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2017 NFL Draft: The Titans should stay away from Mike Williams in the first round

Williams can win you a jump ball, but questions linger about his athleticism.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Clemson vs Alabama Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Early on in Mock Draft season, Mike Williams emerged as the most mocked player to the Titans at the fifth pick. The player matches an obvious need, so the marriage is an easy one to project. Williams went on to show out against Alabama — a game that every fan had on their television. This threw the love for Williams into overdrive. However, as more people get into the tape and look at Williams, you are starting to see him slide on down draft boards. Why is that? Let’s take a look.

First, the positives. Mike Williams had a very specific role at Clemson. He was the alpha receiver — his game was simply being bigger and stronger than corners. He was Deshaun Watson’s safety blanket, making Watson look better than he was at times. If Watson needed a big play, he knew who he was looking for.

His frames checks in at 6-3, 225 pounds. His length stands out. His arm length creates a massive catch radius that he knows how to use, giving him a big advantage over smaller corners. Williams has shown off nice body control to go with that catch radius, creating plays like this.

Screengrab from DraftBreakdown

The Auburn game — his first game back from a gruesome neck injury — was eye popping. The Clemson offense really sputtered all night long. Just about all they could do was throw back shoulder fades to Williams, which they did seven or eight times, completing nearly all of them. It’s a simple streak route, then Williams puts the brakes on as Watson tosses the ball slightly behind him. Williams showed nice body control and spatial awareness all night long on these.

Williams’ best feature is his physicality and size. He overpowered college corners. He won on slants and inside routes where he could use his body to shield defenders. Here’s a look at Williams fighting through contact to make a grab over the middle. This play is all about strength, which he can certainly offer.

Take a look at another rep against contact. Williams is met at the line of scrimmage with a press, but he’s able to fight through it. It looks like cover two, so Watson knows he will have a window here in between the corner and safety. He hits Williams, who makes the adjustment and takes a shot. This is Williams’ wheelhouse.

So we’ve established that Williams is big, strong and has an outstanding catch radius, but there are some holes in his game worth noting. As I’ve stated before, my biggest concern with Williams is his ability to separate off of man coverage. He won’t be able to simply out-muscle and jump over people at the NFL level.

My concern lies in his agility — his ability to make sharp cuts and get in and out of breaks quickly. I just don’t see it. To truly finish an evaluation of a receiver, I need the agility numbers from the combine in February, where I think his lack of agility will be highlighted in the three cone drill.

Long speed isn’t a deal breaker, but I think he will struggle in the 40 yard dash as well. I’m expecting something close to a 4.6. I’m more concerned with his acceleration and burst, which seems average at best for his size. I don’t think he has the ability to run by anyone.

It’s hard to show you a good example of this, but I’d encourage you to watch for yourself. There just aren’t a lot of examples of Williams separating off of man coverage. He can beat it with physical play, but I’m not sure that translates on Sundays. Williams will have to get better as a route runner to consistently win in the NFL.

Is he a fit with the Titans?

If you’re taking Williams in the first round, you think he’s going to be your number one receiver for the foreseeable future. A receiving group consisting of Williams and Matthews would severely lack speed. If there was one thing that was blatant about the offense last season, it was the lack of speed and dynamic threats.

Williams fits the big, strong and tough persona of the offense, but I’m just not sure he’s what they need. I would think a speedier receiver that would warrant safety help over the top would be the better fit. Anything to empty out the box for Murray and Henry. I think Corey Davis and even John Ross would be better options.

I have a early second round value on Williams. I’d have a really hard time considering him at 18, much less 5. There are better options out there, and I think that will be crystalized after the combine next month.