NFL Draft

2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Clemson WR Mike Williams

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

#7 Mike Williams / WR / Clemson: 6’4”, 218lbs

The Good:

– Great body control and catch radius
– Nearly uncoverable on back-shoulder fades
– Excellent red zone target with good jumping ability; able to high point the ball
– Varies his speed on routes to keep DBs off-balance
– Strong hands facilitated contested catches
– Showed good strength and ability to break tackles after the catch
– Prototypical physical size
– Great swim-release move to beat press coverage on in-breaking routes
– Fearless when making receptions across the middle
– Good stop/start ability
– Demonstrated a good understanding of opposing defenses: ran hot routes when required and was also able to find soft spots in zone coverages
– Good field awareness and ability to keep feet inbounds when making sideline receptions

The Bad:

– Did not demonstrate elite separation ability on verticals
– Route Running needs some improvement: often rounded his out-routes, rarely utilized head/body fakes before his cuts, and did not consistently stem his routes
– Below average blocker, especially for having such a big frame
– Needs to develop more finesse in his release: he often relied on his physicality to push through press-coverage; however, this strategy will be less effective in the NFL
– Occasionally had inexplicable drops; (to be fair, this was an infrequent occurrence)


– Career Stats: 38 games, 177 receptions, 2,727 yards (15.4 avg.), 21 TDs
– Combine: 15 reps on Bench Press, 32.5-inch vertical jump, 10’1” broad jump, 4.49s 40-yard dash (at Clemson Pro-Day)
– 2016: Second-Team All-American (by Phil Steele, SB Nation, and Walter Camp), First-Team All-ACC (media, coaches). Second-most receptions and third-most receiving yards in a season in Clemson history.
– 2015: Suffered fracture in his neck after colliding with the goal post padding on Clemson’s first drive of the season, a four-yard touchdown catch
– 2014: Second-Team All-ACC (media), Third-Team All-ACC (coaches), Third-Team All-ACC (College Sports Madness and Phil Steele)

Film Breakdown:

Mike Williams was extremely impressive on film and displayed many of the skills required to be an elite NFL receiver. His exceptional catch radius and jumping ability make him a dangerous target in the red zone; while his body control and overall physicality make him a constant big-play threat. As a result, it is easy to see why he will be a top pick in this year’s draft and why so many people believe he has a bright future on Sundays.

The back-shoulder fade was William’s signature route at Clemson and it showcases many of the skills that make him a highly-regarded prospect. For example, in order to be successfully executed, he must use his fantastic body control to quickly break from his original route, as well as his elite catch radius to haul in catches over disruptive defenders. Additionally, on this play verse Ohio State, Williams shows good field awareness by saving space on the outside, which allows room to make the reception inbounds and gives Deshaun Watson a clean area to make the throw:

Here against Auburn, Williams again completes a back-shoulder fade by utilizing good body control and excellent stop/start ability. He does a great job of pressing hard upfield and eating the DB’s cushion; while also remaining flexible enough to quickly cut-off his vertical pattern. He was basically uncoverable on these routes:

Williams strength and ability to break tackles is another beneficial component of his game. For example, in this clip against South Carolina, he carries a defender on his back, while simultaneously breaking multiple tackles, en route to a 19-yard touchdown. Although he could have run this slant pattern a little sharper, this play highlights his overall physicality, which is an asset that will be a big help as he acclimates to the more aggressive style of play in the NFL:

In this play against Florida State, Williams shows his Football-IQ and understanding of opposing defenses. Instead of blindly running his pre-snap assignment, he adapts to Florida State’s corner blitz by converting his pattern into a “hot zero” route. This adjustment gives Watson an easy outlet option and keeps the Clemson offense moving forward:

On the negative side, one reason that Williams had to frequently convert his verticals into back-shoulder fades was because he could not consistently separate from defensive backs. Even on plays where he did run a true vertical, he often struggled to separate by more than a yard or truly “burn” his defender. Consequently, he may have some difficulty getting open on deep routes against the faster, more athletic NFL corners. This play against Georgia Tech is just one example of a DB matching him stride-for-stride downfield:

Williams route running also needs some improvement. He was not very deceptive in setting up his routes (needs to use more head/body fakes and better stems) and he also failed to make crisp cuts on slants and outs. For example, in this pattern against Auburn, Williams rounds his out-route, which causes the pass to come in low. If he makes a sharp cut and runs straight down the line, this throw is probably on the money:

Lastly, although Williams was an extremely reliable and sure-handed receiver, he occasionally dropped very easy passes. This was not a constant problem and it is most likely the result of small lapses in focus; however, it is still a noteworthy feature of his game. This dropped touchdown against Auburn illustrates the problem:

Overall, Mike Williams is a great receiver and one of the top talents, for any position, in this year’s draft. He has unique physical gifts, a decent football mind, and will likely improve these attributes with the benefit of professional coaching. His random lapses in focus and occasional difficulty in separating from defenders on deep routes are mildly concerning; however, neither are fatal flaws or things that significantly limits his NFL potential.

Projection: Day 1

Games Watched: at Auburn, at Georgia Tech, vs Louisville, at Florida State, vs South Carolina, vs Pittsburgh, vs Ohio State

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun Watson Haason Reddick Marshon Lattimore Corey Clement Tim Williams
Jourdan Lewis Takkarist McKinley Brad Kaaya Nathan Peterman O.J. Howard
Charles Harris Alvin Kamara Tyus Bowser David Njoku DeMarcus Walker
Chidobe Awuzie DeShone Kizer Marlon Mack Cameron Sutton Zach Cunningham
Corey Davis Carl Lawson Patrick Mahomes Kareem Hunt Evan Engram
Derek Rivers Ryan Anderson Joshua Dobbs Jordan Leggett Samaje Perine
Corn Elder Bucky Hodges James Conner Cooper Kupp Stanley Williams
Fred Ross Jamaal Williams George Kittle Ejuan Price Chris Wormley
Jeremy McNichols Joe Mathis Derek Barnett Amba Etta-Tawo Gareon Conley
Taco Charlton  Elijah McGuire Ryan Switzer Tanoh Kpassagnon Tre’Davious White
Brian Hill Matthew Dayes Donnel Pumphrey Josh Reynolds Nazair Jones
De’Veon Smith Davis Webb Obi Melifonwu TJ Watt John Ross
Jerod Evans Vince Biegel Josh Carraway Josh Malone Kevin King
Fadol Brown Chris Godwin Nate Gerry Jordan Willis Stacy Coley
Zay Jones Jimmie Gilbert Glen Antoine Tarell Basham Duke Riley
Rayshawn Jenkins Chad Kelly Trey Hendrickson Jeremy Sprinkle Joe Williams
D’Onta Foreman Carlos Watkins Damontae Kaze Wayne Gallman Willie Quinn
Xavier Woods Elijah Hood Malik McDowell Desmond King Solomon Thomas
Cordrea Tankersley Raekwon McMillan Josh Harvey-Clemons Christian McCaffrey Chris Carson
Montravius Adams Aaron Jones Mack Hollins Deatrich Wise Jr Adoree’ Jackson
JuJu Smith-Schuster Josh Jones Davon Godchaux Lorenzo Jerome Quincy Wilson
Stevie Tu’ikolovatu
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