A four-star high school player who barely made it inside the top
200 on a few notable recruiting lists in 2013, Williams had 20 catches
for 316 yards and three touchdowns as a true freshman while playing
behind future NFL players Sammy Watkins, Martavis Bryant and Adam
Humphries. The South Carolina native broke out as a sophomore the
following season, landing on both All-ACC teams (second-team as
voted by the media, third-team by the coaches) after tallying 57
receptions for 1,030 yards - a total that was seventh-best in school
history at the time - and six touchdowns. His meteoric rise came
to a frightening halt in the 2015 season opener as he suffered a
fracture in his neck after colliding with the goal post on a short
touchdown catch against Wofford, leading him to redshirt in 2015
and casting doubt on his football future. He was cleared before
the start of the 2016 season, however, and the promise he showed
two years earlier was finally realized in his junior campaign, amassing
the second-most receptions (98) and third-most receiving yards (1,361)
in program history. In addition to helping Clemson to its first
national title since 1981, Williams was named the second-team All-American
by multiple outlets and a first-team All-ACC performer.
Best Scheme Fit: Vertical
offense, at least initially. Williams lacks the discipline and
route-running to succeed in a West Coast offense at the moment.
His willingness to go over the middle suggests he can be a complete
receiver, but he needs to carry over that physicality to the other
parts of his game that require it (refusing to let defensive backs
push him toward the sidelines, blocking, etc.) Note: All times listed in parentheses
in strengths/weaknesses section reflect the start time on video
- via Draft Breakdown - that displays that skill/trait.
Prototypical size; excels at all three levels (short, intermediate,
deep) and finds a way to get deep despite lacking great speed.
Displays exceptional body control (0:52)
and uses his body to shield off defenders. (0:27)
At his best on high and/or contested throws (0:52,
repeatedly wins on the back-shoulder fade (0:40,
and 50/50 balls. (0:52)
Large catch radius, shows off an impressive ability to dig
out low throws (0:01,
or outside his strike zone (1:20),
especially near the sidelines. (0:29,
Creates yards after the catch thanks to lower-body strength.
Unafraid to catch the ball over the middle (0:27,
or take a shot from the safety down the field. (3:37)
Strong hands (1:20,
and rarely double-catches ball; understands when to use his
hands versus when to body-catch on such throws (1:08)
and will make the spectacular catch downfield. (0:01,
Lacks top-end speed, relies heavily on size advantage, long
arms and ball skills; does not appear to have much of a second
Average at best coming off the line of scrimmage; lacks urgency,
which often tips his defender off to a run play) (1:18);
too often uninspired and imprecise as a route-runner - a significant
problem considering he primarily ran only two routes in college
(back-shoulder and slants).
Struggles to get separation on shorter routes (1:39)
due in part to a lack of sharpness in his cuts.
Doesn't always play to his size and allows himself to get
muscled up against the sideline too often.
Stalk-blocker who rarely drives his defender much one way
or the other; has the necessary size and strength to be a good
blocker but seems to lack the desire to be one at this point.
Occasional lack of concentration on "easy" catches belies
his aggressive go-get-it mentality; focus drops not a huge problem,
but something he was guilty of a few times throughout career.
Missed most of 2015 season with his neck injury.
Williams' ability to show up big in both of his final two games
- against college football bluebloods in Ohio State and Alabama,
each of whom are full of NFL-level defensive talent - bodes well
for his chances to succeed at the next level. Clemson coach Dabo
Swinney went so far as to say "he is the most complete (receiver)
that we've had coming out", meaning he feels Williams is
a more pro-ready prospect than Watkins or DeAndre Hopkins. Clemson's
fourth all-time leading wideout is certainly capable of living
up to that praise, but in case it wasn't apparent from his aforementioned
weaknesses, he's going to need some help. As a receiver who wins
due to size and ball skills at the moment, Williams' game almost
requires him to land in an offense with a quarterback willing
to trust a rookie to win contested throws right away and/or force
it to him from time to time (i.e. a quarterback with some job
security). As a player likely to get drafted in the top half of
the first round, the odds of that happening aren't great.
There is some thought in league circles that Williams is going
to going to be a pretty good pro but perhaps maybe not a star,
much like the player he is often compared to - Jeffery. Like Jeffery,
he should be a red zone fiend and high-end second receiver almost
immediately as his new employer coaches him up on the finer points
of the game. While his upside is higher than that of Jeffery's,
it would be a mistake for a franchise to believe he is the next
Jones or A.J.
Green - he simply lacks the explosive speed the game's elite
receivers possess. Can he settle into the tier or two below them?
If he proves to be a hard worker, certainly. The problem is Williams
isn't the same kind of slam-dunk prospect Amari
Cooper, Watkins, Mike
Evans or Odell
Beckham Jr. were in recent drafts, but there is a chance he
will get selected in the same general area. Teams who take receivers
in that range need them to be stars and/or force defenses to consider
altering their coverage in order to keep him contained. Considering
the speed, route-running and injury history questions he enters
the league with, Williams seems like a much better value in the
back half of the first round as opposed to the top half.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.