Tag:D.J. Williams
Posted on: May 9, 2011 12:27 am
 

Finding the Fits -- Rookie impact TEs


Over the next two weeks I will be highlighting a different position each day in an attempt to Find the Fit -- identifying 2011 prospects who are a particularly good schematic fits for the club that selected him. I'll also highlight one player per position who I believe could struggle in his new NFL role. Too often in the past rookies who have struggled in the NFL have done so because they were simply drafted into schemes that didn't fit their individual strengths.

Tight ends and centers were viewed by most talent evaluators as the weakest offensive positions available in 2011. For the first time since 1999, no tight ends were selected in the first round. The Minnesota Vikings made Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph the first tight drafted in 2011, taking him with the 43rd pick. This was the lowest the first tight end had been drafted since the Bills took Florida State's Lonnie Johnson with the 61st pick of the 1994 draft. It wasn't just the top-end talent lacking in this group. The depth was weak too. The 2011 draft saw 13 tight ends get drafted. The 2010 and 2009 drafts each had 20 get drafted.

There is, however, plenty of reason for optimism with this class, as there are some exciting schematic fits with this group.

Earlier this week I broken down the quarterbacks , running back and wide receiver fits.
 
Good Fits:

Lance Kendricks, St. Louis Rams:

Kendricks signed with Wisconsin as a receiver and shows the body control, hands and athleticism normally associated with that position. He won't provide the Rams with  much as an inline blocker at 6-3, 243 pounds, but he is a matchup nightmare with the reliable hands to take advantage of Sam Bradford's accuracy down the seam.


Lee Smith, New England Patriots:
Smith is probably the least talked-about of the Patriots' haul this year, but he serves as one of the clearest examples of this year's draft of picking players to fill specialist roles. The 6-6, 269 pound Smith proved himself to be every bit as stout at the Senior Bowl as he had on tape, cementing his status as the draft's elite blocking specialist tight end. The Patriots already boast two exciting receiving threats at tight end in second-year standouts Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Tight end, like running back, has become a position of specialists not unlike the starting pitcher-middle relief-set up man-closer roles in baseball.  There aren't a lot of players at pick 159 that can make a real impact on a Super Bowl-contending team. Smith is one of them.

D.J. Williams, Green Bay Packers:
Just as Kendricks was a good fit for the Rams, Williams' athleticism and soft hands make him an intriguing mismatch in the middle of the Packers' aggressive passing attack. At 6-2, 245 pounds, he certainly lacks Jermichael Finley's size, but the 2010 Mackey Award winner is a reliable route-runner who will fit in immediately. Williams is also one of the more tenacious blockers of this class. His ability to latch on and ride defenders could lead to more big plays for his teammates.

Questionable Fit:

Julius Thomas, Denver Broncos: 

Thomas is a very intriguing talent who could pay off big for the Broncos with this pick. Denver has a need at the position and Thomas' athleticism and soft hands drew raves at the East-West Shrine Game. My concern is that Thomas is among the rawest of the 2011 tight end crop and that the Broncos seemingly could have used a player closer to starting. Thomas, like many before him, is a basketball convert. He played four years for Portland State's basketball team and walked on with the football team last spring. He'd only played one year in high school prior to that. John Elway knows full well the value of a security blanket over the middle. Thomas could become that security blanket, but he's far from the finished product right now.


Posted on: January 25, 2011 10:32 pm
 

South Team Tuesday afternoon practice report II

This is Chad Reuter's report from the South Team's Tuesday afternoon practice:



Typically college football fans look to a team's wide receivers to move the ball down the field for their team to be successful, and therefore spend most of their time watching players on the outside during Senior Bowl practices.

The success of New England's two tight-end offense in 2010, however, means teams will be looking to this year's South squad in Mobile, however, for tight ends to cause similar mismatches next season in the copy-cat world of the NFL.

Tennessee's strapping young tight end, Luke Stocker, today looked exactly like the clone of former Volunteer and current Dallas Cowboys starter Jason Witten. The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Stocker stood out as a blocker and a receiver, standing up Mississippi State K.J. Wright when setting the edge on the run then catching everything thrown his way when out on routes.

Stocker does not have exceptional straight-line speed, but finds openings between linebackers in which he can sit down, and also between the second and third levels of the defense. His one-handed grab down the left seam was impressive, even more so considering he held on after taking a shot from Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel in supposed light-contact seven-on-seven drills.

Arkansas' D.J. Williams had his best year for the Razorbacks in 2010, leading the team with 54 receptions for 627 yards and four touchdowns--a lot of which came after junior receiver Greg Childs was lost to injury mid-way through the year. He measured in at slightly less than 6-foot-2 and 236 pounds, which is not much different than successful H-backs like Aaron Hernandez, Dustin Keller, and Bo Scaife.

Williams is not going to be a best of an in-line blocker, but consistently ran solid routes to free himself of linebacker coverage over the middle or to the outside. Like Stocker, Williams have allowed no catchable balls to hit the ground this week, extending outside their frame to snatch passes and tuck them in. He's also given good effort as a blocker, but it's difficult for him to sustain against better linebackers outside. He'll be best as a mobile tight end/H-back prospect walling off defenders on the move.

Stocker and Williams are likely second or very early third round picks, and although Alabama's Preston Dial is the "other" tight end in the group and a late-round prospect, the 6-foot-2, 238-pound H-back also showed strong run blocking skills in addition to solid hands. His ability to tap both feet in-bounds while grabbing a pass on the right sideline displayed awareness , hands, and agility scouts weren't sure he had coming into the week.

When watching tight ends, it is nearly impossible not to also watch a team's linebackers, both in their ability to hold up against run blocking, as well as in coverage.  The top linebacker on the field today was Texas A&M star Von Miller--and that's not even considering his work as a pass rusher in one-on-one drills.

Miller surprised scouts at Monday's weigh-in with his thick lower body, which he used to hold up Williams and Stocker when man-up on run plays. His coverage skills are what really stood out, though, as the quick Williams could not separate from Miller on out routes because of the former Aggie's own lateral agility and speed.

A linebacker with Miller's closing speed to the quarterback, who also can be effective in coverage, is destined for a slot in the top 20 overall selections.

Another linebacker who looked quite adept in coverage and stopping the run was Miami's Colin McCarthy. Though a bit smaller than hope at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, scouts liked his physicality on the line of scrimmage against the tight ends here and ability to stay low and balanced while running with them on crossing and wheel routes (McCarthy ran with West Virginia Noel Devine down the sideline in Monday's practice). His ability to play all three linebacker positions, probably starting on the strong side, make him a potential top 100 pick.

McCarthy was apparently making strong enough contact in this practice that he needed to get his helmet pumped up by training staff while kneeling on the field.

 The South team has two linebackers in this game, OLB K.J. Wright and ILB Chris White. Neither looked as fluid as Miller and McCarthy in coverage, and Stocker consistently stoned them at the line of scrimmage in pass protection and run blocking. Wright was also victimized by Stocker in coverage, with the Tennessee receiver using an overarm move to get inside position down the seam.

Frankly, judging linebackers during all-star game practices is extremely difficult. Tackling is what they do best, and they're not allowed to do that before game time.

But showing the fluidity, strength and agility to cover talented tight ends like Stocker and Williams (who may be seen as similar to the Patriots' rookie tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Hernandez) here in Mobile can be a major feather in a linebacker's cap come draft day.

Posted on: July 27, 2010 10:19 am
Edited on: July 27, 2010 6:35 pm
 

As promised, my SEC notes after film review

After a short hiatus to the coast of Washington State to chase the elusive chinook salmon, here are the SEC film room notes I had promised.

Again, I fully recognize that there have been many off-field stories that have broken recently -- the ongoing NCAA investigations , important rookie signings and, unfortunately, the terrible accident that fractured the skull of Baltimore pass rusher Sergio Kindle, thereby endangering his rookie season and perhaps even his NFL career. 
There are so many off-field news stories right now that I am trying to focus on the action that takes places between the white lines. I posted my thoughts on what surprised/disappointed/impressed me after my initial review of ACC prospects a few days ago.

Here are my thoughts after scouting the top senior prospects in the SEC.

  • In the opinion of many NFL scouts, the essential difference between the SEC and the rest of college football is the different talent and depth the Southeastern Conference boasts along the defensive line. Though a few teams have narrowed the gap (North Carolina and Pittsburgh chief among them), the SEC again is loaded up front with run-stuffers and pass-rushers. Mississippi nose guard Jerrell Powe is currently our top-ranked prospect from the conference. He is quickly followed by pass rushers Pernell McPhee (Mississippi State) and Cliff Saunders (South Carolina). Powe has been often compared to former Boston College standout (and current Green Bay Packer) B.J. Raji for his stout presence in the middle. Like Raji, who missed the 2007 season due to academic suspension, Powe has struggled to keep his grades in check. In fact, he was deemed ineligible three consecutive years from 2005-2007. NFL teams will no doubt take Powe's academic struggles in mind when determining his final grade. What is obvious on film, however, is that he is a talented player who could physically compete immediately in the NFL.
  • The defensive line is typically what the SEC is known for, but this year the unique talent in the conference comes along the offensive line and at tight end. My fellow Senior Analyst Chad Reuter broke down the conference's depth up front in a feature article here . No fewer than eight senior SEC offensive linemen are currently viewed as potential draft-worhty prospects. The conference also boasts NFLDraftScout.com's top three rated senior tight ends in South Carolina's Weslye Saunders, Tennessee's Luke Stocker and Arkansas' D.J. Williams. I was a bit underwhelmed with each of them, quite frankly. Saunders (6-5, 272) has incredible size and surprising overall athleticism, but isn't the speed threat most of today's NFL teams are looking for. Williams, at 6-2, 244 pounds, has some speed and is a tenacious blocker considering his size, but simply lacks the bulk for most clubs. The most well-rounded of the bunch is the 6-5, 252 pound Stocker, though he doesn't possess any skills on film that left me wowed, either.
  • Considering that they're the defending National Champions, it might surprise you to learn how few of the SEC's highly rated prospects play for Alabama. In defense of the Crimson Tide, many of their top-rated prospects who would be seniors this year elected to leave early (ILB Rolando McClain, CB Kareem Jackson, etc.). Furthermore, their depth and coaching is so good that some seniors seeing the field extensively for the first time in 2010 will no doubt emerge as legitimate prospects. However, at this point, NFLDraftScout.com's top-rated senior Crimson Tide prospect is left tackle James Carpenter, currently viewed as a 3rd-4th round prospect -- and one likely to have make the transition inside to guard. Quarterback Greg McElroy, rated as a 6th-7th round prospect is next. Of course, considering the draft-eligible underclassmen on this team (Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Marcel Dareus, etc.), the Tide rolls on.
  • Speaking of Alabama, with all due respect to Heisman winner Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson is a fabulous NFL prospect in his own right. One that I feel could have been similarly productive in Alabama's offense had been given Ingram's attempts. Luckily for Nick Saban and Tide fans, as a true sophomore, Richardson has at least two more seasons in Tuscaloosa. He flashed first round talent as a true freshman...
  • Though I wouldn't rank them among the elite prospects in the conference just yet, a few players did flash on film that haven't generated a lot national attention just yet. I mentioned Alabama's Carpenter earlier. Auburn running back Mario Fannin is a terrific receiver who has popped off the tape throughout his career, but has never been able to string together the dominant season his skill-set seems capable of producing. Fannin has struggled with fumbles and injuries early in his career, but, if over both, could enjoy a breakout campaign in 2010. Kentucky wide receiver Chris Matthews, at 6-5, 222 pounds, surprised me with good body control and enough acceleration to think he could surprise, as well.
  • One final note on the SEC prospects... I typically reserve comments for senior prospects, but Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett is an obvious NFL prospect regardless of when he leaves the Razorbacks. However, I wasn't as wowed by Mallett as some apparently are. His 6-6, 238 pound frame is considered a positive by most, though his long legs and only moderate foot speed/balance concern me. Mallett has a gun and can make some dazzling throws, but at least some of his success has to be attributed to Bobby Petrino's wide-open offense. Remember, this is the same offense that convinced many of us that former Louisville standout Brian Brohm was one day going to be an NFL star. With two years of remaining eligibility, Mallett has plenty of time to iron out some wrinkles to his game, but I, for one, feel he's being a bit overrated right now... 

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com