Maxx Williams went 55th overall in this year's draft and the Baltimore Ravens moved up ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers to make sure they would get him. There was certainly some gamesmanship there to make sure the Ravens wouldn't be on the receiving end of an offensive talent for the next decade. That being said, the situation played out perfectly for the Steelers. Who knows what would have happened if Williams was still there, but Kevin Colbert expressed that Senquez Golson was going to be the Steelers' second round pick even if Williams was there.
There is no denying that Heath Miller is getting older and the Steelers could use tight end depth and a potential replacement for Miller in a few years. They would have been foolish to waste a second round pick on Williams, however, because their tight end needs were far lower than their secondary needs. As the draft progressed, Jesse James, who was projected in many drafts to be a late third round or early fourth round pick, was still on the board when the Steelers were on the clock for their fifth round selection. It was a no-brainer for them as someone who impressed the Steelers earlier this year at the combine.
We have seen it countless times in the past. Chad Pennington being drafted in the first round while Tom Brady was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Arrelious Benn drafted almost 160 spots ahead of Antonio Brown in the 2010 NFL Draft. Sometimes talent can go unseen, and obviously, sometimes scouts are wrong about who will be a "sure hit" at the next level. I think the same will hold true five years from now when we look back at the tight ends from this draft class. I think Jesse James ends up with a better NFL career than Maxx Williams.
Having a bird's eye view of Jesse James, living in State College, PA, I can tell you that he is more versatile than people think. Many folks viewed 2014 as a step back for James, but this had more to do with a struggling offense than regression from James. Penn State's offense last season ranked 107th in the nation. Even still, James finished third on the team in receptions and yards, and led the team in receiving touchdowns. At 6-feet 7-inches, he will be an immediate red zone target for an already explosive Steelers' offensive unit.
In James' first two seasons at Penn State, he was able to learn a pro style offense from Bill O'Brien, who has notoriously worked closely with Rob Gronkowski in New England. This past season, James was asked to stay at home to block more frequently than in years past due to a struggling offensive line. He is a good pass blocker, and he is decent at run support. He does struggle in the perimeter and blocking in the second level. Both of which will be coaching points as the Steelers rely heavily on these types of blocks, especially with a running back like Le'Veon Bell. Fortunately, he will be learning from the likes of James Daniel, Mike Munchak, and Heath Miller. He is raw in these areas, but he will have some excellent teachers.
Now, time to compare Jesse James and Maxx Williams at the 2015 combine:
Many folks are not aware of just how well James performed at this year's combine. He was an early standout, and it is easy to see why. He actually outperformed Maxx Williams in every category except the 40-yd dash and 20-yd shuttle. He was particularly impressive in the broad jump, bench press, and vertical jump as he rated first or second among all of the tight ends that participated. To put it simply, he has the attributes, strength, and raw talent to dominate at the next level. Rob Rang from CBS Sports has James in his 'underrated Rang's Gang' for 2015 saying:
"James, frankly, was under-utilized in Penn State's offense and I think he'll prove more effective in the NFL..."
Maxx Williams will get all the buzz for the Ravens, and much of it is deserved. He put up some impressive numbers on a Minnesota offense that didn't throw the ball very much the last two seasons. Jesse James, however, is going into the perfect situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The organization won't be looking for a new top tight end until 2017 or 2018, and by that point, James will be polished in some of the areas he struggles in currently. Being able to have Miller as a mentor and some of the best coaches training him, I think he matures into a suitable blocker. The rest is there for James. His ceiling is way higher than Williams. Does he reach that ceiling? I think so, and that's why he ends up having a better NFL career.