Yesterday, the Jets announced that they had signed undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Daniel Williams. We're going to take a look at his strengths and weaknesses.
Williams is listed at 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds, and attended college at Jackson State, where he set a school receiving record and was a multiple time all-SWAC selection. The Jets are the first NFL team to sign him to a contract.
Williams attended Jackson State, where his breakout season saw him collect 73 catches for 1,004 yards and nine touchdowns in his sophomore year. His production was down as a senior, but he still paced the team with 47 catches for 599 yards and three scores.
He ended his college career with 184 catches to narrowly break a school record held by former NFL receiver Sylvester Morris.
Williams attended mini-camp tryouts with the Raiders and Lions and had a brief stint in Canada with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers this offseason.
Let's move onto some further analysis of what Williams brings to the table, based on in-depth research and film study.
Although he was initially reported as being 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds by the Jets, that appears to have been based on his listed weight at Jackson State and they have since updated this to reflect his pro day measurements of 6-foot-2 and 234 pounds.
At his pro day, he ran a 4.51 40-yard dash, which is excellent for his size. Some outlets reported that he ran a 4.3, but that was presumably based on unofficial timings. In addition, he posted a solid 17 bench press reps, but his explosiveness numbers were average and agility numbers poor.
Williams lined up mostly outside at JSU, but also got some work in the slot, primarily when there were three receivers on one side of the formation. He even lined up as a tight end from time to time, albeit primarily to run downfield route.
Williams was a legitimate big play threat at the SWAC level, routinely running beyond defenders for downfield catches and using his size and strength to come up with the ball when it was underthrown.
He flashed this ability against division one competition when he burned Jeremy Cutrer - regarded by some as a possible day two pick in 2017's draft - for a long touchdown against Middle Tennessee:
Interestingly, that play came one play after Cutrer had jumped his short route to break up the pass, so they clearly baited him into biting on the pump-and-go. Later on, Williams picked up 42 more on a shorter pump and go over the top, ending up with 130 yards on seven catches.
Despite his success in 2015 against top division competition with the performance against Middle Tennessee, he didn't fare as well in 2016 against UNLV.
In a 50-point loss, Williams had a 22-yard catch, but his nine other targets netted just one yard with his only other catches coming on three receiver screens. This underlines how he might need to sharpen up his routes to have success against NFL level competition. In this game, he didn't break sharply enough to get open against current Miami Dolphin Torry McTyer, who disrupted a pass on the outside.
As noted above, he's had some success on go routes and stop-and-go moves, but he's also not afraid to go over the middle. His size made him a legitimate red zone threat in college.
Williams displays some pretty nice hands on his highlight reel, with an ability to go up and extend for catches or to dive for low passes. He even had a couple of one hand grabs:
However, his hands are not completely reliable, as he had a drop in each of those games against BCS level competition, including this one which went through his hands for an interception:
Yards after the catch
Williams had a huge size advantage over most of the players he faced in college, so he is capable of breaking tackles and dragging defenders for extra yardage:
Williams was also able to use his speed to run away from defenders at that level and uses a stiff arm effectively in space.
Williams' coaches praised his efforts as a blocker in college and he did make significant contributions in that role. He shows some aggressiveness as he has some pancakes on his highlight reel:
However, he isn't just blindsiding people in space, as he shows the ability to lock onto a block and overpower a smaller player.
Having said that, his technique is not always perfect and he'll over-extend at times, which would allow a stronger player to leverage off the block.
Williams definitely made the most of his size advantage in college, whether he was blocking, carrying the ball or on routes and at the point of the catch. He'll need to maintain that mindset against stronger opponents at the NFL level.
Williams has already been added to the mix for return roles with the Jets, although he wasn't particularly impressive in that role in college. He averaged just 18.8 yards as a kick-off returner, as it seemed to take him too long to accelerate up to full speed based on his film.
Williams also saw work as a gunner, an example of which you can see below:
While it may seem surprising to see a 230+ pounder in that role, Williams has a similar athletic profile to Quincy Enunwa, who has done well in that role in the past.
There didn't seem to be any missed assignments or mental errors from Williams based on his film.
Here's a good example of Williams settling into an open area after a play was extended:
Williams comes from a rough background, saying in an interview once that he would see crack addicts and drug users on a daily basis. He's been determined to make something of himself and was proud to be the first in his family to graduate college.
He carried that attitude onto the field with coaches praising his unselfish attitude and describing him as someone who won't be outworked. He took on a leadership role as a senior, taking the younger receivers under his wing.
Earlier on in his career, Williams was playing in an air raid offense, but the team moved to a more run-oriented offense in his senior year, which explains his reduced production to some extent, but probably benefited his ability to be comfortable in a pro-style scheme.
There don't seem to be any details available about any injuries for Williams.
At this late stage, Williams is probably a camp body, but that doesn't mean he'll just be here for three weeks and then out the door.
A raw prospect with his athletic numbers would seem like a prime candidate to get some time on a practice squad this year and a futures deal after the season.
Here's where the new rules eliminating the cutdown from 90-to-75 before the last preseason game could hurt a player like Williams because ordinarily a guy like him might get some opportunities in that last game with the smaller roster and key contributors rested. Now there will be more competition for those reps so he'll need to make the most of whatever opportunities he gets to ensure he sticks around long enough for that to happen.