Aug 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens tight end Maxx Williams (87) leaps over New Orleans Saints cornerback Travis Manning (26) during the fourth quarter in a preseason NFL football game at M&T Bank Stadium. Baltimore Ravens defeated New Orleans Saints 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Maxx Williams was the first tight end to get drafted this year and the Baltimore Ravens used their second pick to snag him, so there’s no question that he has value. However, given the history behind rookie tight ends in the NFL, it’s looking like drafting Williams will have more upside later down the road opposed to right away.
In Baltimore’s case, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. It does have its upsides as well as its downsides. On one hand, this could be a positive for the Ravens as they’ll definitely need a strong guy at the tight end position in the years to come. They’ve had effective tight ends in the past who have contributed to their offenses success — guys like Todd Heap, Dennis Pitta and Owen Daniels.
However, on the other hand, with Daniels now gone and Pitta not healthy, the Ravens might need Williams a lot sooner than they thought. While they do have Crockett Gilmore and Nick Boyle in the fold, Gilmore hasn’t played a major role on the offense in the past and Boyle is a rookie like Williams. That said, the jury is still out on what Gilmore and Boyle’s production will look like this season as they’ll get their share of reps, especially Gilmore as the listed starter.
According to espn.com, in the past 10 seasons, there have only been three rookie tight ends to catch more than 50 passes in their first season in the NFL. These guys have been John Carlson (2008), Jermaine Gresham (2010) and Tim Wright (2013).
That said, there’s a great chance that Williams is set to have nothing more than a solid season, which would be 40 catches and 400 yards per espn.com. With the inexperience at receiver outside of veteran Steve Smith Sr., the Ravens will need more production than that if Williams happens to fill a bigger role than expected this year, which is very possible.
Baltimore stretched themselves in acquiring Williams, trading second- and fifth-round picks to the Arizona Cardinals in order to move up in the second round and grab the tight end out of Minnesota. So, the Ravens would love to witness Williams prove history wrong, but given the high demand of physicality at that position, that might be too tough of a task for the rookie.
With Williams, you’re pretty much asking the youngest player on Baltimore’s roster to block like an offensive lineman and run routes like an established receiver. That’s hard to do when you’re making that transition from college play to the NFL.
We’re talking about a guy who has already experienced some ailments and the regular season hasn’t even started yet, which is going to be hard on the body as it is. Now, head coach John Harbaugh has voiced that Williams should be ready to go in their season opener against Denver, but it’s just the fact that we have to even talk about ailments this early, much like rookie wide receiver Breshad Perriman, who has yet to be cleared to play Week 1.
Aug 13, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens tight end Maxx Williams (87) leaps over New Orleans Saints cornerback Travis Manning (26) during the fourth quater in a preseason NFL football game at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports
Still, the silver lining is what Williams showed us in Baltimore’s preseason opener when he made a serious big boy play at the biggest point in the game. Williams has been said to have impressive hands and a great ability to make plays, which was evident on fourth down-and-20 when he caught a short pass and turned it into extra yardage, bullying his way pass that first-down marker. That play opened everybody’s eyes and that was huge given the fact that it led to a game-winning play from quarterback Bryn Renner, who was recently placed on Baltimore’s practice squad.
So, Williams has all of the potential in the world to make an immediate impact on the Ravens, but given history and what we’ve seen from him in the offseason, his impact might be better down the line. If that is the case, the Ravens aren’t necessarily losing out.
With Gilmore as the starter, Williams will have an opportunity to not only learn from him, but he’ll also get some reps behind Gilmore and if he and Joe Flacco develop a chemistry, the sky is only the limit for Williams and for Baltimore’s offense moving forward.
Feb 20, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers tight end Maxx Williams catches a pass during the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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