Duke Williams 2015 Preview
Duke Williams, 6-2/224
By Charlie Campbell
It hasn't been easy to be a wide receiver prospect at Auburn the past few seasons, as the Tigers have been led by the ground game with a running quarterback at the helm. Despite the lack of opportunities, for the second-straight draft, the Tigers should produce an early-round prospect at wideout. Last year Sammie Coates was a third-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and next year. Duke Williams has the potential go in the early portion of the draft.
The junior college transfer Williams was unknown at this time last year, while Coates was the receiving star coming off Auburn's appearance in the National Championship game. While Coates got all the hype, Williams displaced him as the No. 1 receiver in the Tigers' offense last fall. When Auburn had to convert through the air, Williams was the go-to guy. He totaled 45 receptions for 730 yards with five touchdowns in his shortened season. His average of 16 yards per catch indicated his potential to produce more if he had received more targets.
The year ended on a sour note as Williams hurt himself by getting suspended for Auburn's Bowl game.
2015 Season Outlook:
The schedule is shaping up for Williams to see some good tests before going pro. For the third game of the season, Auburn will take on LSU, which has a good cornerback tandem in juniors Tre'Davious White and Rashard Robinson.
Williams will face an even better duo a week later with Mississippi State's Will Redmond and Taveze Calhoun. The Bulldog corners are big, and it will be interesting to see if Williams can gain separation going against them.
In late October, Williams will take on a tough Ole Miss defense that gets excellent play out of do-it-all cornerback Tony Connor. He is a tough defender who could be charged with matching up on Williams.
From the preseason view, those are Williams' best opponents and coverage challenges. He also will see good talent in games against Texas A&M, Georgia, and Alabama.
The NFL is a passing-driven league, and Williams has a skill set to play on Sundays. With size and speed, he could get consideration as a future No. 1 receiver. Williams isn't a true burner, but he has the quickness to get separation. He also uses his size well to shield defenders from the ball and be physical with cornerbacks.
Williams is a raw receiver, as one could expect given his lack of experience. He needs to improve his route-running and hands. Last season, Williams dropped some passes deep downfield that could have gone for big plays. It will be interesting to see how he improves with a year of experience in the SEC.
In speaking with sources, Williams already made a good on the field impression with scouts. They said that his game reminded them of Anquan Boldin, which is high praise for Williams.
2016 NFL Draft Expectations:
Williams looks like a potential early-rounder for the 2016 NFL Draft. He could end up being as high as a first-rounder or as low as a third-rounder. The real wrinkle would be if his off-the-field issues submarine his draft stock.
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