The Clemson Tigers pro day attracted a plethora of NFL personnel with a few GM's, a handful of NFL head coaches, several positional coaches, and over 100 NFL scouts in attendance, and yes, the 49ers were there too. Added to the ginormous presence of talent evaluators, the popular event also hosted over 50 media members including NFL Network’s Mike Mayock, and the live broadcast of the event on the WatchESPN app (my viewing choice).
The Clemson team is talent laden, but the two prospects everybody had questions about were WR Mike Williams and QB Deshaun Watson.
There is no question Mike Williams is a very talented individual, and for most evaluators, draft analysts, and couch GM's, it's been a head-to-head horse race coming down to the final wire between Mike Williams and Western Michigan's WR Corey Davis. Both elite prospects in their own rights, but both in need of questions being answered about their speed. Unfortunately, Davis missed out on the opportunity to showcase his speed potential when yesterday, at Western Michigan's pro day, he did not participate in the workouts, as well as skipping the drills at the NFL Scouting Combine. Davis is recovering from ankle surgery he received several weeks back.
Thursday was Mike Williams’s day to shine and potentially take the lead as the top WR in this year’s draft class, and that is what he did.
Williams impressed scouts and checked off boxes on his speed after posting a 4.51 40 on his first attempt, and a 4.49 40 on his second attempt. The 40 times were courtesy of ESPN during their Live broadcast of the event. Tony Pauline confirmed those same numbers and one of the scouting community's greats, Gil Brandt, reported 4.53 40 and a 4.51 40. Subsequent reports have suggested in the higher 4.5 range, but anything below 4.6 was going to check the box for him.
Considering Mike Williams is 6-foot-3 5/8 at 215 pounds, the swift time is impressive. According to Brandt, although Williams let a couple of catchable balls slip out of his hands, the general consensus was he had a good workout. Moreover, Brandt found a similarity between Williams and Keyshawn Johnson - the USC phenom and 1st overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, both exhibiting quality size, athleticism, and explosiveness.
Williams is a big-play target with a superb combination of size, length, deep speed, smoothness, strength, and athleticism. He is extremely talented with great length, ball skills, body control (has exceptional adjustment on back shoulder throws), and speed (he gets to top speed very fast). Williams also displays decent suddenness in his game getting in and out of his breaks with explosion and fights for the ball utilizing his massive length and strength out muscling defenders (wins in a crowd) plucking balls away from his frame and large and impressive catch radius. Although he wins in a crowd, there is a concern that he's always in a crowd (separation issues).
A true knockout home run vertical threat with good hands, Williams also bestows a tremendous ability to take a short pass breaking arm tackles and eating up ground with his long-strides gaining and fighting for YAC. He has the size, strength, body control, and leaping ability (above the rim skills) to be an excellent red zone target. Has a tendency to have focus drops and needs to refine his route running (very raw and rounds out routes). Per Pro Football Focus, Williams was targeted 142 times completing 99 receptions with 6 drops grading out with a drop rate percentage of 5.71.
Despite showing up when the lights are the brightest, Deshaun Watson remains an enigma throughout the draft realm. The seesaw of positive and negative reviews on Watson seems never ending. Moreover, considering the lackluster talent of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft, the love-hate tug of war fiasco of trying to push the QB position up the draft is likely creating headaches for teams in desperate need of a signal caller.
Nevertheless, the consensus of Watson at his pro day was positive, and although many feel his performance at the combine was much better, overall, he did a good job yesterday.
Watson stood on his combine numbers and was focused on positional drills. Per Mayock, Watson threw about 60 passes and Mayock saw improved footwork, better trajectory on the football, and although he feels his feet are a work in progress, he believes Watson had a really strong day.
NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah received feedback from one scout and from his perspective, it sounded more of a "meh" type of performance.
Scout at Clemson on Watson's day:— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 16, 2017
Average day. Inconsistent timing/placement...solid on deep ball. It was a B-/C+ type workout.
Brandt confirmed the mix reviews of Watson, and heard from those at hand, some people liked what they saw, others not so much.
Tony Pauline shared his views with others at the event, and the consensus was:
"His accuracy and timing on deep outs and out to the flanks will be an issue for teams. A longtime friend affiliated with Clemson told me Watson struggles throwing to his left and it showed today."
Moreover, Pauline also stated:
"I thought Deshaun Watson threw the ball better during the combine. Much has been made about Watson’s ball speed and the MPH [49 mph – below the 55 mph threshold]. I’m more concerned with receivers waiting for passes to arrive or slowing up in routes so the ball can arrive versus MPH on the ball. I saw that often today. That’s a combination of ball speed as well as timing, and it’s a dangerous intangible on Sundays."
What does this all mean for Watson's draft status? Does he move up, or fall a few pegs back?
From my perspective, Deshaun Watson is arguably one of the top quarterback prospects in this years' draft class (albeit not a very strong class). Although he's had a slow start in the 2016 season and really has not progressed from the year prior, Watson is a dynamic playmaker displaying terrific arm strength (can make throws all over the field with a quick delivery), excellent touch, top-notch athleticism with impressive footwork, superb football IQ with sound poise in the pocket (and outside of the pocket), excellent awareness, and solid accuracy (needs more consistency on downfield accuracy). He reads the field in halves and has a tendency to stare down receivers.
An area of concern is sporadic accuracy, which is not from horrifically poor mechanics on his throws (although continuous improvement wouldn't hurt), he just misses poorly at times (tends to be frustratingly hot and cold). On the run, Watson is fluid in motion with excellent vision, suddenness, speed, and is a chore to bring down with his strength and elusiveness. A true dual-threat athletic quarterback, Watson is a mature person with tremendous leadership skills a true gamer and is clutch in big games - he's a winner.
Would I draft Watson with our first round pick. Well, when I ask my Magic Scouting 8-Ball, the answer I get is, "My reply is no." I agree with my handheld Oracle decision maker; nevertheless, I feel that if you are drafting in the top-10 you are hoping for an outstanding player regardless of position. Drafting for needs seems reasonable, but best player available is the philosophy I follow, because needs always change. With our first pick, it is imperative to come out with a Pro Bowl player, and reaching for a QB, is a philosophy I'm not a fan of.
The question for today then, if the only options were Deshaun Watson or Mike Williams with our first round draft choice, who would you pick?
One more thing... <in my Columbo voice>, former Clemson punter, and current 49ers punter Bradley Pinion was in attendance rooting on his former teammates at their pro day, specifically helping out punter Andy Teasdall.
Below are some draft-eligible prospects to keep an eye on from Clemson's pro day, attended by 49ers scouts:
QB Deshaun Watson, No. 4, 6024 - 221 lbs., 4.66 40
RB Wayne Gallman, No. 9, 6004 - 215 lbs., 4.56 40
WR Mike Williams, No. 7, 6'3" - 220 lbs., 4.49 40
WR Artavis Scott, No. 3, 5101 - 193 lbs., 4.57 40
TE Jordan Leggett, No. 16, 6054 - 258 lbs., 4.75 40
C Jay Guillermo, No. 57, 6'2" - 325 lbs., 5.34 40
DT Carlos Watkins, No. 94, 6'3" - 309 lbs., 5.06 40
ILB Ben Boulware, No. 10, 6'0" - 238 lbs., 4.85 40
CB Cordrea Tankersley, No. 25, 6012 - 199 lbs., 4.40 40
SS Jadar Johnson, No. 18, 603 - 206 lbs., 4.61 40
P Andy Teasdall, No. 32, 5'11" - 190 lbs., 4.90 40