If you’ve been reading my daily training camp notes, you know that WR Stephen Williams has been an unexpected standout so far. The 6’5″ receiver has impressed, and it’s difficult to see a scenario where he doesn’t contribute to this team once the real games begin.
So far, I’ve seen him beat Richard Sherman for a long TD, out-muscle Brandon Browner for inside position on a slant route against press coverage, and catch everything that’s been thrown at him. His performance so far has been a huge surprise, but perhaps it shouldn’t have been.
Doug Farrar from Yahoo Sports wrote a couple days ago that the Cardinals had a third round grade on Williams when he came out of Toledo in the 2010 draft. He points out that the Cardinals loved him as a rookie, and that Larry Fitzgerald suggested that Williams could replace him in Cardinals offense.
I have a tough time believing that a player with a third round grade and no character issues would go undrafted. (I’m not doubting Farrar’s report, just commenting that it’s tough to believe.) I asked Curt Popejoy from draft board insider if he had any notes on Williams from before the 2010 draft. He did, of course, and graciously passed them along:
Excellent length, great catch radius, natural hands. Nice timed speed, but not great acceleration on the field. Very productive, does a nice job working against the double teams, but needs to improve route running. Do better against zone. Works hard and all his shortcomings can be coached up. Gets by on size advantage and athletic ability, but needs more polish. Not as physical as his body would indicate.Overall a developmental prospect. I didn’t have a round grade on him which likely means I had him as a priority free agent.
Unfortunately, Williams hurt his back early in his rookie campaign and later tore his Achilles tendon. He’s simply never been fully healthy since then, so the Cardinals gave up on him.
Enter the Seahawks. John Scheinder signed him to a two year, $1.2 million contract and gave Williams a chance to revive his career in Seattle. So far, that’s exactly what’s he’s done.
From what I’ve seen in practice, his route running is greatly improved over what Curt’s notes suggest. His routes are sharp and well polished. For perspective, I’d say they’re better that Golden Tate’s (whose routes are also improved in camp, so far), but not quite as good as Doug Baldwin’s. Combine that with his size and soft hands, and you have a player with the potential to be productive on Sundays.
We’ve had receivers who look decent in camp but can’t get it done in games before (Braylon Edwards comes to mind), so obviously we’ll have to wait and see how things look in the preseason games. It is simply impossible to not get excited about Williams and what he’s been able to do so far in camp.