As the Arizona Cardinals begin their quest to cut the team's roster size from 90 to 53 by the end of the preseason, we're taking a look at every player at each position group and determining their odds of making the final cut.
Player: Chad Williams
Position: Wide receiver
Contract status: Terms of Williams' rookie contract have not been disclosed or reported, but the Cardinals have agreed to a four-year deal with Williams that will keep him with the franchise through the 2020 season.
2016 season quick review: Williams spent the 2016 season playing out his final collegiate campaign at Grambling State, where he amassed a career-high 90 receptions, 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns. Williams racked up seven 100-yard receiving games in 2016, including one in a 13-catch, 152-yard performance in the program's loss against the Arizona Wildcats. For his efforts, Williams was named a First Team All-Southwestern Athletic Conference performer and a Second Team FCS All-American.
Projected roster status: Even though general manager Steve Keim has done an impressive job building out the bottom of the Cardinals' wide receiver depth chart this offseason, there's no doubt Williams will have a spot on Arizona's 53-man roster from the outset of the regular season.
Projected depth chart status: Cardinals' head coach Bruce Arians is often reluctant to throw rookies into the mix early in their careers, so it's entirely possible Williams will begin the season at the bottom of the team's wide receiver depth chart and slowly attempt to work his way up. With Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown back, it's hard to imagine Williams climbing any higher than the third spot on Arizona's depth char,t and even that would be a bit of a stretch for the Grambling State product. It's more likely Williams takes on the role of the fourth or fifth receiver on the depth chart, and plays in some 11-personnel sets when J.J. Nelson is off the field.
CardinalsSource.com analysis: 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 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.
Overall value: The Cardinals have an excellent recent track record of success in the third round of the NFL Draft, but that doesn't change the fact they need Williams to add value to the roster early in his career. With Larry Fitzgerald approaching retirement, Arizona needs to develop potential replacements in its wide receiver corps, and finding a potential No. 1 or No. 2 option via the third round of the draft would help the Cardinals devote resources to other parts of the roster. Williams has four seasons to make the most of a rookie contract that won't cost the Cardinals much, so there's inherent value in any production he provides the roster as a rookie. However, what's more important for Arizona is capitalizing on draft picks, because every time it does so, it frees up cap space for other needs.