Much of the offseason wide receiver discussion has centered on the Darrell Jackson, Ashley Lelie and Jason Hill. This certainly makes sense, considering they're all new faces in the crowd. However, one guy that has piqued my interest and might as well be a new face is Brandon Williams. Williams had no receptions last season, instead spending most of the season on special teams or inactive. However, Matt Maiocco had a snippet of information that caught my attention last month:
As we look at the various positions in the depth chart, wide receiver has a chance to be very fluid in who earns what job. If Jackson is healthy, he's the obvious #1. After that, Lelie is the guy they want to win the #2 job, but if he struggles, Arnaz Battle could be back in that spot. After that, Jason Hill and Brandon Williams will be battling it out for that 4th receiver position. Now seems as good a time as any to look back at Williams and his draft profile.
Williams is a very quick-footed receiver, who runs very sharp and precise routes -- his burst out of cuts enables him to consistently get separation. He has good hands and has shown the ability to adjust to off-target passes and make tough catches in traffic consistently. He consistently has shown an ability to make catches in traffic, take hard hits right after the catch, and hold on to the ball. He is a quick and elusive runner in the open field, and consistently makes plays with the ball in his hands (both as a receiver and return man). He is a highly competitive blocker, who has shown a knack for finding a way to eliminate his man.
Williams's biggest weakness is his lack of size -- he will struggle to stay healthy if he is over-used in the NFL. He lacks the bulk and playing strength to break tackles in the NFL, and he will struggle to gain yards after contact consistently. He has a bad habit of letting passes within his frame get into his body, and he ends up fighting the ball and dropping some easy passes. He does not consistently get down low to catch the low pass well.
Clearly size is an issue here. First off, in checking around, nfl.com lists him at 5'9 180lbs going into the draft. ESPN and the 49ers list him at 5'11 and between 175 and 185. So clearly he's not a big guy. However, one name popped into my head when I thought of the potential upside of Williams. Wayne Chrebet. I could be way off base, but something about Williams reminds me of Chrebet. They're about the same size and neither is considered a particularly fast receiver. It's entirely possible Brandon Williams ends up doing nothing and is out of the league in a couple years. However, I'd like to think if he puts in the effort he could turn into a Wayne Chrebet-style receiver. Certainly not a game-breaker, but somebody that does all the little things, whether it be grabbing the 4 yards needed for a first down, or throwing the perfect block to break a Frank Gore draw.
At the moment the odds are probably not in his favor. As nfl.com put it, "Obviously, the big problem is that short and thin receivers struggle to be productive NFL receivers." However, if he could turn out some semblance of production, he could add considerable depth to the 3rd and 4th WRs. Jason Hill is the guy many of us are excited about long term. However, I think we'll see Brandon Williams turn into a solid receiver. I don't think he breaks into the base starting lineup, but I think he could turn himself into a productive passing down guy.
Of course during this stretch of little information and quiet times, maybe I'm stretching it. It's easy to over-estimate what everybody will do. But of course, that's part of the fun of it. Here's hoping I'm right.