As far as early-round prospects go, Auburn likely won’t have anyone whose name is called right off the top. The Tigers’ best bet for someone to go high, however, comes in the form of wide receiver Seth Williams, who opted to leave the Plains after his junior year and head to the NFL.
Williams had one of the more exciting and yet frustrating careers at Auburn. While we wondered if he’d be the guy to finally crack the 1,000-yard mark for the first time since Ronney Daniels, and become the absolute stud receiver we knew he could be, that never really materialized within Gus Malzahn’s offense. Still, his appeal is undeniable. From the first few times that we saw Williams enter the field of play, his value to the team was evident.
Starting out his career with 2 catches for 37 yards in the opener against Washington, Williams actually kept pace with Auburn’s other big receiver in Nate Craig-Myers, and then overshadowed him before the latter transferred midseason. Williams became one of Jarrett Stidham’s go-to favorites over the next several games, and then perhaps saved Gus Malzahn’s job (temporarily) with two touchdown grabs in the comeback win over Texas A&M in early November. His freshman year ended with 534 yards on just 26 catches and 5 scores.
As a sophomore, Auburn would count on him to be a steadying force for freshman quarterback Bo Nix, and he wouldn’t disappoint, helping Nix to a comeback win against Oregon in the season opener in primetime.
His 2019 tear proved him one of the SEC’s best receivers, scoring touchdowns in six of Auburn’s first seven games before slowing down to finish the year. Even so, he finished with 830 yards and 8 scores on the season, and entered this past year as one of the players to watch on Auburn’s offense.
Unfortunately, poor offensive line play didn’t just affect the running game or the pass protection, but cohesion between Nix and Williams as well. After the win over Kentucky, when he blessed a poor Wildcat cornerback in the endzone twice, Williams and Nix failed to find the same page on a consistent basis, resulting in a public sideline argument in the meltdown at South Carolina. One week later, however, Williams caught the game-winning 58-yard touchdown at Ole Miss, and continued to have solid, if fairly unspectacular play during the home stretch. He only caught 4 touchdowns in 2020, with half of those coming in the opener.
So what does that say about his prospects at receiver in the NFL? Let’s see what can help and hurt him at the next level:
- One-on-one ability — Williams is able to win the tough matchups in one-on-one coverage. He can high-point jump balls, and is an absolute monster in the red zone.
- Natural size and strength — in the clip above you can see the power in his hands to grab those passes out of the air, and it doesn’t hurt standing at 6’3 and over 210 pounds. He’s not going to get bodied by defensive backs in the NFL, and should be able to overpower single coverage on a regular basis.
- Blocking — despite a couple of instances where Williams may not have been fully interested in playing, he’s a devastating blocker when he wants to be. With the size mentioned above, he’s shown that he can decleat plenty of defenders to pave the way for his teammates. There’s still the concern that he needs to be fully involved to want to do this, which leads us into the concerns.
- Consistency — sadly, Williams needs to become more dedicated to ensure a long career in the NFL. You can point to games where he clearly wasn’t interested in being there fully despite being the most talented receiver on the field. Whether that showed in his route running, blocking, or general lackadaisical nature, it was pretty clear.
- Technique — Williams relies on his size and strength to win matchups, but a seasoned NFL defensive back will shut him down even with a size disadvantage by winning the technical battle.
- Speed/Agility — while he can outrun certain players (see Ole Miss 2020), he’s not going to outrun most defensive backs in the open field, and he’s not going to slip away like some of the faster receivers in this draft. He’s also not going to juke his way out into more yardage on a regular basis either. He can be a solid possession receiver, but he’ll likely never figure into a true gamebreaker in the NFL without that elite speed or agility.
Williams’ ceiling in the 2021 NFL Draft is likely the mid-second round, but I’d really start paying attention once we get into the third round. There are a number of teams that could use a big possession receiver, like the Patriots, Giants, and Vikings. He could end up paired with Darius Slayton again if he heads to New York, but a place like Minnesota wouldn’t hurt either with Jordan Jefferson on the receiving roster as well.
Overall, Williams could very well be Auburn’s first name off the board, but you’ll likely have to wait until the second day at the earliest to hear his name.