Why Undrafted?: Isaiah Williams, WR, Illinois

Isaiah Williams

This series was created a number of years ago in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

For a lot of the pre-draft process, Illinois wide receiver Isaiah Williams was viewed as a likely third-day pick after producing a nice 2023 season. He caught 82 passes on the year for 1,055 yards and five touchdowns while having to play with two different quarterbacks. Surprisingly, Williams went undrafted when many thought he could go in the early rounds of Day 3.

Team sources say there were two reasons why Williams went undrafted. First, he is undersized. Second, he ran more slowly than expected in pre-draft workouts.

After going undrafted, Williams signed with the Detroit Lions, and they were an excellent landing spot for him. After losing Josh Reynolds in free agency, Detroit entered the 2024 NFL Draft with wide receiver as a position that needed some competition, yet the they did not draft a wideout. Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jameson Williams and Kalif Raymond are locks for the Detroit’s final 53-man roster, but that leaves three or four roster spots for Williams to be in an open competition for with the likes of Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green, Maurice Fountain, Tre’Quan Smith, and some other “street” free agent-caliber competitors. The Lions coaching staff also gives fair opportunities to late-round picks or undrafted free agents. While Williams could be disappointed he didn’t get drafted, he landed with a good team that will give him a fair shot to have an NFL career.


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