CLEMSON, S.C. — Mike Williams has been a popular wide receiver name in the NFL draft more than once over the lastdecade. The 2017 edition, though, won't disappoint as the top prospect at the position.
Williams' performance at Clemson's Pro Day on Thursday, including his stellar,much-anticipated 40-yard dash — unofficially 4.49, more realistically in the mid-4.5s —confirmed he needs to be the first wideout draftedApril 27.
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TheCombine belonged to Washington's John Ross, the speedster who set the unofficial pre-draft record with a 4.22 40. Williams chose to not run at the Combine, and it was a good decision, because it gave him a chance to stand out on the fast track of the Tigers' palatial indoor practice facility.
Back on the field where he was a matchup nightmare for collegeopponents as Deshaun Watson's game-breaking, go-to guy, Williamsshowedscouts and personnel men that no one offers a better size/speed/scoring blend in this year's wideout class.
Although he needs to get stronger as a route-runner, his other attributes set him up to succeed while he's working to round out his game.
Just about every NFL team was represented at the workouts of the most talented performers from the reigning national champions. Every team picking in the first half of the first round had to come away impressed withthe 6-4, 218-pound Williams. The handful ofcoaches therewere tied to his wide draft range — from Mike Mularkey and the Titans (No. 5 overall) to Mike Tomlin and the Steelers (No. 30 overall).
Williams' coach at Clemson, Dabo Swinney, didn't need to make a hard sell to those teamsthat hisformer No. 1 can remain that kind of game-changer in the NFL.
"With Mike Williams, if there's only one (defender) on him, he's open. If there's two, they better be real tight on him. He's a handful and definitely NFL ready," Swinney said.
Ross can flat-out fly. The other wideout vying to be the first off the board at the position, Western Michigan's Corey Davis (6-3, 209 pounds), rivals Williams as a big target in the red zone, but he is more limited as a deep threat.
Williams did have a scare with a neck injury in 2015, but he rebounded well in 2016. Ross has more durability concerns, though, and Davis is unable to work out at the moment because of an ankle injury.
Now that Williams has run and run well,there's no doubt he has reemerged as the best NFL prospect of the three, with only a little more than a month left the draft process.
So, how does he compare to those other Mike Williamses?
The Mike Williams from USC,whowent No. 10 overall to the Lions in 2005, was monstrous at 6-5, 245 pounds, but not much else. The Mike Williamsfrom Syracuse, who went in the fourth round to the Buccaneers in 2010, flashed early as abig playmaker with anose for the end zonebut couldn't be consistent.
This Mike Williams is a lotcloser to another Mike, Evans with Tampa Bay.
Given all the wideout talent Swinney'shad in building the Tigers into a College Football Playoff contender and offensive juggernaut, he believes Williams transcends them all — including the Texans' DeAndre Hopkins and the Bills' Sammy Watkins.
"He's the complete package," the coach said."He's the great combination of everything we've had come through here. He's the most complete. He's got justthe dog toughness of Jaron Brown and Adam Humphries. He's got the freaky athleticism and ball skills of DeAndre Hopkins. He's got the explosive power of Sammy."
The name and the program make it convenientto associate Williams with other wide receiver prospects past and present. But the team that takes him should quickly appreciate — and benefit from — his unique pedigree.