Intro: Terrance Williams is a player I’ve been watching since he was a sophomore at Baylor. That was back when Josh Gordon looked like the top WR prospect on the team, and Kendall Wright played a supporting role along with Williams. After Gordon’s dismissal Wright stepped into the spotlight and Williams was the second option, albeit a good one. This year, Williams was expected to be the man but he had never been a #1 option during his college career. I was unsure how he would do, and actually expected him to finish with similar production that he had as a junior- about 60 receptions, 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Well, I was completely wrong. Williams has completely gone off this year, totaling 89 receptions, 1,693 yards and 12 touchdowns through just 11 games. He has totaled under 100 receiving yards just three times, producing 84, 87 and 91 yards in those contests. He has also only played three games where he hasn’t had a touchdown this year. Needless to say he has been incredibly impressive, and I have seen improvement from him in more than just his stat line. Here are my updated thoughts on Terrance Williams as he projects to the NFL.
Size: Terrance Williams is listed at 6’3”, 205 pounds. He looks like he could add a little bit of weight, but he isn’t skinny by any means. He has been learning how to use his size to shield defenders from the ball and it gives him an advantage on jump balls down the field.
Speed: Williams has legitimate sub 4.5 speed and I think he will run around 4.45 at the NFL combine. His straight line speed is definitely an asset and it allows him to beat athletic defenders using nothing but pure speed. He has shown that he can pull away from defenders when running vertical routes and when running after the catch, and that’s something that will appeal to a lot of evaluators. A kid with his size and athleticism doesn’t come around very often.
Quickness: Williams’ quickness isn’t as good as you might think considering his straight line speed. I wouldn’t say he has “build-up” speed, but I don’t think he has great quickness either. He isn’t stiff or anything, but I don’t think he’s a “quick-twitch” athlete either. Some players are quicker than fast, and I personally believe Williams is faster than he is quick. I don’t think this will hold him back much, but based on what I’ve watched I don’t think his 10 yard split at the combine will be particularly impressive.
Release: This is one of the areas where I think his quickness shows up. He doesn’t “explode” off of the ball, and part of that may involve his stance. I haven’t seen him jammed a single time so far since I have been watching him, so I have no idea how he deals with physical press man coverage. I don’t think he’s especially tough when he’s contacted when running routes though, so I’d definitely like to see him pressed to see how he handles it.
Route Running: This is one area where Williams still needs some work. I went back and watched a couple of his games from 2011 and his route running was a serious question mark. He was running curl routes by simply running and then stopping without sinking his hips or chopping his feet. He got away with that with RGIII at quarterback, but someone must have taken him aside and told him he needs to run better routes because he has improved significantly this year. He can still get better, but he runs better routes on curls and slants than he did last year. Like I said, he can improve, but the fact that he has already shown improvement is very encouraging. He’s not great at this yet, and I’m not quite convinced he has a complete route tree since he runs a LOT of curls and 9 routes, but despite my questions about his quickness I think he could develop into a good route runner at the next level if he continues to work and gets good coaching.
Hands: This was another question mark for me the past couple years with Terrance Williams, but I am comfortable giving him a good grade in this category right now. He has consistently shown that he can make catches with his hands outside of his frame, tough catches in traffic and that when he’s concentrating he can make very tough catches whether they are diving receptions on low throws or catches that require good footwork on the sideline. His concentration is the only question mark for me because he still drops routine catches more than he should, but he has improved on this from 2011 and that is good to see. If he has a mentor at the position or a good position coach I think he will continue to work on and hopefully eliminate this problem. His hands aren’t the issue, it’s his concentration. But like I said with his route running, it is encouraging to see him improving in this area.
Body Control: Williams’ body control is one of his best assets in my opinion. He adjusts very well to deep passes, attacks the ball in the air at its highest point and I think he may have the best footwork and feel for making receptions along the sideline of any receiver in this draft. He consistently gets not one but two feet in-bounds, doing a great job contorting his body to make the reception and get his feet in. This was something I definitely didn’t identify until I watched him more extensively in 2012, but his body control is definitely impressive.
In Traffic: Williams may not be the toughest receiver in the country, but he consistently makes tough receptions in traffic and has shown that he can go over the middle (though I have rarely, if ever, seen him make a catch and take a huge hit). I do think there are times when a defender gets a little handsy or grabby and he throttles down and looks for the flag, and I would prefer to see him fight through it and force the refs to throw the flag rather than expect them to. He shows that he will fight through contact to make the catch, but I think there are times he looks for flags when he should attempt to keep running his route.
YAC: Williams is definitely dangerous after the catch, particularly if he can get up to speed and outrun some angles. He’s not particularly shifty and I haven’t seen him break many tackles so I wouldn’t expect him to do so at the next level either. But if he catches a crossing route with space in front of him he will pick up plenty of yardage, and if he catches a deep pass in stride he can run away from the defense. He won’t have many electric runs where he makes a lot of guys miss with his short area burst and shiftiness, but he can pick up yards after the catch.
Blocking: I have seen a solid but not spectacular effort blocking when I watch Williams. He isn’t a dominant blocker by any means, but he has shown some ability to sustain and help the ball-carrier gain additional yardage as a result of his block. He can stand to improve here, but in an offense like Baylor’s I wouldn’t expect him to be a dominant blocker.
Overall: Williams was a guy who I characterized as a size/speed guy coming into the season, but I wasn’t sold on him from a hands/concentration aspect or from a route running perspective when I previewed Baylor this summer. However, Williams has answered a number of questions I posed before the season- Can he match his production without Kendall Wright? Obvious yes, he has vastly exceeded it. Can he be the go-to receiver or is he more of a complementary guy? This year he has proven that he can be extremely productive as the go-to guy and he has shown he can thrive in a complementary role in the past. Not only that, he has shown that he can be a go-to guy without a Heisman winner at quarterback. I’m not sure if he’s a NFL #1 yet, but thanks to his size and speed he has that upside. Can he improve his route running and work to eliminate his concentration lapses? He hasn’t completely fixed these issues, but he has definitely improved on them from what I saw from him in 2011. That’s a very good sign and it makes me think he’s going to end up in the first round. This is one reason I like to watch players before they are draft eligible, not just after they are seniors or likely to declare juniors. Being able to see their progression and improvement with your own eyes, not just on a stat sheet, is really beneficial in my opinion.
Projection: 1st round. I think Williams looks like a top 40 pick right now and he still has a couple games left (the regular season finale against Oklahoma State and then a bowl game) to attempt to boost his stock. I expect him to be at the Senior Bowl as well where I look forward to getting a chance to talk to him more in depth. Guys that are 6’3” with 4.45 speed don’t grow on trees, and Williams has really improved his overall game since his junior season. He’s becoming a more complete receiver, and even though he has things to work on I am really intrigued by his upside. He’s not all the way there yet, but the improvement he has shown is more than encouraging enough for me to give him a 1st round grade at this point.