It’s one of the most polarizing discussions of the 2017 NFL Draft, who is the top wide receiver in this year’s class? Some will say its Clemson’s Mike Williams, others believe it is Corey Davis of Western Michigan. So who is the better prospect of the two? Let’s break them down by trait to determine.
This category is a little challenging to judge as Corey Davis has not a run a 40-yard dash, and it doesn’t look like he will before the draft. Williams did not run the 40 at the Combine, but he did run it at his pro day. According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, Williams ran a 4.50 at his pro day. That’s a solid time, but even more impressive considering Williams’ 6’4” frame. However, Williams never showed high end speed on tape. Deshaun Watson often had to throw a jump ball to Williams back shoulder, allowing Williams to take advantage of his size. But that was also largely as a result of Williams not having high end speed. Williams’ highlights video shows a lot of back shoulder catches down the field.
Williams does show an ability to create after the catch, but he isn’t a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
While we don’t have a 40 time to prove it, Davis does show high end speed. In the following two clips, Davis makes a catch and is able to beat defenders with speed after the catch, taking it to the house in both instances.
Would love to see Corey Davis paired with Cam Newton. pic.twitter.com/5fqMwQX3k0— Tripp Morgan (@TrippMorgan6) March 21, 2017
But Davis also is able to create separation from opposing defensive backs with speed, as shown here:
This category is pretty easy to determine who has the advantage.
No real debate here. Williams is 6’4” and Davis is 6’2”. Davis is by no means small, but he can’t match the size that Williams brings to the table.
Now this gets a little more complicated. Both Davis and Williams have excellent ball skills. As previously mentioned, Williams receives many back shoulder throws, but he excels at making the catch. Just look at the 2017 National Championship game where Williams made impressive catch after impressive catch.
#Clemson WR Mike Williams winning with the ball in the air #NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/eUEhc8xG1a— NFL Draft Geek (@NFLDraftGeek) March 28, 2017
Williams doesn’t have the speed to create separation, so he does it with his ball skills. His ability to consistently win contested catches is Williams’ best attribute as a prospect. In the highlight tape earlier in the post, Williams utilized his size to go up and create separation while attacking the ball. He always knows the exact right moment to jump.
Davis’ ball skills are excellent as well. Davis is able to match Williams’ impressive catches versus Alabama. Against Wisconsin, and again against Ball State, Davis shows off his own ability to make a contested catch.
Davis doesn’t have the same size that Williams does, but he does have the same sense of timing his jump. Like Williams, Davis has long arms that aids him in attacking the ball. In addition, Davis saw high usage in the red zone during his career at Western Michigan. He was asked to win jump balls on fade routes into the end zone, or just make a play for his quarterback like he does against Wisconsin above. Davis has incredible focus as he goes downfield, his eyes peeled to the ball. However, Davis did have 16 drops over three years at Western Michigan. The biggest reason for the drops seems to be that Davis is already starting to run to pick up yards after the catch before he actually completes the catch. As a breakdown video of Davis in the route running section notes, Davis needs to maintain focus through the entire process of the catch to avoid theses drops.
All in all, due to the size advantage, and the consistent use in jump ball scenarios, I have to give the edge to Williams.
While ball skills are Williams best attribute, route running is Davis’ best trait. This breakdown does a great job of analyzing Davis’ pristine route running.
Not only does Davis have speed to create separation, but he can do it in his routes as well. Being a reliable route runner is so key in the NFL. Crisp route running not only allows for a wide receiver to create space for himself, but it helps to create rhythm between the quarterback and the wide receiver. Williams does not have as developed route running and footwork as Davis possesses. Lance Zierlein writes about Williams, “Route work lacks focus and energy. Creates very little indecision from cornerbacks with his head fakes and jab steps.” This is exactly what the above video shows Davis doing very well. Not hard to call who has the advantage here.
The easiest way to compare strength is based on bench press numbers. Williams had 15 reps at 225 pounds at the Combine while Davis did not participate. Davis did not lift at his pro day either, so there is no bench press number available for him. Thus the comparison is slightly harder. Williams did not show much commitment to blocking in his career while Davis did. In fact, Davis was more than willing to block, and many times Davis could be seen obliterating the man he was set to block.
It’s not that Williams isn’t strong, his bench press numbers alone show above average strength for a wide receiver, but he shows his strength in a different way. As mentioned over and over again, Williams is excellent at winning contested catches. Strength is a huge factor in making these catches. However, Davis is very close, if not just as strong as Williams in the air. His touchdown catch against Wisconsin proves that.
Despite not having a bench press number, I think the edge goes to Davis. Davis is a much better blocker than Williams, and his strength in the air is a near toss up with the Clemson product. Davis has the edge, but it isn’t by much.
Williams ability to win in the air is really impressive. His ability to win 50-50 balls is very reminiscent of what Anquan Boldin brought to the Ravens (although Boldin was more of possession receiver than Williams). Having a player with Williams size is a huge mismatch. His elite ability at hauling in back shoulder throws only makes it harder to cover him. But Davis is more polished prospect. His crisp route running and deceptive speed will allow him to succeed early in his NFL career. Williams is incredible at making catches on jump balls, but Davis is talented in that aspect of his game as well. The videos I’ve included all show that he can go up and haul in a contested catch just like Williams can. Davis can, however, create separation in more ways than Williams can. Williams creates separation with his size on jump balls, but Davis can create separation with route running, quickness, and yes, also in the air.
Williams and Davis are both extremely talented wide receivers, and both should be early first round picks. When deciding which of the two is the better prospect, for me, the small school product has the edge.
Overall Edge: Corey Davis