(ALLEN PARK) - Put three high priced number one draft picks together on one team and at one position and it's a recipe for conflict, right?
It certainly doesn't appear that way in the Detroit Lions locker room.
All three number one draft picks, Michigan State's Charles Rogers, Texas' Roy Williams and this year's number one, USC's Mike Williams all seemed to genuinely enjoy each other's company and have a real desire to contribute to a winning season.
Watching them, along with center Damien Woody in an animated discussion about the league's top backs and receivers, the group seemed to be bonding and enjoying being together, lingering and soaking up the cameraderie.
Last year's number one draft pick (2004, 7th overall), Roy Williams was very enthusiastic as he spoke about the presence of the new guy (Mike Williams) to the Lions corps.
"I love the pick," the elder Williams said of the younger Williams. "He's a guy who is going to help us, especially in the red zone, as everybody has seen in college. He's a big guy who can go up and catch the jump balls. That's what we really needed in this offense - a big guy who can run and jump."
The former Texas standout says he doesn't worry about who gets the football, there's enough to go around for everyone. "I come from the University of Texas where there [was] B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas, so I'm used to having three big guys plus a tight end with Pollard. So it's only one ball, but this is one team."
Williams also noted that having Charles Rogers (2003, 2nd overall) back, healthy and happy is only going to add to Detroit's explosiveness. "I think he's looking pretty good. I know he's excited for the year. He's out there having fun, joking around. When it's time to work, he's working, and I know he's excited about the season."
Rogers said the Lions receivers won't have a problem sharing the football if they avoid the one big pitfall that has ensnared other groups. "As long as we don't let egos come into it, [we'll be ok]. There are going to be times when Roy catches five passes and nobody else catches any; there will be times when Mike catches his; there will be times when I catch mine. Everybody has to just praise each other at that moment. Kevin (Johnson) is going to get his too."
Rogers further noted that the trio has a chance to set a new standard for receiving corps. "What we're trying to do here is build a dynasty. With guys like Mike, Roy and myself and with Kevin [Johnson] in the mix, you can't go wrong; you can't get upset. I believe in what (they're) trying to do here. I have faith in the organization and I have faith in the system. The (St. Louis) Rams had it a few years ago. You can go back to the Houston Oilers - though this is a new generation and a new team."
Lions head coach Steve Mariucci said there will be times when Detroit will use the big rookie Mike Williams in routes normally associated with the tight end or "Y" position in the West Coast offense.
"We have in the past used several of our receivers in tight where a tight end might play," said Mariucci. "[Williams] would not necessary be a tight end, he would just have that split in that alignment. There is just a handful of things we could do with it that certainly is a possibility but we are not moving him to tight end. He will be an inside receiver a lot of the time for us. Often times that inside slot receiver will do some things that the tight end does in the passing game."
The opportunity to use his receiving corps in non-traditional routes and formations could cause defensive mis-matches that Detroit could exploit for big plays. But the coach says he's going to be careful not to overdo it.
"If you were going to look at our personnel groups in terms of how much offense you have in each personnel group, well the four wides has the most limited offensive volume. The three wides would be next and of course the base group you could do most anything from it," noted Mariucci.
Arguably the Lions best defensive player, Dre' Bly, indicated that opposing defenses are in for a shock when all four receivers - including newly acquired free agent Kevin Johnson - line up in the same formation.
"[There] was this one play we ran [where] we ran four verticals, and they had Charles out there lined up with me, and they had Mike on the other side, and they had 'KJ' and Roy, and all these guys ran four verticals, and it was scary, man. Just three big guys, quick feet, three big guys with the speed, the excitement it can bring - it's scary. Hopefully, we can get all three of these guys out there on the field together at the same time. For opposing defenses, it can get ugly because, like I said its three big, physical, fast guys that can have the ability to dominate a game."
Looking at the trio, it is likely that a healthy Charles Rogers would emerge as expected-starter Joey Harrington's No. 1 threat. Harrington and Rogers appeared to be developing a chemistry in the Saginaw native's rookie season before injuries took him out for the year.
Roy Williams took his turn in the spotlight early in the 2004 season before suffering an ankle injury against the Chicago Bears that limited his effectiveness for the rest of the season. He showed flashes of brillance that had many observers thinking he might be a rookie-of-the-year candidate early.
As a rookie, Mike Williams will likely face a similar learning curve to that of both Rogers and Williams. He will likely make his biggest impact as a chain-moving possession receiver and a formidable red-zone target.
Really, the question of who emerges as the number one receiver of the "Big Three" could end up being a moot point, as Rogers said "... it's going to be hard for opposing defenses. I think with the caliber of receivers like Mike (Williams), Roy (Williams) and then myself, and then you've got Kevin Johnson in the mix - what more can you say? It looks great on paper, all we've got to do is put it together and have everybody stay on the same page."
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