Written by: Brett J. Pietrzak – Vice President (@BPietrzak01)
After missing the 2016 NCAA Football Championship due to a broken neck, Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams was given a second chance. Williams was able to reel in multiple contested catches, as well as draw a game-clinching pass interference penalty, on the Tigers’ final drive.
Coming into the game, analyst and draft experts have questioned if Williams is worthy of the number one overall wide receiver rating. He certainly passed the eye test last night, as he solidified himself as the Philadelphia Eagles top-target come the 2017 NFL Draft.
| Scouting Report
The first thing that jumps out about Williams is his fantastic size. His massive six-foot four-inch frame allows him to win contested jump balls at will, as we saw last night when he owned Alabama defensive back Anthony Averett on several occasions. With this size comes toughness, as Williams repeatedly stood back up after being hit hard.
Something that is uncommon with big receivers is speed. Mike Williams is projected to run a 4.40 forty-yard dash, which makes him all the more dangerous. He is also regarded as a strong and willing blocker. His ability to play outside will move Jordan Matthews to his natural slot position and also open up the middle of the field for star tight end Zach Ertz.
| The Eagles Receivers
The Eagles wide receiver corps last season was nothing short of a disgrace. This was a group that was led on the outside by drop-prone Nelson Agholor and the uber-lazy Dorial Green-Beckham. The inability of this lackluster group cost wide receiver coach, Greg Lewis, his job.
If you do not believe that they were the main cause of the stagnation of the offensive, take a look at their final season stats:
Jordan Matthews– 117 targets, 73 catches, 804 yards, three touchdowns
Nelson Agholor– 70 targets, 36 catches, 365 yards, two touchdowns
Dorial Green-Beckham– 74 targets, 36 catches, 392 yards, two touchdowns
The rest of the wide receiver core was filled out by Josh Huff, who had mild success before being cut due to law violations, and Bryce Treggs, who made one significant catch for the entire season. Needless to say, it is doing rookie Carson Wentz an injustice by surrounding him with mediocre talent.
| Evaluating Other Positional Needs
The need for a running back is evident as well, as the Eagles are almost certainly going to let Ryan Mathews walk. Dalvin Cook and Leonard Fournette have been linked to the Eagles as possible first round draft picks. While both are immensely talent, there is a surprising amount of depth that should be available in the mid-to-late rounds.
I would rather see the birds go after a guy like James Conner out of Pittsburgh or Corey Clement from Wisconsin. One of these big backs to complement surprising rookie Wendell Smallwood and ageless wonder Darren Sproles should provide the Eagles with enough production.
Now, don’t get me wrong, watching Nolan Carroll and Leodis McKelvin get toasted multiple times frustrated me too, but I do not believe a cornerback is necessary here. This draft is rich in talent at the corner back position, with David Parks’ ranking eight CB’s in his top-20 college prospects. On top of that, the risk level of drafting a CB in the first-round is huge, as only a handful have been successful in the past three years:
When evaluating these numbers, it seems evident that college cornerbacks are not as prepared to make the next step. In this seasons rookie class, Jalen Ramsey was the only cornerback to hold opposing quarterbacks to under a 80.0 passer ratings. For a team that seems close to competing, taking a chance on developing a player when they have a chance to pick someone as NFL-ready as Mike Williams does not make sense.
Speaking of cornerbacks, Arizona Cardinals’ safety/corner Tyrann Mathieu tweeted this last night about Mike Williams:
MikeWilliams somewhere between Julio &Aj Green !!
— Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) January 10, 2017
The Philadelphia Eagles will pick 15th in the 2017 draft, which will be held in their hometown on April 27th through April 29th.