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Player: Maxx Williams
School: University of Minnesota
Position: Tight end
Weight: 254 lbs
Class: RS Sophomore
If one fantasy football position has become hard to come by in terms of quality, it's the tight end. Last season, only three tight ends scored 10 or more touchdowns and only two had more than 1,000 receiving yards. In contrast, there were 21 wide receivers who eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. Imagine if you held three of those 21 1,000-yard receivers in addition to the 1,000-yard tight end, you most likely had an advantage nobody else in your league had. That's why identifying good receiving tight ends are crucial to fantasy success.
When it comes to looking at dynasty options, one can look no further than rookie prospect Maxx Williams out of Minnesota. Athleticism paired with good height and reliable hands make Williams one of the top tight ends of this year's draft. He's not quite Jimmy Graham as Graham stands a freakish 6'7" and Williams looms around 6'4", but anybody who watched Williams in college knows he's a quality receiving tight end that plays more like a wideout than a blocker.
Running Golden Gophers don't hamper Williams
As a tight end that piles up yardage by the chunk, Williams averaged 16.7 yards per catch as a freshman in 2013. He finished with five touchdowns on 25 catches for 417 yards and his biggest catch went for 50 yards. He posted similar but slightly improved numbers as a sophomore, catching 36 passes for 569 yards and eight touchdowns.
It's worth noting that Williams compiled his impressive numbers despite playing on one of the most run-heavy offenses in the nation last season. Employing a read-option system that heavily emphasized the run game, The Golden Gophers ranked 121st out of 128 teams in pass attempts in 2014, opting to throw the ball just 254 times all season. On the flip side, the Golden Gophers ran the ball 599 times, which ranked 18th overall in the country. Head tailback David Cobb was the prime shareholder of those carries with 314 rushing attempts in 2014 while quarterback Mitch Leidner also got in on the act with 126 carries of his own which came mostly on keepers.
All of this led to diminished returns in the passing game. While quarterback Leidner proved an exceptional runner with 10 rushing touchdowns of his own, he often struggled in the passing game which curbed Williams' upside. His 11:8 TD-to-INT ratio was subpar and his 123.8 passer rating ranked in the bottom 50 among Division-I quarterbacks. The fact that Williams was able to finish with eight touchdowns and even scratch the surface of a 1,000 yard receiving season shows just how much the Golden Gophers valued his talent. Williams ended up leading Minnesota in all receiving categories including receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns in 2014.
Where he stands out
One of Williams' most notable catches came against Michigan, where he showed how effective he can be in traffic Watch how he sticks out one hand and still makes the grab despite his left hand being rendered useless as he tries to stave off a Michigan defender.
Another one of Williams key traits in his ability to create yardage after the catch. Watch the clip of this play against Missouri. After catching the ball well behind the line of scrimmage, Williams shakes a defender and manages to drag a defender past the first-down marker.
Williams also has football in his blood. His dad, Brian Williams, was drafted No. 18 overall by the New York Giants back in 1989. His mother was also a standout volleyball player and was widely considered the most athletic of the family. When you consider where his dad went in the draft, that's saying something.
How he will give those who draft him good fantasy value
Williams biggest asset is his size and good hands which should lend themselves to plenty of touchdowns in the red zone. He's not the most NFL ready tight end in the history of the draft as he could still stand to bulk up a little more and further develop his blocking game. Still, he has enough height to box out defenders around the goal line and also possesses the catching ability to hang on to the ball in traffic, an important trait when the things get congested inside the 20.
Williams is a first-round talent and will likely be the best tight end of this draft. If he lands in the right situation, there's little doubt he'll contribute to an offense right away. If he lands on a team desperate for a tight end like Atlanta or Seattle, expect him to be among one of the top rookie contributors in the passing game.