clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Troubled rookie Mike Williams has something to prove

New, comments
The Buccaneers took a chance drafting troubled receiver Mike Williams from Syracuse in the fourth round, but his size and speed indicate he can be a legitimate threat if he can keep his head on straight.
The Buccaneers took a chance drafting troubled receiver Mike Williams from Syracuse in the fourth round, but his size and speed indicate he can be a legitimate threat if he can keep his head on straight.

Numbers don’t lie.

Take rookie wide receiver Mike Williams, for instance, and the numbers 49, 746 and six. Those represent his catches, yards and touchdowns respectively in his senior season. And then there’s the number seven. That’s how many games it took him to garner those stats.

And there’s the number one, which represents how many times he was suspended for academic dishonesty and the number of times he quit the Syracuse football team. The one thing numbers can't do is measure is the size of the question marks surrounding the talented, but troubled receiver.

So, what prompted the Buccaneers to draft Williams? It’s simple. Value.

Before the draft, scouts anointed Williams a first- or second-round talent. And when you can get that kind of talent in the fourth round where the Bucs took him, that’s value. When you can get a top-five receiver with the 14th receiver taken off the board, that’s a steal, and it’s a risk worth taking.

Williams caught 133 passes for 2,044 yards and 20 touchdowns in 31 games at Syracuse. At 6-foot-2, 212 pounds, he has size. He has 4.49 speed. At his Pro Day workout, he recorded a 36.5 inch vertical leap, a 9-foot-10 broad jump and an 11.63 60-yard shuttle. Physically, he’s the prototypical NFL receiver.

But mentally, he lapses.

As a sophomore, he caught touchdown passes in nine consecutive games and led his team with 60 catches for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns as a second-team All-Big East Conference selection.

But his decision-making is questionable.

He was on pace to break every receiving record in Orange history, poised to pass players like Marvin Harrison and Art Monk. He was one of the top receivers in the Football Bowl Subdivision his senior year, and he did it on a passing offense ranked 82nd in the nation out of 120 teams.

But his loyalty is dubious. And that’s why head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik courted him so extensively during the pre-draft evaluation process, including interviewing those close to him and to the football program at Syracuse.

"We did our due diligence and work," Morris said. "We were very comfortable taking Mike. He’s got another opportunity. He’s got a fresh start."

"We spent a lot of time with Mike," Dominik said. "Mike Williams is a great kid . . . a kid who’s a really passionate kid about football. Loves it. He’s not a quitter. We wouldn’t have taken him if I was concerned about who he is."

That comes from a general manager whose reputation will forever be linked to the 2010 draft, and whose job may be in jeopardy if the draft proves unsuccessful.

Despite the character concerns, Williams is looking at the opportunity as a second chance, one he plans on making good on.

"I'm way different than people think," Williams told Gary Shelton of the St. Petersburg Times. "I have to prove that. People assume that since I got in trouble in college, I'm this terrible person. Once they meet me, it's different."

For Williams, the final number is one. As in one short leash the Bucs will have him on. As in one big mistake is all it takes to punch his ticket out of town. But also, as in one hell of a deal and one great decision by Morris and Dominik if he can stay out of trouble and live up to his physical potential.