Can Maxx Williams Have An Instant Impact With The Baltimore Ravens?

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On Friday, the Baltimore Ravens jumped ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round to pick the best tight end in this class, Maxx Williams. I haven’t spoken to anyone who doesn’t love this pick and I couldn’t agree more. Williams is a great all round tight end who has outstanding tape both as a blocker and a receiver, which makes him a versatile weapon for Marc Trestman to deploy.

There are plenty of good reasons to get excited about Williams, however it is important to take a step back for a second and assess how quickly he will be able to adapt to the NFL.

Tight end is a position that has changed a lot over the last 15 or so years, and thanks to players such as Tony Gonzalez, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski and more, teams now consider the position a vital component of a great passing game. Thanks to this, the transition from college to the NFL has become harder for tight ends due to increased expectations.

Take last year’s stand out in the draft, Eric Ebron, for example. Ebron was heralded as the best tight end since Vernon Davis and had all the athletic traits and college production you would want from a top prospect. He broke the ACC record for receiving yards by a tight end with 973 yards from 62 catches. Ebron was rewarded for this and was selected 10th overall by the Lions.

Despite his draft status, Ebron was pretty forgettable in his rookie season with only 25 receptions for 248 yards and 1 touchdown.

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It isn’t hard to find other big names who have struggled with the step up as well. Vernon Davis posted 20 receptions for 265 yards and 3 touchdowns in his rookie year.  Tony Gonzalez had 33 receptions for 368 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Jimmy Graham did slightly better in terms of scoring with 5 touchdowns, though still only had 31 receptions for 356 yards.

None of these are terrible stats and all are valuable contributions, however when you consider what was expected of them and what they have gone on to achieve, then their rookie years can be seen as a bit of a warm up.

The Ravens will be hoping that Williams can develop into a player of this caliber and whilst he might lack the speed of some of the aforementioned players, he does share a knack for making crucial catches. Williams hauled in 24 first downs and 8 touchdowns through 12 games in 2014.

However, given the proven difficulty for tight ends to quickly adapt to the NFL, I would not be surprised if Williams struggles to put up the numbers some might expect of him in his rookie season. He will surely get snaps, and I can see him making valuable contributions both as a blocker and as a receiver.  But I am not expecting a monster rookie year a la Rob Gronkowski or Aaron Hernandez (the exceptions to the first year tight end impact rule, by the way).

Interestingly enough, one player who Maxx Williams has been compared to, Heath Miller, actually made pretty significant contributions in his rookie year.

Williams and Miller possess roughly the same height, weight, and speed and have similar playing styles, making comparisons pretty easy. Miller had 39 receptions for 459 yards and 6 touchdowns in 2005, helping the Steelers on their way to Super Bowl victory. These aren’t the best numbers of Miller’s career, but he did play an important role on a Super Bowl team and you can’t ask for much more than that.

We do have to consider that it was a pretty good team Miller came on to and that surely helped his transition, though it is not exactly a bad team Williams is joining either.  Hopefully that can help him.

With a tough start to the 2015 schedule with a string of road games, I imagine there will be some struggles. However, if the team can fight through these, a home stretch leading into the playoffs could be just what the rookie needs to find his form. Can Williams emulate Miller and help his team on a playoff run in his rookie year?

The bottom line is don’t panic if things don’t happen right away for Maxx Williams. Whether it is towards the end of the season or in years to come, I am confident he will have a large role to play in the Ravens’ offense and I think he will end up being a fan favorite. Just don’t expect a top caliber tight end to turn up in week one, and exercise patience if there are struggles.

Next: Baltimore Ravens Ace the 2015 NFL Draft

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