What can Gopher Football fans say about Maxx Williams that has not already been said. The guy is an absolute freak athletically. Without him, the Gophers don't have a passing game the last two seasons. Maxx was always going to be a reasonably high draft pick, but after his performance in the Citrus Bowl against Missouri his stock was never going to be much higher. He still leads the crop of tight ends in this draft, but whether he can sneak into the the first round is still a question. More likely, he'll go in the mid-2nd round but regardless of where he goes Maxx is a first round talent.
Always presumed to always be headed to Minnesota due to his fathers past as a three year offensive lineman for the Gophers, Williams became one of Jerry Kill's first key recruits. However his success was not a slam dunk coming out of Waconia High School. Rivals.com ranked him as the No. 7 player in Minnesota, while Scout.com ranked as the No. 48 tight end in the nation. However, Maxx was one of those classic "athletes" as he passed for 784 yards and eight touchdowns as a quarterback in his senior season, while rushing 120 times for 902 yards and 13 scores. The Star Tribune was not impressed, only placing him on their third-team All-Metro squad. His loyalty to the Gophers was apparent as he did not receive any other major offers after agreeing to sign with the Gophers in February of his Junior year.
Williams is the type of tight end that makes you drool when you look at his potential. However, he does have a few flaws that a good team will be able to shape and mold as they see fit, and a bad team...well...potential! Maxx has decent speed, and his leaping ability will be a huge plus in the red zone. However he still is weaker than you would like from your starting tight end, and will definitely have to improve his blocking to make a huge impact. This NFL.com scouting report does a nice job of breaking down his strengths and weaknesses:
Pass-catching, move tight end with straight-line play speed and an ability to stretch defenses deep. Williams comes from NFL bloodlines and has the self confidence often found in a former player's son, but he needs to improve his route running in order to become a more complete receiving threat. Williams led all college tight ends with 9 explosive catches (25-plus yards) in 2014 and should be an early target for teams looking for pass-catching weapons.
Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News also sees the athleticism as Maxx's Biggest strength:
There may not be many elite tight end prospects this year, but this one in particular is a real impressive kid who looks like he can be a red zone threat and an open field issue. The idea of balancing up your offense is what makes teams target versatile threats like Williams at this spot and the lack of tight ends in this draft could move him off the board relatively early in the mix. He sure appears to be the type of talent that can grow into something pretty special as his career moves on. He is not the "can’t miss" type that requires Top 10 consideration like Vernon Davis, but he surely is a guy most observers would have to expect to play a decade in the NFL as a very strong starter.
Of course if you need a refresher on Maxx's athleticism:
A big-play weapon at 6'3" and 249 pounds, Williams can create the mismatches against linebackers and safeties that NFL are salivating over these days. He averaged 16.2 yards per catch for the Golden Gophers, with nine of his 36 grabs in 2014 producing gains of 25 yards or more. Williams also scored eight touchdowns last season, finding the end zone once for every 4.5 catches.
He is not a flawless prospect, however, in no small part because he put just 25 games under his belt at the collegiate level. Williams himself said at the combine that he's not as strong as he needs to be, something that may limit how often his new team can ask him with confidence to block.
Nevertheless, at a position of vital importance to most NFL offenses, Williams is the clear top dog this year.
Whether Williams sneaks into the late first round or becomes a second day pick, he will likely be an appealing player that should be able to contribute as a rookie, potentially on all three downs if his blocking translates.
Maxx's NFL future will depend on how much his team will want him to run block and if he can continue to get stronger and improve that facet of his game. We all know he can catch the ball and he'll always be a major recieving threat, especially in the red zone. But if he can turn into that all-purpose tight end like a Jason Witten, he easily could become the best tight end to ever come out of the University of Minnesota.
The other key will be learning how to get off the line against a NFL quality linebacker. He has the speed and agility to get free once he is off the line, but getting off the line and creating the space to do such will be a tough task his rookie season. If he can figure that out, there is no reason he can't become one of the better pass catching tight ends in the NFL immediately.
So what does this all mean? Do we think Maxx will sneak into the first round on Thursday night? Or is he destined to be a second round pick on Friday? Here is a quick overview of just a few of the umpteen thousand mock drafts out on the interwebs.
- A few mock drafts still have Maxx sneaking into the end of the first round, though most are from early in April. The guys at ourlads.com have Maxx going #31 overall to New Orleans. As do the guys at realgm.com and NFL.com's Brian Baldinger.
- In the SBNation.com NFL blogger mock, the Chicago Bears take Maxx with pick # 39 in the 2nd round. No offense, but would hate to see this.
- Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports has Maxx going to the Atlanta Falcons with pick # 42 of the 2nd round, as does drafttek.com, and walterfootball.com
- Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of CBSsports.com both have Mazz joining fellow Gopher tight end Matt Spaeth with the Pittsburgh Steelers at #56 in the 2nd round.
- Finally, the rest of the majority of the mocks have Maxx going to the Baltimore Ravens with pick #58. Those include Dan Kadar of SBNation, and ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr.
Its fairly obvious Maxx will not slip past the end of the second round with several teams needing tight end help near the bottom including Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Denver. I will predict he ends up with one of the AFC North teams, but only time will tell.