Even though the recent injury news to Mike Williams is concerning, I wanted to reach out to somebody who has watched him throughout his Clemson career. Brian Lewis of Shaking the Southland was kind enough to answer these 5 questions about Williams.
1) How does Mike Williams compare to the recent great Clemson receivers like a Nuk Hopkins & Sammy Watkins? Is he on the same tier as them?
Coming out of school I think he is. He may not be quite as fast as Watkins or have Nuk's hands, but he has an excellent combination of those skills and does a great job of catching the ball around defenders. One thing I really like too is his body control. In the Auburn and Alabama games Williams was able to turn his body to catch back shoulder throws, fades, and other types of throws you will see a lot of in the NFL. The awareness and ability to makes those catches is something we don't talk about enough.
2) What would be one area that makes you leery of Williams having success in the NFL?
The biggest concern for me is how Williams will do going over the middle of the field. It just isn't something he's been asked to do a lot of at Clemson so there isn't much film on it. He can certainly succeed doing it if needed, and could be a huge target if he does, but if he's only effective on the sidelines that would seem to limit options, especially as a first round draft pick.
3) What's a story from Clemson that maybe the casual fan doesn't know about Williams?
The biggest thing is how Williams has come back from a neck injury. In the first game of the 2015 season, Williams fractured his neck when he collided with the field goal post. Appropriately enough Williams held onto the ball for a TD, but he was out for the rest of the season. Heading into that season he was projected as a 1st round pick so to lose an entire year was a big blow. But in Williams' first game back in 2016, against Auburn, he did not look like someone that missed a full year. He was the receiver for Clemson in that game and a big reason why we beat Auburn. His perseverance was amazing and shows the type of competitor he is.
4) What's an area of Williams' game that is underrated by many pundits/fans?
Everyone knocks Williams for his "lack of speed" but I think that has more to do with is 40 time. He's more than fast enough on the field in pads and ultimately that's important. Yea, he may not be the fastest guy on the field, but he's fast enough to stretch the defense and burn them if needed.
5) Rookie receivers historically struggle in their 1st year. Is Williams the type that will fall into that category or buck the trend?
I think the big question is going to be how things look from the QB/OL side. Obviously, Philip Rivers is a known quantity at QB, but if the OL is forcing him to get the ball out quickly I can see Williams struggling a bit. It also doesn't help that y'all don't have an obvious number 1 receiver to take the pressure off of Williams. Nuk Hopkins was helped a lot by not having to be The Guy in his rookie year. That said, Williams has always shown an ability to go make a catch in traffic and I expect that to continue. His numbers may not be gaudy, but I don't expect him to struggle with drops or getting open.