Williams Wouldn't Mind Coming Home

Bucs eying local product at wide receiver if they don't trade up in Saturday's draft.

By Jeff Berlinicke

With just three days before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers make the No. 5 pick in the NFL draft, and telephones are ringing off the hook at 1 Buc Place, the Bucs got some interesting, yet cryptic, messages from Southern Cal wideout Mike Williams.

Williams, a Tampa native who played his prep football at Tampa Plant High School, hasn't played organized football in a year. After two very successful seasons at USC, Williams declared himself eligible for the NFL draft. Unfortunately, the NFL nixed that option, citing a rule preventing true sophomores from entering the draft.

Unlike Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett who was also denied the opportunity to go pro, Williams worked hard all season with the USC football team and impressed scouts at the spring NFL combine. He's similar to Bucs receiver Michael Clayton. He doesn't have blinding speed, but he runs perfect routes and has great hands. Even though the Bucs are eying a trade to pick Utah quarterback Alex Smith, another wide receiver to go with Clayton and Joey Galloway would be a coup.

Williams has worked out with the Bucs and hinted that a return home would be important to him. He also added that he wanted to play in a warm weather city, which might turn off the Chicago Bears who are very interested in Williams.

Another intriguing aspect about Clayton is that, at 6-5, 229, Williams has the growth potential to play tight end at times, another one of the Bucs' many needs on offense. With his size and ability to out-leap and out-muscle opposing defensive backs, he might be the second best receiver in the draft behind Michigan's Brelan Edwards who is expected to go to Cleveland with the No. 3 pick.

If Williams had been available in last year's draft, the Bucs likely would have selected him over Clayton. Now it turns out they might get both.

The Bucs are also interested in Auburn running back Ronnie Brown who will likely be gone if the Bucs don't trade up. Another Auburn running back Cadillac Williams is expected to be available and Bucs coach Jon Gruden fell hard for him while coaching the Senior Bowl.

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