Williams preps for draft

Maxx Wiliams, a former tight end for the Gophers, could be a first-round NFL draft pick.

Minnesotas Maxx Williams displays his skills during pro day at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex on Monday.

Image by Holly Peterson

Minnesota’s Maxx Williams displays his skills during pro day at the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex on Monday.

by Grant Donald

A year ago, former defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman was on track to be the first University of Minnesota player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft since 2006.

Hageman, however, slipped to the fifth pick of the second round, extending Minnesota’s first-round drought for yet another year.

But it seems like the streak will only last one more month, as former Gophers tight end Maxx Williams’ chances of being a first-round pick seems increasingly promising with every new mock draft release.

“You can’t pay attention to [mock drafts],” Williams said on Monday after Minnesota’s pro day. “What’s going to happen is going to happen. I can’t control it at this point. I just have to work hard, and wherever I get picked, I get picked.”

But experts are saying Williams will get picked fairly high.

CBS Sports has the Waconia, Minn., native going 28th to the Denver Broncos, ESPN’s NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper has him going 26th to the Baltimore Ravens and others have Williams going off the board — as high as 14th to the Miami Dolphins.

Though the same experts projected Hageman — a current Atlanta Falcon — to go in the first round and were wrong, Williams’ early projections are most likely valid.

“Hands down, Maxx is the best tight end, and hopefully he is the first one off the board,” Hageman said. “Whatever team is looking for a tight end, they better pick Maxx. He’s the complete package.”

Hageman isn’t the only one on the Maxx Williams bandwagon — it was evident that the 22 teams present at Minnesota’s pro day were mostly eyeing the 249-pound tight end’s skills.

Williams only participated in events that showcased his skills, as he did not compete in timed events — like the 40-yard dash — because he was “confident” in his results from the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago.

“I just wanted to show them what I did at the combine wasn’t a fluke,” Williams said. “I figured why not come in here and show them what actual football is.”

At the combine, Williams ran the third-fastest 40-yard dash in the tight end position group, clocking in at 4.78. His 34.5-inch vertical jump was also good enough for fifth highest out of the tight ends present.

Williams’ speed and jumping ability, which Gophers fans saw repeatedly throughout the season, was visible on Monday, though a question mark remains regarding his route-running abilities.

According to the weaknesses section of Williams’ NFL draft profile, “[Williams] runs upright, rounded routes that lack salesmanship and shake. [He] leans into breaks, tipping his hand and bring[s] tighter coverage.”

Knowing this, Williams set out Monday to try to silence his critics.

“I felt like one route I kind of slipped coming out of, but other than that, I feel like I had a solid day,” Williams said.


The road ahead

Within a couple days after announcing that he would leave Minnesota early and enter the NFL Draft, Williams hired Joe Panos as his agent.

He then moved out to California to train with some of Panos’ other clients — including Hageman — before the combine.

“It’s good to have those veterans around in California. You just get to pick their minds and get those pointers,” Williams said. “It’s definitely nice knowing Ra’Shede, since I can relate back to being teammates. After a while, it’s just football though.”

With the combine and pro day now in the rearview mirror, the process of transitioning to the NFL is still nowhere near finished. Williams said he will continue training in the Twin Cities by preparing for the individual workouts that teams will put him through leading up to the draft.

“Everyone loves Maxx. He is clearly the best tight end, in my opinion, and more importantly in a lot of decision-makers’ opinions,” Panos said.

He added that every NFL team had contacted him about Williams.

With such high interest, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Williams isn’t drafted in the first round. But time will only tell, and maybe Williams will be teaming up with Hageman again, in Atlanta — one of the teams that was present at Monday’s pro day.

“[I] definitely would love having him,” Hageman said. “Truthfully, I would be excited to see him in any uniform. I’m not worried about Maxx. He’s got a good head on his shoulders, and he is determined to see himself in a [NFL] jersey.”