On Thursday, a Clemson wide receiver — regarded by many as the best in his class — likely will walk across the stage at the NFL Draft, hold up his new team’s jersey and pose for a photo with Commissioner Roger Goodell.
It’ll be reminiscent of three years ago, when a Clemson wide receiver — regarded by many as the best in his class — walked across the stage at the NFL Draft, held up his new team’s jersey and posed for a photo with Goodell.
This year’s guy, Mike Williams, has the guy from three years ago partly to thank for his situation. Barring any crazy situations, he’ll be the fifth Tigers wide receiver to be drafted in the last four years and will join Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins as the third first-rounder in that timespan.
“Those guys paved the way for us,” Williams said via phone Tuesday during a break from signing stickers and trading cards at a Panini America event in Philadelphia. “They started it, and we’re just coming in at Clemson and putting it all together and finishing there and keeping it going.”
The NFL's official trading card partner will release Williams' first-ever NFL trading card on PaniniInstant.com following the draft on Thursday.
Williams certainly put it all together in his four years in Death Valley, catching 177 passes for 2,727 yards and 21 touchdowns despite missing all of 2015 with a neck injury. He ranks in the top five all-time at Clemson in all three of those categories, including third in receiving touchdowns. The two ahead of him? Watkins and Hopkins.
Hopkins went 27th overall in 2013 but wasn’t at the draft. Watkins went fourth overall a year later. Williams — who described himself as “a big, physical, dominant receiver” — figures to go somewhere in between.
“I’m hearing everything — early, late,” he said of his draft positioning. “So we’ll find out in the next couple of days.”
Williams said he has spoken with Watkins, Hopkins and other former Clemson receivers throughout the pre-draft process. “They just kind of told me, ‘Just enjoy the process and have fun with it,’” he said.
He’s also kept a close eye on his former quarterback, Deshaun Watson. Watson led Clemson to back-to-back national championship appearances and helped the Tigers win it all last season, but his draft stock has been all over the place. Some projections have him going in or near the top 10, while others have him outside of the first round entirely.
Williams called Watson “one of the best quarterbacks in this draft” and called Watson’s work ethic one of his biggest strengths.
“Heisman candidate two years in a row — I don’t understand why he didn’t win it,” he said. “But I mean, just to see the work that he put in every day, it’s just amazing.
“Every great receiver needs a great quarterback, and I felt like I had that great quarterback on my team. So we just made each other’s job easier.”