Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stephen Williams: Seaturkey Extraordinaire

It seems that I stupidly deleted this post at some point.  The positive outcome of this is that I'll try to be more brief this time, in my attempt to describe the interesting situation with Stephen Williams.

In the past three preseason games Stephen Williams, WR for the Seahawks, has emerged as a player that really caught my attention.  He has scored a touchdown 3 weeks in a row, while amassing 186 receiving yards on just 6 receptions (31 yard avg. YPC).  While it's unlikely that anyone could maintain that pace, it gave me a good reason to dig into his numbers.  This 6'4", 210 pound receiver, was undrafted, but picked up as a free agent by the Arizona Cardinals in 2010, but has only had 9 receptions for a total of 101 yards, all back in the 2010 season.  Since then he has only been seen in preseason games, where he seems to have performed quite well. 

One of the most interesting aspects of his arrival in Seattle, is that he comes from a division rival.  If ever there was a team to pick up wide receiver scraps from, it is the Cardinals.  Despite their historic struggles, they have been one of the two most proficient teams in the league at drafting above average wide receivers (above average, in this case, being a receiver who averages over 35 yards per game played over the course of their career), and they have a 57.14% success rate since 2004.  On the other hand, the Seahawks have drafted 7 receivers during this same time frame, and have a 0% success rate.  I would argue that this edge is largely a product of the Cardinals consistently taking players with above average college production, and exceptional athletic ability.  You would think such things matter to teams, but they really don't.  Or at least they don't seem to matter as much as they probably should.  Even in an undrafted player such as Williams, these characteristics are fairly apparent.  Even so, being on a team with the likes of Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Roberts, and Michael Floyd, it can be easy to fly under the radar.

So, first of all, let's look at his college production from his time at Toledo.

        Year             Rec.           Yards         Avg.        % Off.          TD       TD%
2009 79 1065 13.5 20.25 5 23.80
2008 70 781 11 19.48 8 61.53
2007 73 1169 16 21.75 7 36.84

The most interesting thing about these stats is the large percentage of his team's offense that he was responsible for generating.  The average result in a draft worthy receiver's final college year is 17.75%, which Williams easily exceeds.  In a player's next to last year, the average result is 15.34%, which again, Williams surpasses.  The fact that he also produced at such a high level as a sophomore is even more remarkable, and a fairly unusual accomplishment.  This all works out to a Stat Score that is 0.253 standard deviations above his average peers' results, though this only takes into account his final 2 seasons(I only mention his third year here because I find it interesting).  One of the problems here is that his score is being downgraded due to his low yards-per-catch in his junior year.  If you substituted his sophomore year, for his junior one, his Stat Score would jump to 0.446, but that would be bending the rules.  Either way, he produced above average results in college, and that's all that matters here.  Really, I have no idea how somebody like this can go undrafted.

As for his athletic ability, he gets a score of 0.085, which would be an extremely average result.  The problem here is that his results are being heavily influenced by his low body mass.  His BMI (body mass index) score is -1.312 standard deviations below the average, though this is really only a factor if you are concerned about an increased risk of injury.  Considering the Seahawks minimal investment in him, I suspect they don't really care about this (my apologies to Stepehen Williams' mother for my callousness).   The two most comparable thinly framed players I can come up with, who have achieved some degree of success, are A.J. Green and Sidney Rice (who is oddly enough his teammate, and also frequently injured).  If we throw these injury concerns out the window, the picture dramatically improves when we look at his other physical traits. 

Player        40-yard       2nd Gear             Wt/40     Kangaroo     Agility
Stephen Williams 4.48 0.00 0.273 0.505 0.643
Sidney Rice 4.51 -0.04 -0.227 0.231 -0.859

The Wt/40, Kangaroo, and Agility scores are given in the form of how many standard deviations away from the average result that the player is, relative to his peers in the same position group.  Williams' 2nd Gear Score would suggest that his 40 yard dash time gives an accurate view of his deep speed.  His Wt/40 Score reveals that for someone of his weight, he has above average speed.  His Kangaroo Score says he has above average lower body power and explosiveness.  Finally, his Agility Score says that he also has above average agility compared to his peers.  His agility is particularly impressive for someone who is as tall as he is.  Taller receivers tend to do quite poorly in this area.  So, he is fast, agile, and explosive.  Sounds good to me.  It's also interesting to see that he beat the fairly accomplished Sidney Rice in all of these areas.

Overall, I would say that Stephen Williams has a rather good chance of becoming an above average receiver, if he is given an opportunity.  Players who manage to produce these sorts of above average results in terms of athletic ability and statistical production are somewhat rare, and things tend to work out well for them rather frequently.  Will he end up among the highest performing receivers in the league?  Probably not, though it is possible.  There are so many other factors beyond just ability that play a role in reaching that level of success.  In many ways I think Williams could be the other side of the Aaron Mellette coin.  While the computer loves Mellette, the hidden numbers in Mellette's profile caused me some concern.  In Williams' case, his Stat and Athhletic Scores, wouldn't normally excite me too much, but the numbers that make up these scores tell an even more promising story.   I can't really say what will happen with Stephen Williams, but he appears to be intriguing enough that I would like to see him get a real shot at playing.  Williams could turn out to be quite a steal for the Seahawks.

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