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The Curious Case of Chad Williams

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Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

Pre-Draft (2017)

First of all, I have to admit in all honesty, that while watching the 2017 Senior Bowl, I was very intrigued with Grambling WR Chad Williams. After saying to myself, who is this kid?, I found the game film he had against Arizona St. in which he caught 13 passes for 152 yards, shaking off numerous defenders and breaking a bunch of tackles.

But, then there were the red flags—-the marijuana and gun possession incident at LSU and his one-game suspension in 2016, prior to his outstanding 90 catches for 1,337 and 11 TD season, helping Grambling win the SWAC title.

One of the draft analysts I trust and value the most, Lance Zierlein of the NFL Network, had this to say about Chad Williams:

ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS Plays 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. Hung 13 catches for 152 yards on Arizona early in the season. Uses body as a shield between the throw and the defender and can play as big as he needs to in space.

WEAKNESSES Early route speed is below average. Takes too long to get to the top of his routes. Straight-liner. Heavy feet and stiff hips prevent shakes and jukes to allude early tacklers. Needs to run under the deep ball rather than gliding down the field. Can improve his adjustments on low throws. Character will need to be vetted thoroughly.

DRAFT PROJECTION Rounds 5-6

BOTTOM LINE Heavily targeted and highly productive against a lower level of competition. Williams has decent size and ball skills, but looks slow on tape with very disjointed route work. He needs to run well at his workout, but even if he does, he’s a developmental prospect rather than an early helper.

Hmmm...3 years later Zierlein’s analysis sounds about right, doesn’t it?

Note the conditional that Zierlein offered at the end—-”He needs to run well at his workout,” with the caveat, “but, even if he does, he’s developmental prospect rather than an early helper.”

Well, Williams ran a 4.47 this workout—-which, as it turned out, upped his draft stock by about 50 picks.

2017 Draft

For the Cardinals this draft did not go as planned. The Cardinals planned on taking a QB in the first round with the #13 pick. The Chiefs and Texans leapfrogged them to take Patrick Mahomes and Desean Watson, which left the Cardinals out of the QB party.

In the 2nd round, the Cardinals traded up with the Bears to select safety Budda Baker, giving up their 2nd and 4th round picks, plus a 2019 4th rounder.

In the 3rd round at pick #77, in trying to recover some of the picks they gave up for Baker, they traded the #77 pick to the Panthers for their 3rd and 4th round picks, #98 and #115.

Moving back 21 spots in that 3rd round, as it turned out, cost the Cardinals the chance to draft their top target (per rumors) WR Carlos Henderson, as he was taken by the Broncos at #82, but it also cost them a shot at WR Chris Godwin (#84—-Bucs) and WR Kenny Golladay (#96—-Lions).

Taking WR Chad Williams at #98 was considered a reach at that point. And then the Cardinals used the other pick #115 on G Dorian Johnson, a player who didn’t make the 53 man roster as a rookie.

Post-Draft

I think we were all hoping that Chad Williams was worthy of the 3rd round pick—-some reaches turn out just fine.

So, as fans do after a player has been taken, I went back a reviewed all my notes on Williams and browsed around the internet to gather more info—-and it was then that I watched an interview that Chad Williams had given right before the draft wherein, much to my confusion and disbelief, he said that “I have worked so hard to get to where I am that if if I were to do it all over again, I wouldn’t do it all over again.”

Huh? Wha?

I thought, well, he probably didn’t realize what he was saying.Or—-did he know exactly what he was saying?

Year One

As was the case with so many of BA’s draft picks, Chad Williams’ first impression with the head coach and the coaching staff was not a good one. Not even close.

Apparently, Williams came to camp out of shape, so much so that he got so gassed by the special teams drills at the beginning of practice that he said was having trouble keeping up with the receiver drills.

Just as Lance Zierlein predicted about Williams being a developmental player, BA said back in early September that the earliest the fans could hope to see Williams would be by Thanksgiving. As a rookie, he was targeted 7 times and caught 3 of them for 31 yards.

Year Two

There was much anticipation about Chad Williams’ having a breakout season now that he was scheduled to start opposite Larry Fitzgerald. To make a short story shorter—-Williams struggled to stay healthy and was not in the least productive—-17/171/1 TD—-in 10 games and 7 starts.

Year Three Pre-Season

4 targets, 2 catches for 14 yards. Seemed to lack any sense of urgency, although when a team signs 2 UFAs and drafts 3 players at your position, it can look like the writing is on the wall. Good thing for Trent Sherfield that he was up for the challenge (whether he makes the team or not—-he played and performed his tail off) and Sherfield was a 2018 UCFA, not a top 100 draft pick.

With Williams’ release, more than half the 2017 draft class has been waived or traded:

WR Chad Williams, (Round 3), G Dorian Johnson (Round 4), T Will Holden (Round 5) and S Rudy Ford (Round 6).

The 2017 Draft class is down to three: LB Haasan Reddick (Round 1), S Budda Baker (Round 2)and RB T.J. Logan (Round 5).

When you think of it, this 2017 draft class has had it the toughest—-playing for 3 different head coaches and learning 3 new systems in 3 years.