Greg Cosell's NFL Draft Preview: WR Mike Williams is a top prospect, with one important question

When you watch Clemson receiver Mike Williams on film, it’s easy to see a conventional NFL “X” receiver, with the size, strength and the ability to make contested catches.

There’s a significant question about Williams, and that’s whether he can present a vertical dimension as a deep threat in an offense.

Williams is roughly the same size as Julio Jones (almost 6-foot-4, 218 pounds), but Williams isn’t as explosive. When teams evaluate Williams they’ll have to make a determination about his ability to be a vertical threat. If teams don’t think he can do that, then he he’ll have to fit certain schemes.

Mike Williams of Clemson is one of the top receiving prospects in the draft. (AP)
Mike Williams of Clemson is one of the top receiving prospects in the draft. (AP)

Here’s what I see as Williams’ strengths and weaknesses after studying his college tape:

STRENGTHS

Williams has smooth movement for his size. He has loose hips for his body type, with some natural fluidity to his movement. He’s a smooth route runner. There is some deceptive vertical ability due to his stride length. And he has excellent body control for a bigger receiver.

Here are two touchdowns against South Carolina that show Williams’ defined skill set. On a 34-yard score, he uses his size to wall off the cornerback and make a very nice contested catch.

(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)

Later, on a 19-yard touchdown, Williams runs a good route, makes a catch against tight coverage, and then just powers through the cornerback and other defenders to get in the end zone. Williams is very good at working the middle of the field effectively with his size, hands and run-after-catch ability.

(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)
(ESPN.com screen shot)

Williams showed off route-running savvy with an understanding of how to attack coverage. He’s a natural catcher of the ball, with the ability to extend and make touch catches. He also has outstanding hand-eye coordination with the ability to extend and make tough catches – we saw that on the 34-yard touchdown before.

He’ll be a red-zone weapon on fades and back-shoulder throws. He plays a big man’s game but was sneaky in his ability to win against man coverage. I see some similarities to Mike Evans or Alshon Jeffery, but a little more fluid in his movement. I can also see some of Michael Crabtree in his game.

Here’s another example of Williams’ skill set, using his size, hands and physicality to score a 20-yard touchdown against Louisville.

(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)
(YouTube.com/ACCDigitalNetwork)

WEAKNESSES

The main concern is that Williams didn’t show any top-end speed on his game film at Clemson. He did not consistently get on top of college cornerbacks on vertical routes. That’s a concern. He did not consistently create separation against man coverage as a route runner.

Williams did show the quickness and physicality to win off the line of scrimmage against press coverage, which is a positive. But we’ll have to see if Williams has a vertical element in the NFL.

TRANSITION TO NFL

Williams has the look of a volume boundary receiver who can make catches against man coverage. The strength of his game in college was making contested catches. Can he do that with consistency in the NFL? If the answer is yes, then he’s a quality boundary receiver who can win on the outside.

You’ll see Williams be effective on back-shoulder passes, fade routes, dig routes over the middle (he’s difficult to defend from the outside-in on in-breaking routes), slant routes, out routes and tunnel screens. We’ll just have to see if he can also be effective on deep routes. If a team believes he can be, there aren’t many other concerns about his game.

More NFL draft breakdowns from Greg Cosell:
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes and Cal QB Davis Webb
LSU RB Leonard Fournette
Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey
Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon

Florida State RB Dalvin Cook

– – – – – – –

NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

What to Read Next