And so we reach the big one. There are plenty of "controversial" players on the 49ers roster, but given the two NFC title game fumbles, Kyle Williams becomes one of the more controversial players for this kind of grading process. I would imagine there will be plenty of 1s by people still upset over the conference championship game. Beyond that, the grading could be all over the place.
Williams entered the season as the number five wide receiver, but worked his way into some significant playing time as a slot receiver. He finished the season with 20 catches for 241 yards and three touchdowns, with the first touchdown coming on only his second reception in the NFL. He made a phenomenal catch for that first touchdown week two against the Dallas Cowboys. He was in and out of the lineup before having a career day against the Arizona Cardinals. He closed the season a bit up and down but with some decent production against the Rams, Cardinals and Steelers
In spite of all that, the elephant in the room will continue to be the two fumbles that directly contributed to the 49ers NFC championship game loss to the New York Giants. It was not surprising that the 49ers elected to use him as the return man in place of an injured Ted Ginn Jr. Williams was a return man in college and had served in the role late in the regular season when Ginn first got hurt.
As the 49ers look ahead to 2012, Williams' role would seem to depend on a lot of factors he cannot control. If Ginn walks, Williams could very well get a shot at being the main return guy. Of course, he'll also have to convince the team his head is on straight to do that. Given the ability to fumble on so many types of plays as a receiver, I've got to think he gets a shot to win the return job if Ginn isn't around. If they don't let him attempt to win the return man job in that context because of concern about his mental state, they might as well release him entirely.
As a wide receiver, he could be battling all sorts of players, depending on the 49ers moves this offseason. Ginn and Joshua Morgan are both free agents. Additionally, the 49ers could make a run at Mike Wallace, or some other complementary options in free agency. Add in potential draft picks, and Kyle Williams could have quite a battle in front of him for playing time.
Here is a rundown of Kyle Williams' 2011 highlights:
- Hauled in a 12-yard touchdown reception from QB Alex Smith vs. Dallas (9/18), recording his first career NFL TD on just his second NFL touch.
- Caught a career-long 14-yard pass from QB Alex Smith in the second quarter versus NYG (11/13)
- Logged 5 receptions for a career-best 54 yards and one touchdown versus Arizona (11/20)
- Hauled in a 56-yard catch and run TD in the fourth quarter versus St. Louis (12/4), at the time marking longest play from scrimmage of the year. He also rushed for 25 yards on his first carry of his career.
- Made first career start at Seattle (12/24). Recorded 86 yards from 3 kickoff returns and 41 yards from 2 punt returns, both career highs