Column: Williams made smart decision in declaring for draft

CBS Sports ranks Maxx Williams No.32 on its big board

by David Nelson

When Maxx Williams announced he would enter the 2015 NFL Draft earlier this month, the young tight end made one of the best decisions of his career.

After winning the Big Ten Tight End of the Year Award and being named a Second Team All-American, Williams certainly leaves his time at Minnesota on a high note.

He also walks away from a Gophers’ offense that could be downright disastrous in 2015.

Senior David Cobb — who proved to be the difference maker in the Gophers’ offense last season after averaging more than 5 yards per carry while rushing for 13 touchdowns — is leaving after four years at Minnesota.

Redshirt senior Donnell Kirkwood also graduates this offseason after being a viable secondary option at running back behind Cobb.

While the Gophers still could see some nice production from the position, it remains to be seen whether any of the running backs left on the roster can manufacture the same success as Cobb and Kirkwood did.

With the running game a question mark for next season, don’t expect a great deal of improvement in the passing game.

Minnesota threw 12 passing touchdowns last season with Williams catching eight of them. The redshirt sophomore also accounted for close to a third of the Gophers’ total yards through the air.

Add in the departure of athletic wide receiver Donovahn Jones following a violation of team policy and the Gophers suddenly need to replace the only two players to boast multiple receiving touchdowns last season.

But it might not matter who’s catching the ball for Minnesota with Mitch Leidner being the one throwing it.

Though the redshirt sophomore certainly is a nice option running the football, his skills as a passer can be described as “underdeveloped.”

Leidner completed 51.5 percent of his passes last season, good enough for 100th in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

There are simply too many question marks for the Minnesota offense next season, and Williams must have understood that.

He now becomes a highly sought-after prospect in a relatively weak draft class for tight ends.

Scouts across the NFL will drool over Williams’ stats, superb athleticism and uncanny ability to catch the football.

CBS Sports currently ranks Williams as the best tight end in the draft, and a recent Sports Illustrated mock draft predicted he would go 16th overall to the Houston Texans.

Williams leaves the Gophers with nothing left to prove and everything to lose if he had stayed one more year.

He took the safe bet and will be rewarded with plenty of cash because of it.