Baylor wideout Terrance Williams is coming off of an impressive senior season in which, after bidding adieu to first round draftees Robert Griffin III and Kendall Wright, he had 97 receptions, led the nation with 1,832 receiving yards and scored 12 touchdowns, earning unanimous first team All-Big Twelve and All-American laurels. This was an impressive final campaign for a little-known high school recruit whose collegiate career began inauspiciously. After redshirting in 2008 and serving as a reserve in 2009, he finally garnered playing time as a sophomore in 2010, collecting 43 balls for 484 yards and four scores. As a junior, he upped his totals to 59 receptions for 957 yards and 11 touchdowns (earning All-Big 12 Honorable Mention honors) before blowing up in his senior season.
In 2012, Williams averaged an impressive 18.9 yards per catch. As this suggests, one of his game's strong points is his ability to get deep. He specialized in post and fly routes, using his size, quick feet, and speed to get behind rival defenders. But don't take my word for it; look at the tape. Here he is in action against Big 12 Rivals Texas Tech, Texas and West Virginia and in a highlight film from the 2011 season. As you can see on film, Williams is a big, receiver with good speed and explosion; at the Combine, he ran a middling 4.52 second 40-yard dash, added 32.5 and 9'11" inch vertical and broad jumps and ran the 20-yard shuttle in 4.32 seconds. As this final number suggests, he has excellent body control, The Dallas coaching staff will love that he's a willing and able blocker.
Do our superscouts agree? Look no further than the next few column inches, my friends.
ESPN/ Scouts, Inc. (Gary Horton): 8th-rated WR; 56th overall
Separation Skills: A vertical route runner. At his best when he can open up and run. Strong suit will be 9, post and deep crossing routes. Flashes ability to quickly gather at top of stem. Not a dynamic route runner. He has limitations with underneath routes creating separation. Needs development working within stem in terms of tempo and gaining initial leverage. Also struggles to drop weight and transition with lateral routes. Pad level will rise and does not always finish at the top of routes. Shows a good feel for soft spots and can separate vs. zone coverage. Flashes quick hands and good strength but can continue to work at getting a more consistent release vs. press coverage.
Ball Skills: Does not have natural ball skills. Short-arms (30.5) and small hands (8.6). Allows too many ball into frame with underneath throws. Will also have an occasional flat out drop. Much better in this area down-the-field. Tracks the ball well over his shoulder. Also flashes ability to pull in acrobatic catch outside of frame. Can be more aggressive attacking and utilizing bigger frame in traffic.
Big play ability: Long strider that can flat out open up and run. A legit vertical threat that flashes the ability to rip the lid off the defense. Has the size and athleticism to win one-on-one downfield but can be stronger and more aggressive in this area. Lacks elusiveness to get in-and-out of traffic. However, he is a strong runner that is shifty enough to make the first defender miss. Also has an extra gear to ruin defenders angles and turn a short throw into a big play if locating a seam.
Competitiveness: Effort and determination varied during film study. Can be lazy coming off the ball when knowing he is not involved in the play. While he flashes focus to secure the ball in traffic he appears much more comfortable working outside of the hashes. Inconsistent effort as a run blocker.
Intangibles: Showed improved leadership skills as a senior. Naturally a quiet and reserved individual. Scouts will need to investigate maturity.
CBSSports.com (Rob Rang): 7th-rated WR; 53rd overall
Strengths: Gliding athlete with smooth acceleration and long-striding speed. Good body control and balance for his size with smooth transitions and movements. Tracks the ball well downfield and can gain a step with an extra gear to be a legitimate vertical threat. Good focus and reach. Not a burner but catches the ball in stride and has the flexibility to make tough catches. Strong plant foot in his routes to gain inside position and immediately looks upfield after the catch. Works back to the pocket and has good field awareness, finding open zones and showing the quarterback his numbers. Good effort blocking on the outside and can drive defenders out of the play. Shows some leadership qualities on the field and the sideline.
Weaknesses: Average route runner and needs continued improvement after a limited route tree at Baylor. Stiff ankles and has more build-up speed, lacking quick-twitch start/stop explosion. Didn't see a lot of press coverage in college and at times was able to just run past defensive backs untouched. Needs to eliminate the mental errors and stay focused with his share of drops. Questionable toughness and doesn't always fight for every yard with a disappointing effort after interceptions, needing to show better effort for all four quarters. A tad too finesse at times and won't break a lot of tackles. Known to chirp at times about not getting the ball, will he be a distraction?
Pro Football Weekly (Nolan Nawrocki): 6th-rated WR; 49th overall
Positives: Can swat away press. Light on his feet. Moves fluidly. Good balance and body control. Loose hips. Can run under deep balls. Makes difficult catches look easy. Works back to throws. Has hustle traits. Big-play ability - 24 plays of 25-plus yards led the nation. Outstanding production - could easily have flown by 2,000 yards with better QB play. Able to cover up corners and stalk. Has a professional work ethic.
Negatives: Small hands and short arms given his frame. Needs to get functionally stronger. Gets outmuscled in a crowd and can be separated from the ball. Not an explosive athlete. Needs to improve as a route runner. Ran a limited tree in a college spread system and can become more diverse and deceptive in this area. Average stop-and-go quickness. Lets some throws into his body and drops balls he shouldn't. Not strong or elusive after the catch. Inconsistent blocker. Did not distinguish himself at the Combine (average performance).
Summary: Smoother than sudden, Williams is a tall, lean, narrow-framed, high-cut "X:" receiver whose production exceeds his measurables. Has a ceiling as an outside-the-numbers, No. 2 receiver with vertical ability.
Ourlads (Dan Shonka): 8th-rated WR; 70th overall
Three-year starter who is a fifth year senior. Has played in 51 games in his career. Played in a spread zone based offense that distributes the ball to a variety of receivers and backs. Concentration and courage to catch over the middle. Soft hands. Holds the ball on contact. Good sized receiver who will compete for the ball in the air. Two of his biggest catches in 2011 were vertical "9" routes catching the ball for touchdowns versus Texas and Oklahoma. He can beat press man coverage off the line with his quick feet. Good contact balance to keep his feet after hit and get yards after catch. Uses a stiff arm to ward off low tacklers. Good cutting ability in space. He has also made the layout diving catches. An NFL-caliber productive athlete, who built on his strong junior year averaging over 18 yards per catch. A three level receiver who can go vertical and make the tough over shoulder catch. Can separate with strength and a quick burst. An outside pass catcher who is athletic after catch. Ability to break tackles and split defenders. Eventual starter with developmental time. Caught 202 passes in his career.
Outside of Shonka, our draftniks are in close alignment re: Williams draft grade, placing him between picks 49 and 56, or in the mid-to-late second round. Shonka has him in the early third, which is close enough to the second for me to think round two is his likely landing place. Consequently, I'll slot him in the second round on my 2013 "little board."
Despite his astounding production, I'm less enamored of WIlliams than I am of Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins, who seems more NFL ready. What Williams provides that Hopkins doesn't is deep speed. If you look at the Cowboys' skill position players, talent abounds, with the exception of a wide receiver with the speed to take the top off of a defense. Consider: how much more room might Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray find with a Mike Wallace-type speed merchant lined up outside the numbers?
In Williams, Markus Wheaton and Josh Boyce, the Cowboys have three invitees who boast the deep speed to ensure that Murray sees far fewer men in the box. Of the three, Williams offers the least appealing combination of skillset and value (I think Wheaton is a better receiver, and Boyce can be had in a later round). So, while I like Williams, there are better options, both in the second round and later in the draft.
Next up: Oregon State WR Markus Wheaton