Maxx Williams: Ready for NFL, Not Ready to Impact!Gene Clemons, FBGP Analyst _________________________________
Many believe that Minnesota Redshirt Sophomore tight end Maxx Williams played his final game for the Golden Gophers in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. After a seven catch, 97 yard day which included a highlight, double hurdle, 54-yard touchdown reception, it seems like that decision would be the correct one. His size 6’4” 250 pounds and athleticism certainly agree. His versatility in the passing game makes NFL fans who appreciate the passing game agree. He certainly fits the mold of the new breed of pass-receiving tight end.
But the NFL is fickle. The most successful pass-catching ends are either matchup nightmares because of their height and athleticism (Jimmy Graham, Julius Thomas) or because they possess the ability to catch and block in-line effectively (Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen). Guys who possess only one of those abilities not only see their draft stock drop, but they end up as journeymen in the NFL. This is the category that Williams must try to avoid if he does not want to be a predictable spot duty guy in the NFL.
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Troy Niklas, and Jace Amaro possessed the size, athleticism, and offensive skill to be day one draft picks but dropped in the draft because of their perceived lack of blocking ability. ASJ and Nicklas were labeled as a “work in progress in-line blocking” and many evaluators believed that Amaro was nothing more than an over-sized slot receiver. In all three cases they dropped to second round picks and spent the season playing in a platoon role.
The lone first round pick from the 2014 draft, Eric Ebron, has spent most of his rookie season in a three TE rotation where he serves as the “stretch the field” end. It’s hard to argue that any of those guys made a mistake by coming out after being selected in the first two rounds of the draft, but it’s easy to see that none were ready to make a significant contribution to their team. All four will probably have long NFL futures, but nobody can truly say they will be elite.
Florida State TE and Mackey Award winner Nick O’Leary had similar stats last season: 33 receptions, 557 yards, and seven touchdowns as Williams this season: 36 receptions, 569 yards, and eight touchdowns. However, O’Leary decided to come back to school this year to improve his stock by improving his in-line blocking. It no doubt will help him in his draft positioning and in his ability to make an impact on the field.
Williams impact for the Golden Gophers is undeniable. Just in the Citrus Bowl they lined him up out wide, in the slot, as a wing, sent him in motion, and yes even in-line. He blocked well in space versus defensive backs and linebackers, but he only asked to block in-line on backside cutoffs. The majority of that in-line blocking duty went to Senior Drew Goodger and Junior Lincoln Plsek. It is something that Williams would be relied on to do more if he returned next season.
Williams has desire and dedication similar to O’Leary, but he has not had the time. There is always the belief that players should get their professional clock started as soon as possible, but quality tight ends tend to have much longer careers than the average player. Williams needs to ask himself, “Is my goal to be in the NFL or be a factor in the NFL?” Another year would give him four in the program, allow him to finish his studies, and complete his metamorphosis from a 210-pound true freshman, who had never put his hand in the dirt, to the 2015 Mackey Award winner.
Oh, and most likely a more valuable NFL prospect.
Minnesota Golden Gophers TE Maxx Williams Post-Citrus Bowl Press Conference