There are massive changes between the world in which Minnesota Golden Gophers tight end Maxx Williams grew up in compared to that of his grandfather, ex-Notre Dame quarterback Robert Williams, a 1959 draft pick of the Chicago Bears.
Robert was a 28th round pick of the Bears, but elected to attend the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He would be elected into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, and between that, had a son, Brian, born in Mt. Lebanon. Brian would play 11 seasons in the NFL, a center for the Giants after attending the University of Minnesota.
Combine the two, you get Maxx, a highly touted tight end with Pittsburgh roots and even a bit of the best Steelers tight end ever blended in.
The Gophers used Williams, a second team All America selection, in a similar fashion to how the Steelers used TE Heath Miller in the 2014 season. A lot of motion and movement, he was often positioned as the lead blocker in the Gophers' ground-based attack. A redshirted sophomore, Williams has some strength and technique work ahead of him, but he's very quick for his size (6-foot-4, 250 pounds) with NFL bloodlines and a lot of room to go, Williams probably lands outside the first round (barring a monster Combine performance) but he's a good prospect who would have a nice foundation on which to build in his father's native city.
Blocking is usually a challenge for young tight ends. Today, many of them make their mark early through their athleticism. The Gophers faced longtime rival Iowa in 2014, and they positioned Williams all over the offensive formation - in tight, in the backfield and in the slot.
They're going to use him on an inside move from the slot here. Notice how quickly he shifts direction back toward the post. He doesn't lose speed out of his break, and it's a sharp cut back inside. That puts the defender instantly on his back, and gives the quarterback a big window to hit straight in his line of vision.
The blocking part of his game needs work, but with an immediate familiarity with the kind of running game the Steelers employ, and a noted strong work ethic, it may just be a matter of time for him. This play may look familiar. The Gophers are in a double tight end formation with two backs in a power I. The Steelers didn't run a lot of power I but they used motion with their tight ends to both balance and unbalance the formation. Williams goes right to left in motion and at the snap, he blocks down on the safety in the box. He keeps driving, making sure the intention of the plan is achieved; getting the running back in space with room to make a move. He recognizes the safety coming into the hole as the threat on the play and works to neutralize him. The recognition here is key.
Scheme aside, though, what NFL quarterback can't use a big receiver with these kinds of hands. The level of coordination it takes to make this kind of catch is unreal.
The Steelers love position versatility. He can block from the backfield as well. Keep your eye on him from the backfield, he lays a big block on the linebacker after targeting him as he goes through the hole. He still has enough left to keep the safety inside, and if the running back followed him, he may have had a seam.Williams is a hard-working player, a willing blocker and a talented receiver. While he doesn't have the right-now balanced ability of a Tyler Eifert in 2013, or the high-end athleticism of Eric Ebron in 2014, he's likely able to contribute off the line as a rookie and on special teams.