on a team’s free agent signings. If Julius Thomas does in fact leave Denver for Oakland or Jacksonville, the Broncos could be looking for a tight end in the first round. If they are, Williams has to be the pick here. With the championship window closing in Denver as Peyton Manning nears retirement, the Broncos cannot have a dropoff in offensive production. While Williams likely will not replace Thomas’s production entirely, he could certainly make a dent in it.
If Denver does not go with a tight end in the first round, Seattle, Atlanta and Minnesota could all be options in the late-first, early-second rounds.