Maxx Williams continues to resurgence of the Minnesota football program in the NFL Draft under head coach Jerry Kill that began last year with Ra’Shede Hageman. Williams is one of the youngest prospects in the entire draft after declaring as just a redshirt sophomore, but he has a good chance to be the first tight end to be selected in this year’s class between a combination of his talents as well as a class that does not have a ton of strength at that position.
The Minnesota offense was predicated on running the football, so Maxx Williams got a ton of experience lined up as an H-Back in space as well as an inline tight end. They also had him line up in the slot and would motion him into position to make a block. This has also given Williams a ton of experience selling play action and running different route concepts from a number of different spots on the field as a receiving threat. While Williams did not get as many receiving opportunities as his talent might have suggested he should, the Gophers’ offense has been excellent for his development and given NFL teams the ability to see him do just about everything they could want to project him to the next level.
Vitals & Build
- Born April 12th, 1994 (Will be 21 at the time of the NFL Draft)
- 6’4″ 250lbs (Listed)
Williams has a big, broad body but while a great athlete, still appears to have a ton of room to add muscle to his frame. He shows above average speed, excellent body control and good feet for the position. Williams has good acceleration, balance and explosive leaping ability.
His strength and power are a work in progress. He shows flashes but there is a lot of room to grow there. Part of what will make Williams an intriguing prospect is the fact that he will have just turned 21 when the team picks him with what could have been two more years in a college weight program, so there is going to be a sizable amount of physical potential still to be gained. Assuming the listed 250lb weight is close to accurate, Williams could put on a lot of muscle weight without giving up much in terms of athleticism which should allow him to be a far better rounded weapon at the next level.
Route Running & Technique
Williams’ route tree has been relatively simple for the most part, but this appears to have much less to do with Williams and much more to do with his quarterback. There are two routes that Williams runs the most often for the Gophers. The first is short drags where he can outrun opponents laterally to get open and use his speed to gain yards after the catch.
- On 3rd and 8, Williams runs the short drag and is able to get open and pick up the first down.
The second is to sell a block before getting a quick out route, which gets him past defenders trying to play the run and again, allows him to get yards after the catch. Both plays are easy throws that give Williams the opportunity to make plays.
- Williams makes the quick chip, spins outside and gets the catch for the first down on 3rd and 2.
Williams has run more aggressive routes as well, though not as often. He shows some savvy and tries to manipulate opponents to create separation down the field in addition to simply winning by being bigger and a better athlete than defenders he’s facing.
- Williams pushes the defender to the outside, getting him to turn his shoulders before cutting back inside and creating separation for the touchdown.
Williams definitely has some routes the Gophers to run for him and he really mastered them. He has some good habits and shows an understanding of how to setup opponents with routes, playing the man as opposed to just playing the route. The early indicators are definitely good, but he still has a good amount of potential in becoming a route runner, which is exciting for the team that selects him.
Williams shows an impressive ability to make plays on the football, looking like a wide receiver with the body of a tight end. He has terrific body control and flexibility to make plays on the football. Williams has shown great range to make plays on the ball and tracks the ball well with terrific hand-eye coordination.
All of this sounds good and it is good. The issue that hurts Williams, at least on tape, is the fact that he has caught just 61 passes in two seasons at Minnesota. While he has shown a remarkable potential catching radius and the athleticism to be a tremendous pass catcher at the NFL, the tape forces a decent amount of projection in terms of the type of catches he can make at the next level. Teams will get a good sense of this in private workouts and there has nothing to suggest Williams cannot do everything a team could ask for at the next level, but nevertheless, there is a small leap of faith based on a limited amount of evidence and projecting excellent traits.
For example, he is great reaching out and making plays away from his body but he does not have much in terms to show on tape in terms of high pointing passes. This is not to say he cannot do it, but teams may want to further investigate to feel comfortable with that aspect of his game.
Williams has extremely soft hands and does a great job of being able to focus on the football in traffic. In what he has shown, Williams does not drop passes or really show anything that would suggest he would have an issue there. He snatches the ball out of the air, looks extremely comfortable bringing the football in and securing it tightly.
- Williams showcases impressive concentration and body control to make the catch while being able to drag his foot to get the completion.
- Williams makes a terrific one-handed catch, pulling the ball into his body on this drag, wheel combination.
Williams has impressive hands and a knack for the spectacular. He uses his body to box opponents out from the ball and has the makings of a great catching radius. In addition to what he has shown, his hands and ability to make plays on the football should only improve with reps and experience as well as adding more to his arsenal.
Run After Catch
Williams is a smooth pass catcher that makes the transition from pass catcher to runner smoothly. He usually catches the ball away from his body and is accustomed to catching the ball on the move, so he can take short passes and make bigger plays.
For the most part, Williams is a North-South runner that will turn up field and try to gain as much yardage as he possibly can. He has good enough speed and athleticism where if he can get the ball in space, he can pick up chunks of yards after the catch.
Williams is not afraid of contact, is willing to get behind his pads and make teams pay for the trouble of bringing him to the ground, occasionally shedding opponents or dragging them for extra yardage. He tries to avoid going out of bounds, trying to maximize plays and deal a little extra punishment to defenders for more yardage.
- Certainly the most impressive of his runs after the catch, he shows good speed and then hurdles one defender before leaping into the end zone.
Williams does almost exactly what a team would want from him after the catch. He does not waste much time or energy getting his pads square and trying to get as much yardage as possible, protecting the football and occasionally dragging opponents for extra yardage. The occasional highlight play only gives opponents more to worry about when they are trying to stop him.
The biggest benefit for staying in college another season would have been Williams’ development as a blocker. The system he played in gave him experience both inline as well as making blocks on moving targets. Williams is a willing blocker that consistently brings a high amount of effort, but he needs to get continue to get stronger and more importantly, get a better feel for concepts and the big picture as a blocker.
Williams has shown that he can make some great plays as a blocker. He goes as hard as he can for as long as he can, giving his best effort when he is asked to block, which proved to be extremely beneficial to the Gophers’ running and screen.
- Williams gets down the field and makes the block on this screen and just keeps working until he is able to get the opponent on the ground and look as the runner goes by him; great effort.
And while he needs to get wiser and savvier as a blocker, it occasionally resulted in some moments of very smart play.
- Williams does a good job of looping inside to get the proper angle on the block, sealing the opponent away from the play.
Williams needs to continue to get stronger, which is not exactly a huge surprise given his age. He will occasionally get overpowered by opponents, but he does his best not to let that stop him from being a benefit to the team.
- Williams goes to seal the defensive end that is already accounted for by the quarterback on the read, allowing the linebacker to go untouched and snuff out the play.
- This play is clearly going to the right yet Williams cuts his angle short when he should just keep flowing to the right side to seal him from the play. Certainly, this small mistake had no impact on this particular play but could have been much better.
While Williams will make some mistakes on where he should be or how he should approach the block, the effort level is there and teams should be pretty confident that he will get better. It may not happen overnight, especially in terms of his brute strength but his angles and technique should improve and he can be a productive blocker, even if not an overpowering one.
Out of the box, Williams is best suited to play in the slot. He can be a mismatch out in space that can come downhill and block opponents, but he could have some real issues initially if he is lined up inline. It could be difficult for him to hold up physically early on in the NFL. As he is able to get stronger and fill out his frame more, he can become a player that can line up anywhere on the field and become a tough matchup to stop.
Williams has shown he can contribute as an H-Back as well and he could certainly do that in the NFL, but not all teams employ that type of player. This could be an effective way to create opportunities for him as a receiver as well as a blocker, which could make it difficult for opponents to disguise how they want to play him.
The reality is that due to the limited supply of great tight end options in this draft combined with his physical potential, Maxx Williams could end up being picked in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. The tape suggests that in a vacuum, his skill set is that of a Top 50 Pick.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com