NFL draft profile: No. 14 — Clemson WR Mike Williams, big and athletic playmaker who lacks deep speed

Clemson WR Mike Williams
6-foot-4, 218 pounds

Key stat: After suffering a season-ending neck injury in 2015 season opener, Williams returned with a vengeance for the national champions with 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 TDs.

Clemson WR Mike Williams fits the profile of a possible No. 1 NFL receiver — in time. (AP)
Clemson WR Mike Williams fits the profile of a possible No. 1 NFL receiver — in time. (AP)

The skinny: Williams emerged from a tiny South Carolina team to become a 4-star recruit who stayed home at Clemson. Was contributor as true freshman, starting three games but missing time with torn ankle ligaments. Emerged as a starter and go-to receiver in 2014, averaging 18.1 yards per catch. In the 2015 season opener against Wofford, Williams suffered a neck fracture after running into the goal post on a touchdown as the Tigers would go on to a 14-1 record and a loss in the college football national championship to Alabama. Celebrated his return to full health in 2016 as Clemson’s leading receiver with nine-catch, 174-yard performance in opener against Auburn and capped final season with eight-catch, 94-yard, one-TD performance in title-game rematch victory over ‘Bama.

Williams earned his degree and entered the 2017 NFL draft following his redshirt junior season. He opted not to run the 40-yard dash or the shuttle drills at the NFL scouting combine but ran them two weeks later at his pro day. Turned in times of 4.53 and 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash after some pre-combine predictions feared Williams might not break 4.6 seconds. He turns 23 in October.

Best-suited destination: Williams ideally will land with a team that has a speed complement on the other side of the field, which would allow him to develop over time and not be thrust into a No. 1 role immediately. Although Williams has that potential, it would be perfect if he could reach that plateau, say, in Year 3. Teams that could be very interested in Williams services include the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Chargers.

Upside: Has a receiver physique pretty much how you’d draw it up on paper and possesses requisite athleticism to match. Terrific size, movement skills and body control. Wins in the air and has long arms. Could be a big asset to inaccurate quarterback with his ability to high-point, track and adjust to the ball midair. Dials in on the ball and stakes a claim for it — especially in the red area. Takes it personally when he doesn’t come down with 50-50 balls. Watch here as Williams shows terrific concentration and body control to come down with the fade along the sideline against Ohio State in the college football playoff semifinal game:

Clemson WR Mike Williams shows off his body control and concentration against Ohio State. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
Clemson WR Mike Williams shows off his body control and concentration against Ohio State. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Has the physical tools to be a solid blocker if he works in this area. Good playing speed and combine 40 (even on a notoriously fast track) quelled some of the fears that Williams didn’t have a top gear. Attacks press coverage with strength and aggressiveness and can outmatch most corners physically. Terrific on fade routes and back-shoulder throws, which makes life hell on corners, especially those who are prone to gambling. Can be a factor on all three levels of the field. Has enough juice to run quick, decisive routes and gain yards after the catch — here’s another play from the Ohio State game:

Watch Mike Williams attack a talented Buckeyes secondary and make yards after the catch. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
Watch Mike Williams attack a talented Buckeyes secondary and make yards after the catch. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Productive — Williams had five catches or more in 13 of 15 games, and the two games he did not reach that mark came in early season tuneups against Troy and South Carolina State as he was working his way back after missing the season prior.

Downside: Injury history must be carefully vetted. Following neck injury in 2015, Williams took big helmet-to-helmet hits against Florida State and Alabama last season. Plays a physical brand of football and doesn’t seek to avoid contact, making him potentially more susceptible to big hits and long-term injury worries. Doesn’t create a lot of separation because of speed limitations. Catches most of his passes in a crowd and could have a lower success rate against more gifted NFL playmakers. Surrounded by a host of weapons at Clemson and saw many favorable matchups because of the presence of wide receivers Artavis Scott and Hunter Renfroe and tight end Jordan Leggett, and opposing defenses were forced to respect the terrific running ability of Wayne Gallman and quarterback Deshaun Watson. Didn’t see a ton of true double coverage like a typical college No. 1 target does.

Still looks like a bit of a basketball player learning the intricacies of football. Routes aren’t always precise and crisp. Can mistime his jumps and miss some passes. Has a tendency to drift a bit on plays not designed to go his direction. Concentration drops seemed to increase as 2016 season wore on. Will lose a little focus and field awareness occasionally, as he did on this would-be touchdown against Georgia Tech — Williams easily beats the jam, gets free, has ample space to operate but can’t get his foot down inbounds:

Mike Williams catches the would-be TD against Georgia Tech but can’t get his foot down. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)
Mike Williams catches the would-be TD against Georgia Tech but can’t get his foot down. (Draftbreakdown.com, via YouTube)

Fifty three percent of his 2016 yardage production came in only five games. Average hand size, especially for his frame. Lost two fumbles last season. Still not where he should be as a blocker — has all the physical tools to dominate in that area but rarely does.

Scouting hot take: “I am not sure I see a true [No. 1 receiver] right now. But I think he can become that one day.” — AFC receivers coach

Player comp: Has some Sidney Rice to his game, even if Williams doesn’t run quite as well.

Expected draft range: Top-20 pick

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker
No. 34: Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
No. 33: Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey
No. 32: Florida CB Quincy Wilson
No. 31: Tennessee RB Alvin Kamara
No. 30: Michigan DB-RS Jabrill Peppers
No. 29: Alabama OT Cam Robinson
No. 28: Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
No. 27: LSU CB Tre’Davious White
No. 26: Missouri DE Charles Harris
No. 25: UCLA pass rusher Takkarist McKinley
No. 24: Michigan DE Taco Charlton
No. 23: Wisconsin OT Ryan Ramczyk
No. 22: Utah OT Garett Bolles
No. 21: Western Kentucky OG-C Forrest Lamp
No. 20: Florida State RB Dalvin Cook
No. 19: Miami (Fla.) TE David Njoku
No. 18: Tennessee DE Derek Barnett
No. 17: Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
No. 16: North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky
No. 15: Washington WR John Ross

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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