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NFL Draft: Player Profile - Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State
John Tuvey
March 18, 2009
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Derrick Williams, WR, Penn StateMeasurables:
Combine height: 5-11 1/2
Combine weight: 194 pounds
Combine 40 time: 4.62 seconds

Williams’ numbers as a senior were good enough to be named first team all-Big 10, but they were hardly jaw-dropping: 44 catches for 485 yards and four touchdowns, with another 257 yards and three touchdowns on 43 carries (6.0 yards per carry). For his four-year Nittany Lion career Williams caught 161 balls for 1,743 yards and nine touchdowns, adding another 650 yards and eight touchdowns on 117 rushing attempts.

Skill Set:
Williams entered Penn State as one of the most heralded recruits in school history—which is saying something for a school with the Nittany Lions’ football tradition; put in that context, concerns that he failed to live up to the considerable hype aren’t nearly as damning. Williams has decent size and gets to top speed quickly; his 4.6 40 time at the Combine isn’t impressive, but defensive backs couldn’t keep up with him at the Senior Bowl so it may be a case of his game speed not translating to the track. As a receiver Williams works to get open and is adept at finding holes in zone coverage; once he has the ball in his hands he shows good balance and a burst in the open field. His versatility—he had a game-high 124 all-purpose yards at the Senior Bowl and brings running, receiving, and return skills to the table—is his greatest trait, making him an intriguing candidate to play the slot or even see work in the Wildcat formation; he is a former high school quarterback.

The problem with all of Williams’ skills is that they never translated to eye-popping production at the college level. Certainly, his scheme and supporting cast contributed to the subdued stats, but scouts are also concerned that his playmaking abilities as a return man and even as a runner didn’t seem to convert to similar success in the passing game. While scouting reports generally praise his hands, they also note he too frequently lost concentration (looking to run before he had the ball, perhaps) and dropped catchable balls. Williams’ route-running also needs polish, though that tends to be the case for most receivers transitioning from college to the NFL. Bottom line, Williams still has plenty of unfulfilled potential from his Penn State days—but all it takes is one team to believe he can blossom on Sundays to make him an early selection on draft day.
Possible Destinations:
Despite Williams’ potential it’s unlikely an NFL team is looking to him to come into the league as a No. 1 receiver. His skills seem best suited for a WCO type of attack, or for a team that plans to use him out of the slot and in the return game. In the bottom half of the second round—probably the earliest teams will start looking at Williams—the Eagles (53) and Vikings (54) both offer the right fit and an opportunity for immediate playing time. The Ravens (57), Panthers (59), Giants (60), and Colts (61) would also seem like potential landing spots towards the end of the draft’s first day. Should Williams still be on the board when Sunday rolls around, the Lions (65), Chiefs (67), Seahawks (68) and Jaguars (72) might all be interested.

Fantasy Impact:
While a talented yet underproducing collegian stepping up at the NFL level is hardly unheard of, it’s difficult to see Williams taking the league by storm as a rookie. He doesn’t project as a No. 1 receiver—not right out of the gate, anyway—and he may not elevate higher than third receiver/return man in his initial campaign. Even the most adroit No. 3s rarely make a fantasy splash, so in a best-case situation for Williams he’ll mix a little bit of return-game upside with mediocre receiver production to warrant consideration as a bye-week plug-in or matchup play—and that’s discounting all the evidence over the past few seasons that rookie receivers are rarely more than fantasy bit players.

Of course, Williams still has all that mouth-watering potential that’s yet to be fulfilled. And maybe in the NFL he’ll find the right offensive scheme, the right quarterback, and the right coaching staff to turn potential (French for “hasn’t done anything yet”) into bona fide productivity. You certainly won’t have to spend a high dynasty-league pick to acquire that potential, so you could do worse with a late selection than stashing Williams away on your roster and hoping in a year or two he might provide dividends.

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