ALLEN PARK - No matter how much the Detroit Lions wanted to go defense, when a rare talent like USC's Mike Williams is staring you in the face, it's a no-brainer.
Lions president and GM Matt Millen did the right thing, despite the almost assured criticism he will receive from pundits in taking Williams, a player who would have likely been a top-three pick a season ago if allowed to enter the 2004 NFL Draft.
Millen almost couldn't believe his good fortune when Williams was still on the board.
"I didn't expect that Mike (Williams) would be there at 10 and for whatever reason he was there," explained Millen.
"Like we had said for the last two weeks, we would do whatever we had to do to make this football team better, regardless of what the position was, we were going to go get what made the most sense for us on a lot of different fronts. Mike Williams answered that."
At 6-foot-5, 229-pounds, the native of Plant City, FL. gives the Lions versatility and an ability to stretch the field at a position not normally associated with that quality, the "Y" position in the West Coast offense.
Look for Detroit to play Williams a lot at both the split end, the "X" and the "Y" or tight end alignment. Williams has the size to play at that position without really being a tight end.
Detroit clearly believes that having Williams on the field with both 2003 first round pick Charles Rogers and 2004 first round pick Roy Williams will create havoc for NFL defenses.
Williams' failed attempt at entering the NFL draft a season ago has been well documented, but his success at the collegiate level, after a year out of the game, has been somewhat forgotten.
Williams caught 176 balls for 2,570 yards and 30 touchdowns at Southern California, making him the career leader in touchdown receptions, something that has added impact when you consider Keyshawn Johnson spent three years there.
"We had no idea that Detroit was even an option," said Williams on being drafted by Detroit. "They called and we were all surprised - I figured that's how last year's draft would have been. I was with my family and I was comfortable. It was a big surprise."
The 20-year old talked about how he was so upset with the court ruling that declared him ineligible for last year's collegiate draft, that he left the country, literally.
"I went to the Bahamas. When my situation happened, I kind of wanted to be away from it," Williams said after initially being declared eligible for the draft, only to have the decision overuled in an appellate court.
But he couldn't stay away.
"I came back the same day because I just wanted to watch the draft and I found out where guys went. I didn't know (where I would have been drafted last year). Williams now says he can't wait to get on the football field with the Lions and new teammate Roy Williams.
"I'm kind of focused on the upcoming year and getting around the guys and getting to know them. I kind of know Roy a little bit - I met him a couple of times. He's kind of a laidback kind of guy and he's proof that a rookie can come in and get it done in this system. The coaching staff will help you if you work hard. Loving football and being able to compete again is really special and really important to me. I'm excited to get back to work."
Lions head coach Steve Mariucci is counting on Williams to make a difference immediately.
"You take a couple of guys (Williams and second round pick Shaun Cody) that have come from the best college program over the last two years - very, very successful. Not only successful, not only do these fellows know how to win but they know how to prepare to win, there's a difference.
"They're going to be quick studies and contribute quickly," Mariucci said.
The head coach along with new offensive coordinator Ted Tollner must be salivating at the thought of all their offensive weapons.
The fun starts Thursday, the first day of the Lions post-draft mini-camp when all their draft picks and selected veterans get together and the rest of the NFC North starts to sweat.
Lions Expect Williams To Make Immediate Splash
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