The Colts were spotted huddled up with Penn State wide receiver Derrick Williams for an interview during preparations for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama this week.
Williams, who originally hails from Greenbelt, Maryland, has been a big part of the Nittany Lions' turnaround in recent years, taking part in 40 wins, two Big Ten titles and three bowl victories during his time there.
WR Derrick Williams
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Williams is a multitalented athlete who racked up numbers all over the field during his career in Happy Valley. He ended his career with 161 catches for 1,743 yards (10.8 yards per catch) and nine catches, but also ran the ball 117 times for 650 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. He caught at least 40 passes in each of his final three collegiate seasons and finished his career third all-time in receptions at Penn State.
However, Williams may be most dangerous when he's back deep to return kicks, and he's got a lot of experience doing so — bringing back 66 punts and 50 kickoffs during his career. Williams held a 21.9 return average on kickoffs and 11 yards on punt returns. And, he's a threat to bring kicks all the way back, with three career punt return TDs, including one in 2008, and two more kickoff return touchdowns last fall.
At 6-foot, 194 pounds, Williams has a similar build to the 6-foot, 185-pound Harrison, and also has similar speed.
"He's got about the same build as Harrison, and could be the same type of player — either a quick pass or a sideline streaker," Scout.com NFL Expert Ed Thompson said. "He's a thin guy, but he's ripped and physically strong. The more I think about it, the more I see it making sense (for the Colts)."
While Harrison is, in fact, incomparable, it's easy to see Williams slipping fairly easily into Harrison's role in the offense, espcially since Reggie Wayne has carried the heavy load for the last few years and Anthony Gonzalez is emerging.
Williams would also immediately provide a proven homerun threat in the return game, something the Colts have lacked the last few years. While Pierre Garcon had plenty of experience returning kicks and was one of the best receivers in DIII history, bringing them back at Mount Union is quite a bit different than in front of a packed house at Beaver Stadium. Williams is a proven commodity who could immediately upgrade the Colts' special teams, and seems ready-made to fit in with the offense, as well.
"Williams is an explosive athlete who has tremendous ability anytime he has the ball in his hands," Scout.com NFL Draft Expert Chris Steuber said. "He's quick off the line, reaches top speed instantly and has an outstanding burst in the open field. He has excellent body control and adjusts well to vertical throws. He's a dynamic return specialist who has great vision and cut back ability that allows him to reach paydirt."
Steuber has spotted a couple of small weaknesses in Williams' game, although they sound correctable.
"He has inconsistent hands and has to consistently keep his eye on the ball," Steuber said. "He tends to lose concentration and is vulnerable to turning the ball over.
"If you want to compare Williams to a Colt, I'd say it would be Harrison, but as a prospect, Williams compares well to Eddie Royal."
Williams has also received praise for his solid citizenship in the Penn State program, and is credited with being a key in the program's resurgence after committing to the Lions as the country's top-ranked recruit four years ago.
"When Derrick was in high school and people were questioning where the program was going, I said, ‘We're so close to being a good football team; we just need a couple of people,'" Joe Paterno told FightOnState.com this fall. "Derrick came to the front and was one of them. He came in here and brought some other people with him, I think, who felt if he had that kind of confidence in the program then there's got to be something up there that's good."
Scout.com currently has Williams listed as the eighth-best wide receiver prospect in the draft, although he is second among senior players. As the 59th-ranked player overall, the Colts will have to make a decision whether they want to address the wide receiver position so early in the draft; they have more pressing need at defensive tackle, running back and linebacker.
And, of course, with a solid week in Mobile and run-up to the draft, Williams' experience and versatility gives him a lot of potential to move up draft boards.
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