With all the madness through the 2017 draft, it would be easy to overlook some selections. With people predominantly chatting about where the likes of Corey Davis, Mike Williams, and John Ross would land, you may not have noticed that 14 receivers were drafted in the first 3 rounds. One that surprised me was Chad Williams going to the Arizona Cardinals in the 3rd round (98th Overall). Pre-draft, Williams was pegged as a late round selection by many with NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein predicting a 5th or 6th round selection. His selection immediately alerted me due to his landing spot. With Michael Floyd out of the equation and Larry Fitzgerald retiring following the 2017 season, Arizona is crying out for a WR to step up. This lends an amazing opportunity for the Grambling State product.
Being drafted ahead of the likes of Chad Hansen, Dede Westbrook, Josh Reynolds, Ryan Switzer, and many others, it’s fair to wonder what was missed. The first thing that might help explain why Williams was overlooked is his off-field history. Williams was a combine snub following charges for marijuana possession and possession of a firearm, prior to his senior season. Thus there were obvious character concerns from numerous evaluators. Mike Mayock knew as much, commenting “This is an intriguing wideout. I really like his talent and ability. There wasn’t much buzz on him because of some off-the-field concerns.”
Furthermore, an additional concern was the level of competition Williams faced in FCS. Playing in the SWAC conference, players are often questioned as to whether they can successfully square up to superior competition. Having said that, Dede Westbrook & Joe Mixon were still expected to be drafted despite off-field issues, and the likes of Cooper Kupp were also expected to go to the NFL despite playing in the FCS. So perhaps it was due to Chad Williams falling in to both categories.
Regardless, Williams was very successful during his final 2 seasons at Grambling State. The 6’1”, 204 pound, FCS Second Team All-American receiver finished his career with 3,062 receiving yards and 28 TDs in 43 games. A full breakdown of his year by year production can be seen below:
What caught the eye of most evaluators was his physical play style and impressive athleticism. At Williams’ size, he ran his 40 yard dash at his pro-day in the “mid to high 4.3s”. He also posted a vertical jump of 35.5 inches and 10-foot-3 broad jump. Lance Zierlein described his play style as, “Playing bigger than his size. Confident in his hands and snatches the ball way out in front of this frame. Shows some physicality after the catch and isn’t easy to bring down.” Furthermore at the Senior Bowl, Rookie Scouting Portfolio’s Matt Waldman noted that Williams “displayed an extra gear of separation and explosion in and out of breaks”. This obviously intrigued many NFL teams as in the lead up to the draft it was reported that he had workouts with Seattle, Minnesota, Giants, Redskins, Eagles, Cowboys, Rams, and Texans.
Immediately following the first night of the 2017 draft, Lance Zierlein tweeted saying that he was “way wrong” on Chad Williams, and that he was going to go a lot earlier than previously thought. Ultimately resulting in the Cardinals taking him where they did.
Following the draft, I immediately went back to study some tape. My main positive assessment is that he has good hands and is a solid catcher of the ball with an impressive catch radius. Rarely catches with his body and often made his QB look good. My main drawback was his route running. As with many bigger WRs, he has tight hips and doesn’t seem very elusive.
As I previously mentioned, I’m incredibly intrigued to see how he fits into the Arizona offence. With Larry Fitz out of the picture and Carson Palmer set to retire, he could be a key cog in an offence with a top rookie QB. He also offers a red zone presence that John Brown and JJ Nelson do not provide. Chad Williams had my curiosity, but now he has my attention.