Damian Williams, WR, USC
Weight: 197 pounds
40 time: 4.53
The next in a line of talented and productive USC wide receivers to enter the NFL, Damian Williams is coming off the best season of his career, having caught 70 passes for 1,010 yards and six touchdowns.
A two-year starter for the Trojans after transferring from Arkansas, Williams recorded 147 receptions for 2,114 yards and 17 touchdowns during the three years he played during his career (2006 with Arkansas, 2008-2009 with USC).
A pure playmaker at the receiver position, Williams is at his best with the ball in his hands in the open field; his quickness and agility are fantastic and he’s one of the most elusive receivers in this year’s draft. Williams also has the size and large frame that I look for in a top receiver at the next level. What I love about Damian’s game is that he’s capable of taking the ball the distance from anywhere on the field; his overall athleticism is fantastic. His sudden quickness and acceleration are both terrific.
With true freshman Matt Barkley starting at quarterback this past season, the Trojans ran a lot of screens and had Damian run a lot of underneath routes to get the ball in his hands and let him pick up yards after the catch. He’s a very reliable receiver with great hands and he’s also willing to work across the middle of the field in traffic to make a catch. Damian’s route running is one of his best assets, as he has the quick burst and athleticism needed to really sink his hips into the routes and explode out of them. He’s also shown that he’s capable of going up the ladder and grabbing the ball out of the air. He’s also a skilled returner, having returned 24 punts for 340 yards and two touchdowns, good for a fantastic 14-yards per return average.
Williams’ biggest question mark is his lack of elite top-end speed; however, for how quick and sudden he is as a receiver, I think that he’s plenty fast enough to play at the next level. He lacks a great burst off the line of scrimmage, and rather, he gradually picks up speed rather than exploding off the line. Durability is going to be a concern with Damian; in 2007 he had surgery on both of his shoulders after tearing a ligament during the spring; he also dealt with a sprained shoulder during 2008; Williams also dealt with injuries during high school as well. Damian’s thin, wiry frame leaves him prone to injury with his lack of bulk. Adding some weight and getting stronger at the next level will help him become a better player, especially as a blocker where he has some experience, but could stand to add some strength for the bigger defensive backs in the NFL. I project that Williams will be selected in the second-to-third round.
I personally feel that Damian has all of the tools needed to develop into a very good No. 2 receiver in the NFL with the potential to become a No. 1 receiver for his team; he’ll also be able to contribute on special teams if needed, which should increase his value to a team even further. Staying healthy and adding some strength is the only thing that I feel could hold him back from having success at the next level; his instincts, intelligence, and intangibles are all very good.
Notes: Damian was named first-team All-Pac 10 in 2009 and was named Freshman All-SEC in 2006. He began his career at Arkansas before transferring with teammate Mitch Mustain to USC. He sat out the 2007 season and was the Trojan’s No. 1 wide receiver the last two years. Coming out of high school, Damian was rated as the No. 2 player in the state of California as well as the No. 9 receiver and No. 98 overall player in the country by Rivals.com. As a prep, he was also a successful baseball player.
Williams is another wideout who doesn’t get mentioned with the big boys (Bryant, Tate, Benn) but who has enough size and speed to be a contributor at any of the receivers positions. The durability concerns are valid, and Williams may want to hit the weight room and the protein shakes to add some bulk to his frame. As for concerns that he’s more quick than fast, well, you can go all the way back to Jerry Rice to find a receiver who wasn’t considered “stopwatch fast” but who had enough quickness to get himself open. Perhaps Williams’ best trait is his hands, even though they deserted him somewhat during the Combine’s passing drills; suffice it to say that regardless of where he lands in the NFL he’ll see better quarterbacking than he did during that drill.
Williams brings enough to the table—adequate size, good speed, great hands, return skills—that he should challenge for significant playing time right away. If it turns out he’s not able to adjust to the physicality of NFL corners playing outside, then worst-case he’ll make a heckuva slot receiver. In past NFL drafts receivers have tended to slide, but in dynasty leagues Williams’ skill set is one that suggests you shouldn’t sleep to long if you’re looking to add him to your squad.