Analysis of Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei wide receiver CJ Williams, one of the top pass catchers in the country.
CJ WILLIAMS PROFILE
Hometown: Santa Ana, Calif.
High School: Mater Dei
IB Grade: 4.0 (Top 100 caliber player)
Upside Grade: 4.5
Offers: Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State, LSU, Georgia, Florida, USC, Texas, Texas A&M, Miami (Fla.), Florida State, Auburn, Penn State, Michigan, Oregon, Missouri, UCLA, Tennessee, Nebraska, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, Washington, Ole Miss, Purdue, Utah, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Baylor, Stanford, TCU, Mississippi State, Boston College, NC State, Minnesota, Arizona State, Washington State, Northwestern, Arizona, California, UCF, Oregon State, Duke, Kansas
Recruited By: Del Alexander, Tommy Rees
Rivals: 4-star - No. 29 overall - No. 3 wide receiver
247Sports: 4-star - No. 72 overall - No. 9 wide receiver
SI99: No. 88 overall - No. 14 wide receiver
ESPN: 4-star - No. 207 overall - No. 29 wide receiver
Composite: 4-star - No. 86 overall - No. 11 wide receiver
There are many ways to be a dominant receiver, and while many like to obsess over speed and explosiveness, wideouts can dominate with size, strength, precise route running and/or top-notch ball skills as well.
DeAndre Hopkins (Houston Texans, Arizona Cardinals) has four seasons with at least 104 receptions, at least four seasons with at least 1,378 yards and three seasons with at least 11 touchdowns. He ran a 4.57 at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Michael Thomas (New Orleans Saints) has at least three seasons with at least 104 catches, and in 2019 he hauled in 149 passes for 1,725 yards. He ran a 4.57 at the Scouting Combine.
Cooper Kupp (Los Angeles Rams) has back-to-back season with over 90 catches, and he ran a 4.61 at the combine. Jarvis Landry (Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns) has six seasons with at least 81 catches despite running a 4.65 at the combine and a 4.61 at the LSU Pro Day.
The point? If you obsess over speed you'll likely not be very high on CJ Williams. If you understand there are a lot of traits and skills that can lead to a wideout being impactful, even without speed, you'll understand what makes him so impressive.
That's the knock on Williams right there, he's not an overly fast player. He's not slow, but he's not a burner and he won't be someone that blows past college-level corners snap-after-snap. What he is, however, is a volume pass catcher in the mold of Hopkins, Thomas and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Williams has a strong, athletic frame, and he knows how to use his body to be an effective route runner, blocker and after-the-catch player.
Williams is already a high-quality route runner, possessing an advanced understanding of leverage, body manipulation and working free out of his top ends. Williams uses this advanced feel to be impactful against the zone and he uses his route technique, strength and ball skills to work free against man coverage. His strength and long arms combine with his top-notch body control to allow Williams to make plays without separation, and it projects to be a weapon at the next level.
I'd like to see Williams improve his stance, which would eliminate his false step and allow him to maximize his speed off the line, but he accelerates well out of breaks and showed improved long speed as a junior in just five games.
Williams uses his hands extremely well as a route runner and he shows excellent concentration on contested catches. He tracks the deep ball effectively, is willing to make tough catches in traffic over the middle and he is a weapon on one-on-one plays on the perimeter. Williams attacks the football in the air and he has fast hands.
The Mater Dei star is the kind of pass catcher that will usually average somewhere between 13-15 yards per catch, and be more of a 70+ catch that is a weapon as a chain-mover, on third-down and in the red zone. He'll be a nightmare against the zone, highly effective working perimeter routes and he can play inside just as effectively as he can work outside. In the Notre Dame offense he would fit extremely well at all three positions, with the boundary spot being his best spot, but he could move around and will give whoever he plays for in college a player that can be game-planned to move all over the field.
5.0 - Elite player
4.5 - All-American caliber player
4.0 - Multi-year starter
3.5 - Key role player / Late career-starter
3.0 - Backup
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