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Cardinals' draft profile: Chad Williams

The Cardinals traded back in the third round of this year's draft and selected Grambling State wide receiver Chad Williams, a small school product who produced big-time numbers in college.

Player: Chad Williams

Height: 6-foot-1

Weight: 204 pounds

Arm length: 32 inches

Hand size: 9 3/4 inches

College stats: 2013: 11 receptions, 141 yards, two touchdowns, 2014: 45 receptions, 572 yards, five touchdowns, 2015: 64 receptions, 1,012 yards, 10 touchdowns, 2016: 90 receptions, 1,337 yards, 11 touchdowns, seven 100-plus yard games

Strengths: As soon as we turned on the tape on Williams, it wasn't hard to see why the Cardinals fell in love with him as a prospect. Williams is a unique wide receiver with intriguing traits who appears larger on film than 6-foot-1. That's likely because Williams competes for the ball --and wins competitions for the ball-- like a bigger-bodied receiver who has a knack for making plays in the red zone. While the Cardinals will certainly appreciate the way Williams fights for the ball, they'll also love the way they can take advantage of his straight-line speed, which is another positive trait Williams possesses. Williams has the ability to stem vertically in a hurry and force defensive backs to turn their hips, which is why so many of his catches at Grambling State came on comeback routes. He's an excellent candidate to run option go/comeback routes because his speed makes him hard to pin down as an outside receiver and he can also stop on a dime and work back toward the football. Another trait of Williams' we really like is that once he has the ball in his hands, he's eager to fight for extra yards and he's constantly looking for open space. While some receivers have trouble turning routine catches into explosive plays, Williams has excellent field vision and takes advantage of defenders who overrun their angles.

Weaknesses: Aside from Oklahoma's Joe Mixon, Williams was the first player selected in this year's draft who didn't receive an invitation to the NFL Combine. While that's not necessarily uncommon for small school players, there's weaknesses in Williams' game that suggest his skill set may not be as transferrable to the NFL as the Cardinals hope. Williams is a long-strider who picks up his knees when he runs and is almost always upright, and he's not an especially fluid route runner. While certain routes like comebacks are strengths for Williams, his ability to turn and work toward the middle of the field from an outside alignment or pivot and work toward the edge is difficult to gauge. Though Williams posted an impressive 40-yard dash time, he seems to take awhile to get going at the line of scrimmage and doesn't have the same type of quick-twitch burst we've become accustomed to seeing from Cardinals' receivers in recent seasons. And while we classified Williams' post-catch determination to fight for yards as a strength, he doesn't run with a low center of gravity and benefitted significantly from playing against poor competition which allowed him to break tackles easily. 

Williams' fit: It's not in any way surprising that the Cardinals used their third round draft choice on a small school skill position player they felt was probably being overlooked by the rest of the league. Still, that doesn't mean Williams is going to enjoy the type of early success fellow small-school third round picks like David Johnson and John Brown did early in their careers. Williams will need to become a much more advanced route runner, learn better separation technique at the line of scrimmage, and hone in on developing his quick-twitch muscles to have a chance to make meaningful contributions as a rookie. Though Williams has a high ceiling as a prospect thanks to his downfield speed and thick build, his transition to the NFL might be a rough one from a fundamental standpoint. In Williams' first season, look for the Cardinals to incorporate him as a fourth or fifth wideout whose job is to either stretch the field vertically or work back toward quarterback Carson Palmer on the perimeter comeback routes that are a staple of coach Bruce Arians' offense, but don't expect Arizona to send Williams on long-developing double move routes or routes that require him to cross the field because he likely won't be precise enough or have the technical wherewithal to succeed on these types of plays. 


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