INDIANAPOLIS – Mike Williams is almost finished with his dizzying array of meetings here at the NFL Scouting combine.
On Thursday night, the Cardinals got their chance with the Clemson star receiver, as offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin went through game scenarios with him for a few minutes. On Friday, Williams had 10 more team visits set up.
“It’s going to be a long night,” he said during an afternoon media session.
Everyone wants their shot at Williams because he is slated to be one of the top three wideouts taken in the draft, along with Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and Washington’s John Ross. The process is a whirlwind for the players, who try to keep everyone’s name straight and make a good impression on dozens of foreign faces.
But when Williams walked into the room, the Cardinals already knew plenty about him. They knew about his on-field exploits, which included 98 catches for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2016 after returning from a harrowing neck injury.
And they’ve begun the process of digging into his personality, a trait that coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Steve Keim weigh heavily when setting their draft board. The Cardinals have an ace in the hole when it comes to researching players from Clemson, as they are tight with Tigers coach Dabo Swinney.
The Cardinals have added
“I tell our scouts all the time, when we go to these schools, I don’t need Dabo Swinney to tell me if a guy can play,” Keim said. “Hopefully, I get paid to see he can play. I need to find out how much he loves the game. I need to find out, on a weekly basis, how his competitiveness is in practice, how does he take things from the board to the field. Those are the critical questions I have. How does he treat people in general? Not whether he can make a reach block, or how his feet are in a three-technique. I can see those things.”
Williams is projected to be chosen in the middle of the first round, a place where teams are crucified if the pick doesn’t pan out. It’s a lot of pressure, and every morsel of information is critical.
Much of Williams’ stock will undoubtedly be based on his physical traits. He dominated at the college level – outplaying star cornerbacks in this year’s College Football Playoff – and has a catch radius that is
“I just believe if the ball is in the air, it’s mine,” Williams said.
He could pique the Cardinals’ interest because Fitzgerald is winding down his career and a new No. 1 receiver will be needed soon. However, Arians has always preferred fast receivers, and there are concerns about the type of burst Williams will show.
He said he won’t run the 40-yard dash at the combine and instead will wait until his Pro Day.
“Long season,” Williams said. “Haven’t had much time to prepare for it, so I’m going to take this week and next week to prepare for it. ... You only run the 40 once, ever, in your life. You’re always running routes. I was just focused on what I’m going to be doing for a long time.”
Williams said he likes to watch the NFL and study the strengths of different receivers, from A.J. Green to Alshon Jeffery to Odell Beckham, Jr. He has flashed the type of skill to one day join them among the league’s best pass-catchers.
While all are mega-talented, the personalities are varied. Beckham is flashy, while Green is understated. Williams presented himself adeptly at a press conference on Thursday, but a 15-minute media session means nothing in the grand scheme of the evaluations.
Every franchise wants to know what a draft prospect is really like, and honesty from coaches like Swinney is the vital piece.
“The longer relationships you have with coaches, the better information you may get,” Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco said. “The colleges have their jobs to do, we have our jobs to do. We are very respectful of that. Any information we do get from colleges, that stays in-house with us to help us make our decisions. We try and hold that trust together. The longer you are in this, the more coaches you meet and known for a long time. That does help the information process.”