Cowboys' rookie Williams could get chance to shine while Austin nurses hamstring
The cause for Williams' draft day plummet had nothing to do with his production or skills as a receiver, but rather his plethora of "good not great" physical traits. Williams does has some deceptive straight-line speed, but is by no means a burner, and you won't find him exploding out of double moves for a big play. That, of course, is fine if you are a big, physically imposing receiver, but Williams is not - he goes at 6'2'', 208 pounds, which is not a bad size for a perimeter pass catcher, but it does not quite make up for his lack of explosiveness. His size/speed combination was too much for many college cornerbacks to handle, but he'll have a much harder time using it to take advantage of NFL cornerbacks.
Despite his lack of an elite trait, Williams was still able to put up some of the best numbers in all of the NCAA last year. I'm sure that he feels that he deserved to be drafted higher and is looking forward to his chance to prove 31 NFL teams that they were wrong for passing on him. He has gotten some looks through three weeks of his professional career, and his performance has been up and down. He completely tanked in the season opener, dropping two passes and running a wrong route that resulted in an interception. He bounced back the next week to catch all three of his targets, but then failed to catch a pass in Week 3. Williams has five catches for 60 yards through three games, but the sample size is too small to judge him on just yet.
Williams, however, may have his opportunity to show us what he can do with a full slate of playing time in Week 4. Starting receiver Miles Austin injured his hamstring in Week 3 and has a long history of hamstring ailments. Having not practiced at all so far this week, Austin appears to be questionable at best for Sunday's game against the San Diego Chargers. If Austin can not go, Williams will step in as the starter. Even if Austin does suit up, there is a solid chance that he will aggravate his injury or simply lack his typical explosiveness, giving Williams an uptick in snaps.
Thanks to the Chargers' 32nd ranked pass defense, Williams will really have a chance to make a mark on this game as the defense focuses the large majority of its attention to containing No. 1 receiver Dez Bryant. Williams could draw a good amount of one-on-one coverage, and if he proves worthy of quarterback Tony Romo's trust in practice this week, Romo may look to take advantage of what the defense is giving him.
As I said before, Williams has a lot of "good not great" traits, but another way to look at it is that he has a little bit of everything. Some size, speed, quickness, route running ability, athleticism, awareness, and strong hands can make for a productive NFL receiver. Could he be that guy who gets by as a well-rounded product, or will he be a player who is just not quite good enough at any facet of the game to succeed? We may get a good idea of the answer to that question on Sunday, assuming Austin is sidelined or limited.
Keep in mind that Williams will still be playing just his fourth game as a professional, so some rawness and mental mistakes would not be telling of what Williams' NFL future will be like, but it will still be interesting to see how the rookie steps up if called upon to play a big role.