For long-time fans of the Dallas Cowboys, Gil Brandt is something of a legendary figure. He was the architect of the roster that won the first two Super Bowls, and was a pioneer in scouting and evaluating college talent. He now writes for NFL.com as a talent analyst, and his word still carries a lot of weight.
He has written a post on rookies drafted after the first round of the NFL draft this year who have a good chance to make a big impact for their teams. And on his list (which is not in rank order), he includes the player the Cowboys got because of the third round pick they received in the trade down from 18.
Terrance Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys (No. 74): Williams is a hard-working guy with big-play ability -- he had 34 catches that went for 20 yards or more in 2012, the most in college football. He's got very good hands and runs better than his 4.52 40 would indicate. He's also got the ability to catch the ball over his shoulder -- he's very good at that. Williams is primed to exceed expectations; I think he's got a chance to start over veteran receiver Miles Austin. If that happens, he should see plenty of opportunities as defenses roll their coverage toward No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant.
If he is right on this, it would be good news for the Cowboys. Austin has a history of missing games due to hamstring and other injury issues. And he has become more of a slot receiver recently than a deep threat. Williams clearly has the pedigree of someone who can stretch the field. As Austin's likely replacement if the team does not choose to re-sign him at the end of his current contract, this is the role the Cowboys drafted him for.
Brandt outlines the value this could have. If Williams' big play ability in college translates to the next level, putting him and Bryant on opposite sides of the formation leaves the opposing defense with a "pick your poison" dilemma. In the 12 set, Tony Romo would have the two deep threats pulling the coverage down field, and if neither of them are open, he has his long-time security blanket Jason Witten and either Gavin Escobar or James Hanna working underneath. And in a 11 set, Austin is still a potent threat in the middle of the field.
This fits the idea of making the Dallas offense more Romo friendly, giving him a choice of targets. If the coverage breaks down deep, he has two players that can take it all the way on any given play. If both of them are covered, there will almost certainly be a soft spot in the middle of the field for the TEs or Austin to work into. And if the opponent is bringing extra rushers to try and get to him, he is going to have someone coming open quickly, plus he has his elusiveness to buy a little time to complete a pass.
And if Williams does break into the starting lineup, or just becomes one of the top three wideouts from the start, the 2013 draft will be a big step closer to being a real success for the Cowboys.