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Mike Williams: Is Separation Everything?

(Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire)

Scouting Notes

Mike Williams: Is Separation Everything?

Despite a stellar season where Mike Williams had 98 catches for 1361 yards and 11 touchdowns, there seem to be more questions than ever about Williams as a prospect.

At 6’4”, 220lbs Mike Williams is a physically dominating receiver who ran between a 4.5-4.6 at his pro-day. There isn’t an exact trusted time, but he proved that he is fast enough for his size. Williams doesn’t just win with speed so the obsession over his 40 time is a flawed argument to begin with.

His doubters consistently point to his lack of separation, but he was consistently double teamed and bracketed, which greatly affected his ability to separate. As his coach Dabo Swinney said “We had the Mike Williams rule.

If there’s 1 (DB) on him, he’s wide open. If there’s 2, they better be real close.” Williams size, body control, and positioning allowed him to consistently beat the best corners in the country even if they were close to him.

If you’re looking for another reason to dislike Mike Williams, you may point to the fact he only averaged 4.0 yards after the catch his junior year. This is a lower number than one would like, but when you look closer at the tape you understand why his average was so low.

A huge aspect of Mike Williams game was coming down with 50/50 balls, though when they are thrown to him it’s more like 80/20 balls.

While this is a great ability to possess, it can leave the numbers skewed. On so many jump balls Mike Williams comes away with 0 yards after the catch. This brings his overall average down dramatically, despite the play design calling for no yards after the catch.

Williams also shows ability to be a strong and powerful runner, running through tackles and dragging defenders. If you are worried about his yards after the catch, just ask the South Carolina corner who was taken for a ride and he will tell you that it isn’t an issue.

Winning at the Line of scrimmage

Mike Williams is an elite player versus press coverage. He gets out of his stance quickly and has strong powerful hands at the point of attack. When corners try to press him they fail because he wins the hand battle at the line of scrimmage.

He uses both his strength and quick hands to throw off press attempts with ease. This creates instant separation and a throwing window for his quarterback. When corners try to adjust and play press on him and keep their hands off of him, his footwork is good enough to beat them off the line and gain positioning on the route.

Williams runs a lot of slants, posts, and go routes and winning at the line of scrimmage gives him positioning and at his size that is all he needs.

Body Positioning

At 6’4” Mike Williams will have a size advantage versus every corner he plays. He knows this and uses it to his advantage. On inward breaking routes such as slants and post routes, he gets inside positions giving his quarterback a huge throwing target.

The defender may be close by, but it doesn’t matter because he has already created a throwing window for his quarterback. At first glance you may see a corner in his hip pocket, but at Mike Williams’ size it doesn’t matter.

Even the most talented corners will have to try and go through him to break up a pass, resulting in a pass interference. Essentially, he is a power forward who has boxed out his opponent giving him an easy rebound. We have seen players be very successful doing this in the NFL, and it should be no different for Mike Williams.

Creating Throwing Windows and Body Control

Mike Williams does an excellent job of being open even when he is covered. On the surface that sentence sounds like it makes no sense, but let me explain. He will run a go route up the field with the corner in front of him. He will have around 8 yards between him and the sideline, which is his open space.

He has created an area of the field for the quarterback to throw the ball to. As a result, the quarterback has a bigger throwing window, allowing him to throw the ball outside and give Williams a chance to use his size and body control to win on the route.

Despite the play appearing to be a 50/50 ball, Williams has the advantage and it’s a relatively safe throw. The below play is a perfect example.

Mike Williams is a big bodied receiver who knows how to use his size well. He is excellent in back shoulder situations, being able to stop and turn backwards very quickly. He can put his foot in the ground and turn his body in the air. Once he develops chemistry with his quarterback he will be a nightmare to try and guard at the next level

With Williams size, body control, and ability to high point the ball his major size advantage will be a consistent issue for corners at the next level. In the clip below, first round prospect Marlon Humphrey is stride for stride with him, but Williams’ ability to go up and get the ball in front of him leaves Humphrey with no chance to make a play. Williams used his positioning, body control, and ability to make a spectacular catch on this play.

Mike Williams won in ways that translate to the NFL. He consistently dominated the best corners and teams in the country, winning in multiple ways. His separation concerns are overblown and his lack of speed argument isn’t relevant to the way he plays. He shows power on runs after the catch despite a low average.

He can win in multiple ways and be an impact starter from day one in the NFL as he develops into a true number one receiver. If you are sleeping on Mike Williams, it is time to wake up because the man can flat out play.

Eliot Crist

Eliot Crist is a National Scout for NDT Scouting Services. He also works for Pro Football Focus as an analyst. He has experience in draft breakdowns, tendency scouting reports, and player evaluations. Eliot is passionate about breaking down film, showing the good and bad of players explaining what he sees in a player. He frequently appears as a guest analyst on football podcasts.

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