Saturday, 30 January 2010

POTD: Damian Williams, WR, USC

By Kip Earlywine
The Seahawks badly need play makers on offense. As it turns out, they need help at WR even worse than I thought. I was under the impression that Housh, Burleson, and Branch provided the Seahawks with an above average WR group (albeit on a somewhat rental basis) last year, but these statistics paint a different picture. I think they have Housh too low, and obviously these receivers are suffering because of the ill suited OC and gimpy QB they played with, but point taken- the Seahawks WRs are not difference makers, and even if they were, none of those 3 will likely be here in 2012.

What really killed the Seahawks last year was that very close to every play they ran was 10 yards or less. In addition to the running plays which are generally short-medium yardage, the passing offense featured a ton of dump offs, screens, and very short possession passes. Because the Seahawks did not have a deep threat or big play WR, or a QB with the arm to capitalize on it, this allowed opposing defenses to game plan the short yardage game which the WCO lives off of, and the Seahawks had absolutely no way of punishing defenses for doing that. To make things worse, even the best skill position player on the offense last year, Justin Forsett, doesn't showcase big play speed, so this also played into the opponents hands when they game planned to stop the short yardage. Obviously, a big priority over the next couple offseasons must be adding play makers and building a new, young, good offensive core to help the team win for years to come.

One of the top WRs in this year's draft class is Damian Williams. He's expected to be a late 1st round pick at this point.

Height: 6'1"
Weight: 190
Unofficial 40: 4.45

(highlights begin at 7:35) If you get an error message, right click then select "watch on youtube."

(highlights begin at 2:30)



Quick thoughts:


-VERY smooth runner, awesome routes
-Crisp execution... consistent
-Makes tough catches
-Deceptive Speed, could be a decent deep threat
-Above average size
-Was very successful right out of the gate at USC
-Has never fumbled
-Good yards per catch (15.0, 14.4 the last two years)
-Low Risk, guys like Williams were born to be a WCO WR.
-Familiarity with Bates and Carroll.
-Healthy (had a shoulder ligament issue during his redshirt season (2007), looks like ancient history)
-No character concerns


-Catches the ball close to his body.
-Not explosive or physical, if you want Brandon Marshall, draft someone else.
-Doesn't look like an NFL caliber kick returner (looks slow, doesn't blow by guys or break tackles).
-Looks like a finesse player that would probably be at his best in a pure WCO like Mike Holmgren's.
-No good looks at his blocking but I've read it needs a little work.
-Might not have true #1 upside.

You can read Matt McGuire's impressions of Damian Williams here, obviously he goes into more detail. Its worth noting that he closes out his review by saying "Williams might be the best route-runner I have seen in four years of scouting."

Williams compares very well to Steve Smith (Giants version): both played for USC and have similar skills. Smith had 1220 yards and 7 TDs last year in his 3rd year in the NFL.

As Kyle Rota mentioned a couple weeks ago, last year USC had a rookie QB and a new OC (Bates), which meant Bates had to adjust by running the ball a whopping 60% of the time. Despite a lack of opportunity, a new OC, and a rookie QB, Damian Williams still finished the season with a respectable 1010 yards and 6 TD's in 70 grabs. That's not superstar production, but even a superstar probably wouldn't put up huge numbers in that situation.

Overall, the only thing that prevents me from giving Williams a massive endorsement is the question of whether he's an ideal WR for the new offense Bates will try to create. If we use Denver as the template, we know he likes big "beastly" WR and small/quick WR in the mold of Marshall/Royal. Damian Williams is neither of those things. But if Bates is ok with that, and willing to adjust his offense to a more precision based scheme like what Holmgren ran, then obviously Williams could be a great pickup.


CraigPT said...

Hi Kip,

Nice initial POTD post. Interesting info. You discuss the lack of speed with our skill players. Any opinion on Deion Butler and his possible role with the offense in the future?

Rob Staton said...

Thought I might aswell give the heads up here for some general blog info for those reading:

-Kip's featured articles will now be tallied on the right hand side bar as with myself and Kyle. This will be updated throughout the year.

-I've just watched the senior bowl. Expect a report on the blog early tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

If Damian Williams is at #40, you have to take him. I agree with everything in the report. He may not be an "elite, true #1" WR, but he's the type of guy that will quietly give you 1000 yards every season and be Mr. Dependable when you need a first down. He is so far ahead of the curve when it comes to the little details of becoming a good NFL WR. Obviously I think very highly of him, but you don't see many college WRs like him anymore thanks to the spread killing the development of offensive players in college.

Kip Earlywine said...

Hi Craig.

I really can't comment on Deon Butler, since he has a weird skill-set and only gives us 15 catches to go off of in the pros. I know someone (maybe Kyle Rota?) compared Butler to Eddie Royal, which obviously would bode well for his future if he could be for Bates in Seattle what Royal was for him in Denver.

However there are a lot of differing opinions. John Morgan at fieldgulls is particularly pessimistic about Butler for a few reasons. The first is that Butler was a 3rd round pick and something like 1 in 15 or so 3rd round WR ever make a pro-bowl. The second is that Butler isn't big or physical enough to be a real deep threat WR, and is also too small to be an over-the-middle slot threat (Butler runs great routes) since a WR who makes catches in the middle needs to be able to take big hits from LB.

My personal evaluation of Butler, which is by no means set in stone but just an initial impression, is that he reminds me of a fast Michael Bumpus. Bumpus ran good routes and had great hands, and if he weren't such a midget, would have been a terrific slot WR. Bumpus had a good 2008 preseason, but his NFL career lasted all of 4 games (5 catches). I think Butler could have the same problems Bumpus did going over the middle, plus we already have Housh who's best as a slot WR. I'm curious about how Butler does under Bates, but right now, I'd say I'm doubtful that Butler ever becomes a big part of our future offense. But we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff as usual, but I think you may be missing something in regards to the consequences of a ZBS in the passing game. A very good article on that can be found here. .
The Gold standard for the ZBS arguably was set in 1998, when Shanahan’s Bronco’s Tyrell Davis rushed for 2008 yards in 392 attempts averaging 5.1 yds per attempt. That same year Elway completed 210 passes for 2806 yds and a 13.36 yards per reception ave. His longest completion was for 58 yards and he was sacked 18 times. Compare that to Matt’s 2009 stats- 293 completions for 3029 yards or 10.34 per completion while being sacked 32 times. The point is that in the ZBS passing attack, the deep threat is negated somewhat. That is not how you keep the Defense honest in regards to stacking the box or pressing to much. Dump-offs, screens, and short possession passes are exactly what we should expect to see. Everything depends on timing, and quick decision making by the QB. He drops back 1/3/5/7 steps and throws to a specific spot and the receiver needs to be there. (It’s not hard to guess which potential future QB’s PC is looking really closely at right now) Route runners and timing are what it’s all about. Left tackles that are really converted tight ends and lighter linemen will not be stopping the pass rush long and even with the backs and tight ends chipping or double teaming, the ball needs to get out of the QB’s hands fast.
Elway certainly had the arm, but in 1998 he was asked to be a game manager and they won the Super Bowl with him doing just that.

Kip Earlywine said...

Thanks for the link, I'm still reading through it.

I get what you are saying about ZBS drawbacks in pass pro and that as a result you see a higher number of short passes- this is why ZBS is almost always paired with some form of a WCO (which is built around short, high percentage completions). That said, last year Hasselbeck became "captain checkdown" as other blogs have dubbed him because he no longer had the arm (combined with poor separation by WR) to even complete mid range passes without great risk. I'm not saying the Seahawks have to be a vertical offense, they just need to legitimately threaten defenses to force them to play deep so that the short game will open up.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kip, You are writing great stuff! Keep up the good work. Is Taylor Mays going to prove to his critics he's the man or is he truly just a "hitter" with no cover skills like everyone is saying?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Kip. Playmakers change the way a D has to prepare for you. With Warner’s retirement I, at least, believe we still have the best QB in the NFC West. It sure would be helpful if our receivers could break a tackle or two and get some YAC’s, and our RB’s could make someone miss once in a while and get into the open field. I guess one of the reasons why the Brandon Marshall trade rumors are so intriguing to me are his 2009 stats - 101 receptions -1120 total receiving yards -527YAC, (7th best YAC in the NFL). On average, he caught the ball 5.8 yards from the line of scrimmage, and then ran over, around or thru the defenders for another 5.2 yards. I know he’s a head case but with our coaches and a change of scenery….. What do you think? Could he fit? And if we were to draft someone like Spiller, wow! The possibilities are endless and exciting. Keep up the great work! I look forward to reading all 3 of you everyday.

Kip Earlywine said...

Thanks Paul. To be honest, I don't have a self formed opinion on Mays yet, but it seems Rob and everyone else is terrified of the Seahawks drafting him since he has absolutely no coverage instincts and sometimes opts to blast a player instead of wrapping up. In a mildly dissenting opinion, Kyle Rota mentioned that Mays ability to cover space allowed Carroll's defense to work at USC. Considering this, Mays could very possibly be targeted by Carroll in Seattle, especially if he slips to #40.

I'm definitely a proponent of bringing in Marshall. He definitely fits, though his off the field problems are a little scary. However, if Denver would be willing to deal him for the #40 and change, I'd try to make a deal. A guy like Marshall is what the Seahawks need at WR.

Anonymous said...

I concur with the Marshall idea, even if it is a huge risk. Jeremy Bates and Jedd Fisch have had a few years to work with him and I wouldn't see why Brandon wouldn't want to be with them again. The cost to get him is the only thing of concern.

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