Thought to be the next great big receiver by some coming out of the 2004 NFL Draft, Washington’s Reggie Williams turned out to be one of two “R. Williams” relative busts (Roy being the other) taken in the first round just after Larry Fitzgerald. In his five NFL seasons, Williams has put up one season with more than 50 receptions (2006) and one season with more than four touchdowns (2007, when he rode the David Garrard Gravy Train to ten scores).
He’s regarded by people I've talked to who have seen him at the NFL and NCAA level as a solid raw athlete with iffy route-running skills, limited quickness out of the blocks, and little to no separation from defensive backs. That 2007 season saw him turn negative DVOA and DYAR totals around (25.6% and 183, respectively), only to see the totals fall to earth in 2008 (3.8% and 47).
Williams has said that of course, he’d love to come back home! And former Jags receivers coach Robert Prince, currently filing that same role in Seattle, has mentioned the possibility:
"We had a good relationship," Prince said. "For whatever reason, it hasn't turned out as well as he wanted. And I know he's a free agent and I do have a relationship with him, but we'll look at all the options with all of the guys."
Now, as a free agent with something to prove, he’s going to be a very appealing notion to the Seahawks’ receiver-gullible front office. If Deion Branch can stay healthy, and if a Michael Crabtree or somewhat similar primary target hits Seattle, and if Bobby Engram goes elsewhere … Williams proves intriguing in a specific role: that of inexpensive, hit-taking, expendable, slot receiver. With all the disappointment tied t his career so far, nobody’s ever questioned his ability to take shots over the middle – as was detailed to me by Charlie Bernstein, publisher of Jagnation.com:
Williams obviously isn't an elite receiver, but he's an asset to any franchise. There's no receiver that's tougher, that will go over the middle more and take huge shots and hold on to the football. Reggie takes pride in his blocking, and is one of the best blockers I've ever seen from the wide receiver position. Williams route running has improved, but he doesn't play to his 4.4-4.5 speed and he has trouble adjusting to the ball in air. Williams is perfect for a true West Coast offense as he is fearless, and thrives on turning short slants into bigger gains. Williams showed a taste of what he can do in 2007 when he broke the Jacksonville franchise record for receiving touchdowns with 10.
The inconsistency at quarterback hurt Reggie in 2008 as he was often ignored by David Garrard locking on to Matt Jones and Garrard giving up on plays to scramble and eventually run out of bounds. Williams is a solid piece that can be used as a possession guy over the middle. A return to Seattle would be just what the doctor ordered for him, as he wouldn't have huge expectations to live up to as he did in Jacksonville when they made him the #9 overall pick in the 2004 draft, and the offensive system is perfect for his talents.
We talk about “ifs” here – if the Branch/Other Super Guy/Williams trio happens, with John Carlson in the mix, Mike Holmgren will spend the 2009 season sitting at home in Arizona or Marin County or Mercer Island, wondering where all this was for him. On the other hand, if Williams is seen as an elite solution – well, we could be looking at another year with very little in the way of above-league-average receiving performances.
The key with Williams is how he’s used, and who’s around him. Let’s be as honest as possible as the rumors become reality, as I believe they will – this is a guy whose Similarity Scores (explained here) for his 2008 season brought up names like Dez White (2004), Jacquez Green (2001), and (you’ll pardon the expression) Matt Jones (2007). He’s a cog, not a superstar. Treat him accordingly, Seahawks, and you shall be reasonably rewarded.