The potential of the 2017 running back class is widely praised, yet the wide receiver crop has the potential to be just as good. The class has the potential to feature names such as: Josh Reynolds, Travin Dural, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Malachi Dupree, Corey Davis, Stacy Coley, Isaiah Ford, Ryan Switzer, K.D. Cannon, Cooper Kupp and more.
But if you asked me right now to stake my bet on the cream of the crop, I’m doubling down on Clemson’s Mike Williams. Williams announced he was back in a big way after missing 2015 with a fracture in his neck, logging nine receptions for 174 yards against Auburn in the opening week of play.
Since then, Williams hasn’t quite had the same level of impact from a production standpoint. Yet there is more and more reason to be encouraged by his performances week in and week out. In order to further elaborate, it’s necessary revisit his status entering the season.
2016 Preseason Senior Outlook Report
Physically showing up
If you’ve watched Williams this year, right off the bat you have something to be excited about. Williams has shown zero in the way of hesitation or passiveness on the field. As a matter of fact, Williams has arguably increased his physicality in certain aspects of the field.
Case in point: According to our friends over at CFB Film Room, Williams is winning contested catches at a rate of 43 percent (6/14), which is 8 percent higher than the national average. Williams’ listed weight in 2014 (his last full season) was 210 pounds versus a current 225 pounds. He hasn’t skipped a beat from an explosiveness standpoint. To sustain the level of burst his body naturally holds and be more physical/powerful at the catch point is a development which is going to make him a nightmare to handle down the field.
Sure-handed in his craft
One thing Williams has never needed help with is the strength of his hands. His long reception vs Boston College this past weekend (before he strained his hamstring) was not the first time he’s made a full extension grab. Exhibit A:
I’m highly encouraged by the second reception (post injury). There’s no pause, hesitation or second thought on extending fully and hitting the ground with impact. To further extrapolate on Williams’ skill receiving the football, he sports an 8.3 percent drop rate. That’s nearly half of 2016 Texans first-round selection Will Fuller’s rate of 14 percent from 2015 (according to Pro Football Focus).
One thing Williams needs to do now? Stay on the field.
Williams missed action in practice this week with that same hamstring injury that pulled him from the Boston College contest. While North Carolina State isn’t necessarily Florida State, they’re a good looking program and not having Williams would be a big blow.
Williams himself needs to shake the potential narrative that he’s injury prone as well. While the 2015 injury was certainly a freak affair, the longer the list of missed contests the more questions there will be. Provided this injury doesn’t linger for the remainder of the season, Williams will loom large as the alpha receiver of a loaded class.
The list of receivers with strong pro prospects in this year’s class is long, but none possess the package of Williams. Williams’ blend of size, hands, straight line explosiveness and mobility throughout his frame makes him a special player. He appears to only be scratching the surface of his true potential.