POMPEI: USC's Williams an incomplete receiver
Since Mike Williams declared he would take advantage of the Maurice Clarett rule and enter the draft, so much smoke has been blown about the sophomore that scouts attending his workout at Southern California later in the month will need to pack a gas mask along with a stopwatch.
The truth is he is not the best prospect in the draft.
The truth is he is not the best receiver in the draft.
The truth is he is not the best receiver named Williams in the draft. He's the third-best Williams, behind Roy and Reggie.
"Mike Williams and Larry Fitzgerald
have been crowned emperors," one NFC personnel director says. "What about Roy Williams and Reggie Williams?"
That said, Mike Williams still is a very special player who should go no later than the middle of the first round. What makes Williams unique is he has a power forward's body but can make plays like a point guard. His hands are exceptional. There really isn't anyone like him in the NFL. Never has been.
At 6-5, 230, Williams will be a physical mismatch for every defender he plays against. He will make catches when he is covered, as he did when he reached over Arizona cornerback Gary Love for a 15-yard touchdown last season. He will be an extraordinary weapon in the red zone and a playmaker over the middle.
The primary issue with Williams is his speed. USC coaches have told NFL team officials that Williams has been timed at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash. NFL scouts will see for themselves on March 24.
A slow 40 time isn't that big a deal. Anquan Boldin ran a 4.70 40 last spring and then had a Pro Bowl rookie season for the Cardinals. Other receivers who ran slower than 4.6 when they came into the league include Terrell Owens, Derrick Mason, Jerry Rice and Plaxico Burress.
What matters is playing speed. Rice, for instance, was able to separate from defenders with his legendary burst. If Williams can run a sub-4.6 40, his stock might rise, but it shouldn't. He plays like he runs a 4.65 40, and that is what's salient.
Williams relies more on his size and strength to get open. He doesn't have quickness to separate in short areas, and his routes aren't very pretty, but he pushes off pretty well. Because he can adjust to the throw and catch the ball away from his body, the window he provides for a quarterback to throw to is closer to the size of a glass partition.
Williams has the frame and growth potential to put on another 20 to 30 pounds and probably could develop into a tight end out of a dream. But he apparently isn't interested in a position switch. One of the reasons he went to USC is the Trojans' coaches were OK with him playing receiver; schools in his home state of Florida recruited him to be a tight end. Williams doesn't block with much effort, even for a receiver, so moving him to tight end surely would be a stretch.
Fitzgerald, the other receiver who is turning pro after two years of college football
, is a more polished, more complete player than Williams. A smooth glider, the Pittsburgh wideout has better playing speed and can run all the routes better than Williams. Fitzgerald also does the little things that help win games, like leveling Texas A&M safety Jaxson Appel on a block during an end-around play.
Like Williams, Fitzgerald has remarkable hands, especially for a 6-3, 225-pounder. When Fitzgerald was a kid ballboy for the Vikings, Cris Carter and Randy Moss marveled at his consistency catching the ball. Fitzgerald has great concentration with the ball in the air, and he can turn a poor throw into a completion. He makes so many circus catches he should perform in a ring and wear sequins.
Three men in charge of college scouting for NFL teams rank Fitzgerald behind Reggie Williams, however. Reggie Williams, who is leaving Washington after three years, is the most refined of the top four and the best route runner. Like Mike Williams and Fitzgerald, Reggie Williams will dwarf corners and catch just about everything near him. "Reggie Williams is 6-4, 229, and he will run faster than the others," one of the scouts says. "He will get you the most yards after the catch."
Roy Williams is the only senior among the top four receivers, and it seems as if everybody in the draft has forgotten about the old reliable from Texas. Maybe it's because he isn't the latest craze, or maybe it's because he's the shrimp of the group at 6-2, 212, or maybe it's because some question his route running and discipline.
His athleticism, speed and burst are unmatched. He can elude tacklers or run over them. In one game last season, the first defender hit him at the Oklahoma State 37. The fourth hit him at the 33. The fifth at the 31. Dragging five players, Williams finally went down at the 25, 12 yards after initial contact. No one is more competitive than him, and his hands are close to impeccable.
So when someone tells you Williams is the best receiver in the draft, make sure it's Roy they're talking about