Name: Chad Williams
Pro Team: Arizona Cardinals
College Team: Grambling State
Draft Status: Round 3, Pick No. 34, 98th overall
Pro Day Results (Participated at LaTech Pro Day)
- Height: 6-foot
- Weight: 207-pounds
- 40 Yard Dash: 4.43 seconds
- 20 Yard Dash: 2.54 seconds
- 10 Yard Dash: 1.57 seconds
- 225 Lb. Bench Reps: 21 repetitions
- Vertical Jump: 35 ½’’
- Broad Jump: 10-foot-3
- 20 Yard Shuttle: 4.21 seconds
- 3-Cone Drill: 7.06 seconds
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- Let’s throw a big slab of meat on the table, right off the bat. Cardinals’ offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin stated, “Knowing that Larry (Fitzgerald) is going to one day walk away from the game, you talk about somebody that can carry the torch… This is the guy that everybody thinks can do that.” Speculation that Larry Fitzgerald may retire after this season may, or may not pan out. Regardless, the fact Goodwin would make such a bold statement speaks volumes about how the club views Williams. The coach could have said the team really likes Williams, or they think he’ll develop into a solid pro, even a future starter. Instead, the team’s offensive coordinator called him “the eventual successor to Larry Fitzgerald.” That should catch your attention.
- Fitzgerald threw the rookie a compliment of his own, saying Williams reminds him of Anquan Boldin, primarily because of the strength of his hands. Making a living across the middle of the field requires a receiver to have tremendous hands and an iron will. That’s a check for Williams in each department. He’s a natural hands catcher, who snatches the football out of the air and does not shy away from contact. Williams gives the Cardinals a level of toughness only Fitzgerald currently brings to the table among their receiving corps.
- Williams has a tremendous combination of speed and strength. At 6-foot, 204 pounds, he ran an unofficial 4.37 second forty time, and threw up 21 reps on the bench at his pro day. No, the metrics alone do not make the prospect. They help build a case for him, however, when they show up on film, as they do for Williams. That pro day performance helped vault Williams from his initial sixth-seventh round projection, to becoming the 98th player taken overall, in round three.
- College production came late in Williams’ career, despite playing for a team which struggled to win games and field a threatening receiving corps during his freshman and sophomore seasons. It also came at a small school, in the lower tier Southwestern Athletic Conference. Some hesitate to place their faith in players from non-power conferences, and this could work to your advantage. Be prepared to strike when players who received more publicity in the run-up to the NFL Draft, yet landed in less advantageous situations come off the the board ahead of Williams in your leagues
- Although his straight-line speed is elite, Williams does not have elite change of direction skills. He won’t be a player who puts up huge numbers after the catch, but he will find ways to beat zones and make noise in the red zone.
- Williams was caught with marijuana and an illegal firearm on the LSU campus, just prior to his senior season. The arrest cost him a one-game suspension in 2016. There’s no way of telling if he’s completely matured after this incident, or if something like this could crop up in the future, and derail his NFL success. Dynasty owners making a long term investment in a player who’s been in trouble with the law must accept a degree of risk with the acquisition.
Michael Floyd never capitalized on his talent in Arizona. In his absence, none of the Cardinals’ other receivers stepped up after the team released Floyd, last season. Running back David Johnson was actually the biggest beneficiary of Floyd’s dismissal, seeing his target-share double, catching 80 of those 120 looks, for 879 yards.
As great as Johnson’s performance was in 2016, the team risk becoming one-dimensional, as Fitzgerald inevitably fades into the twilight of his career. John Brown has the ability to become an elite deep threat, but has yet to display the consistency needed to become a star. Brown compares well to a player like Eddie Royal — who’s shown a knack, not only for making explosive plays, but also for vanishing for long stretches of the season.
J.J. Nelson deserves a long look this preseason, as he made the best of his opportunities in 2016. Nelson is equally as explosive as Brown, and gives Arizona the ability to threaten secondaries with two players whose speed is extremely hard to match.
Yet, neither of these two burners is the type of chain mover who can rack up points in PPR systems and outmuscle defenders down in the red zone. Williams — the MVP of his state championship winning high school basketball team — understands the art of boxing out defenders on jump balls and in tight quarters, the way we’ve seen tight ends like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez do it for years.
And considering the Cardinals have failed, yet again, to roster a viable receiving threat at tight end, there is even more need for a physical receiver who makes plays over the middle of the field. Williams can be this player.
Each of the four Cardinals mentioned above represents a threat to Williams’ playing time, mainly because they’ve been in the system, earning the trust of head coach Bruce Arians. In four years leading Arizona, Arians has never been keen on giving rookies extensive playing time.
Andre Ellington averaged 5.5 yards per attempted as a rookie, yet saw just 118 carries his first season with the team. Troy Niklas was a talented second-round safety coming out of Notre Dame, but has struggled through injuries since his selection, in 2014. Even when healthy, Niklas has seen an appalling nine total targets over his three year career.
Similarly, David Johnson saw only 125 carries, (90 of which came in the season’s final five games) in a timeshare with Chris Johnson as a rookie, despite being the more dynamic runner. Johnson out-rushed CJ2K by almost a half yard per carry, and was a far greater threat in the passing game, with 36 receptions to the veteran’s six. Still, Arians gave Chris Johnson almost 200 carries in 2015, even though the elder Johnson averaged fewer than four yards per carry in seven of the 11 games he played that season.
Many coaches are hesitant to burden young players with a heavy workload, Arians just seems to take it to an extreme. Players need to play their way into becoming great players. They rarely become great sitting on the sidelines.
John Brown’s rookie usage is the most optimistic case of an offensive rookie getting an opportunity during Arian’s tenure. Brown garnered 101 targets his rookie season, in a rotation with Floyd and Fitzgerald. He caught just 48 of those passes, but gained 696 yards, and scored five touchdowns. If Williams sees 100 targets, he would likely snag upwards of 60. Yet, it’s difficult to project a year-one workload this big for the rookie, short of an injury taking Fitzgerald out of the equation.
As long as Carson Palmer is playing quarterback for the Cardinals, this receiving corps has a good opportunity to produce. He’ll turn 38 this season, which doesn’t necessarily preclude him from success. The NFL has seen numerous examples of quarterbacks who’ve excelled well into their late-thirties. Williams dynasty prospects are closely tied to how well and how long Palmer plays under center.
Your long term view of Williams, or any other Cardinals’ receiver must be closely tied to your opinion of Palmer, however. Arizona has done nothing to address the backup QB position, despite enduring numerous scares — including seeing a 6-0 start turn into a 11-5 finish in 2014, where the Cards were bounced from the playoffs by a Panthers’ team which scored just 11 points in a wildcard contest QB’d by Ryan Lindley.
Arizona could always make a run at a free agent QB should Palmer retire after this season. Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins, Sam Bradford, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Derrick Anderson, Teddy Bridgewater, A.J.McCarron, Jimmy Garoppolo, Scott Tolzien, and Geno Smith are just a few of the possible signal callers who could be looking for work next off-season. It’s easy to see the Cardinals getting saddled with one of the lesser names on this list and commencing a slide into mediocrity, which dooms their skill players to irrelevance.
But in fairness, an injury or contract dispute could cloud the future of any team, any given season… just look at the Redskins and Saints. We do our best to make wise long term investments in players, but sometimes, even dynasty leagues are a year-to-year proposition.
Williams is far less-likely to suffer playing with an underachieving QB than players who rely on the deep ball the way Brown and Nelson do. His skill set will allow him to function in a possession role and make a living catching 10-yard passes and stacking up PPR points. In such a scenario, he’d fall into the range of a WR3, who can still offer consistent enough scoring to be a productive rosterable asset.
Lost in the stellar 2014 draft class, Jarvis Landry has proved to be one of the league’s most effective wideouts since claiming his spot as the Dolphins’ No.1 receiver. Toughness and great hands have helped Landry become a top-15 fantasy producer in each of the last two seasons. Williams shares these traits and just needs an opportunity to show what he can do on the field.
Projected Range for Rookie Drafts
Williams is currently the 73rd ranked WR in DLF’s July ADP rankings. His overall draft position of 164.7, places him in the 14th round of start-ups. Among rookies, Williams is currently 33rd, sitting behind players like Cooper Kupp, and ArDarius Stewart, who have far less advantageous depth chart and quarterback situations on their respective teams. Once training camp and the preseason heat up, expect his ADP to begin rising as positive reports begin rolling in from the beat writers.