"Upside'' is simply another word for "potential,'' and for those that follow such things, they know that potential is great until it goes unrealized and gets coaches and GMs fired. For sure, anyone with potential is someone who hasn't achieved it yet; whether it be the potential to go from raw to solid, solid to great, or above average to immortal.
But how is it measured? It's an abstract term to say the least, but that doesn't keep people from trying to determine just how much potential a player has to become something greater. If given more opportunity, how might a player perform? If they had better one-on-one coaching, what heights could they reach? If they showed better work ethic, what milestones might they conquer?
Today, I wanted to look at the Cowboys second-year wide receiver Terrance Williams, and discuss what kind of potential Williams has, as the official number two option in the Cowboys offense.By all accounts, Williams appears to be having a great spring and early summer, under the radar.Last year's performance was quite impressive. Take a look at Williams' stats from 2013:
|Snaps||Targets||Catches||Catch %||Yards||Yards Per Catch||YAC Per Catch||TD||TO on Targets||Drops|
Most impressive, of course, is Williams' 16.7 yards per catch average. Among players with 40 or more receptions, that ranked Williams 5th in the entire NFL; not too shabby. Williams actually had the highest "Target Passer Rating" among all Cowboys wideouts, coming in at 107.2, ahead of Dez Bryant's 104.9. Of course, Bryant was often the focus of the opposing defense, so one should expect competition here, but it is still heartening to see both top targets above 100.
Under new playcaller Scott Linehan, many expect Williams to evolve nicely from the stellar performance he put forth in his rookie campaign; but is statistical growth an automatic?
Sure, we should all expect Williams to be more comfortable inside the offense, more confident and developed in his route running, more physically imposing in blocking and getting off jams... but will that translate into more on the field production? Let's take a look at some various factors to see if they can help us glean some tangible insight.
The most obvious factor in projecting an increase in Terrance Williams' stats is the fact that he is no longer "filling in" for an injured Miles Austin as the Cowboys second receiver. The job is now his to lose and you'd expect him to capitalize on the extra snaps, but more specifically the extra targets. Will opposing defenses have the possibility to throw extra attention Williams' way? One would think that his high YPC would force the defensive secondary to loosen up a bit, especially because Williams has a higher percentage of his yards from the yards-in-the-air (YIA) category as opposed to yards-after-the-catch (YAC) category than Dez Bryant.
In a nutshell, that basically means that Williams is the guy allowed to get depth in his routes. And how many routes will he be running?Looking at the Cowboys history of target breakdown, the second receiver is usually good for about 7 targets a game over the last few seasons, although when Laurent Robinson filled in for Miles Austin a few years back, he received double digit targets in three of four starts. So, assuming that Robinson stays healthy, we can extrapolate those numbers of the course of a 16 game season to 112 targets based on the stat collection of Pro Football Focus. Using his numbers from last season and not factoring in any improvement or regression (yes, regression is possible), that would mean a 68-catch, 1,100-yard, 7 or 8 TD season.
More important to how it affects the offense in general, that would mean that Williams deep passing (20 yards or more in the air) targets would increase to around 28 on the season, or two deep shots per game. Williams' Catch Rate on deep balls was 50% last season, good for 6th in the league. Using these projections, that basically puts Romo-to-Williams at one successful deep ball per game and at 5 deep ball TDs over the course of a full season.
Of course, that doesn't bring into play new signal caller Scott Linehan. If you read between the lines of the the recent reports of the players Linehan is putting in the slot, Beasley, Escobar, Street and Dez Bryant, you'll notice that Williams' name is missing. Linehan apparently wants Williams to be the constant deep threat for Dallas.
A lot has been made over the past couple of years about his Lions offense being all Calvin Johnson all the time, but i'm not so sure that edict carries over to how he will use Dez Bryant and his supporting cast in Dallas. The Lions rarely had a consistent second WR option at their disposal due to injury concerns, using a combination of Titus Young, Kris Durham and Nate Burleson.
No No. 2 receiver has started more than 8 games since Nate Burleson in 2011. His targets for the year? 115. Very similar projection to where we see Williams in 2014.
On The Other Hand...
Does Williams have the potential to be more than a product of his projection? Dallas doesn't necessarily need Williams to be a 1B to Dez Bryant's 1A for him to be successful. There's no need to try and compare him to Chicago's Alshon Jeffrey or Cleveland's Josh Gordon. For one, he's not built like either of those receivers, who are number one options in their own rights even if Jeffrey doesn't have the moniker.
Beyond the fact that it's extremely difficult to envision Williams getting the type of targets those guys get, a telling fact to Williams limitations might be found in his yards per route run number. At 1.50 YPRR in 2013, Williams finds himself right where a solid No. 2 option should be, just outside Top 30 in the league.
Is there a lot of room to improve beyond just getting Williams more targets? If you're considering Williams CFB-leading 2012 production of course. But you should then consider the Phenom Index, developed by Jon Moore of Rotoviz.com.
The Phenom Index attempts to use collegiate production as a measure of future performance based on a player's age. Simply put, an older player should be able to dominate a league (CFB) of younger players based on their physical development. So you should factor in a player's age into their stats to determine who will be able to carry over that kind of production once they are playing against an entire league of similar physical specimens.
Basically, an 1800-yard, 15-touchdown season by a 19 year-old is much more impressive and indicative of future success than an 1800-yard, 15-touchdown season by a 23 year-old. Makes enough sense; they've just put a formula to it.
Due to Williams' age when he dominated CFB (23.5 yrs of age) with 1800 yards and 41% of Baylor's passing offense, his numbers aren't nearly as impressive as Dez Bryant's 1430 yard performance at age 20 when he was 47% of Oklahoma State's offense.
Bryant's numbers yeilded an elite 3.02 Phenom Index rating while Williams' was a pedestrian 1.04. Suffice to say it's pretty ambitious, to say the least, to project any kind of two-headed monster out of the Dallas offense. But again, that's not to say Williams is lacking in what the Cowboys need.
The distribution of passes to Williams in 2013 give us some clues as to what he has to work on. Williams came into the league with a reputation as a body catcher, which can result in drops on what should have been catches. Indeed, Williams four drops came on targets that were under 9 yards, or in traffic, where the ability to reach out and snag a ball with strong hands are more of a necessity.
Overall though, one would be hard-pressed to call Williams a deep-threat only. 32 of his 72 targets were under the 10 yard mark; the Cowboys aren't afraid of giving him the ball and letting him make his own way at all. He will be utilized at a much higher usage rate than a player from Dallas' past he is often compared to, Alvin Harper. Harper was the quintessential deep threat and was awesome at it. Averaging more than 20 yards a reception twice but never hauling in more than 40 catches in a season with Dallas.
Williams' upside is much more than that. His potential greater. Now all he has to do in his second season is make those words disappear from every article written about him.
Links and stuff: Details from practice, from the locker room and from the front office. 1-on-1's with Romo and Dez and everyone in between. Videos and photos from the field. It's all here in the must-read All-Access Practice Reports from Day 1 and from Minicamp Day 2!
The Final Word: "It's always a healthy competition when he goes vs Dez. I see development and growth in him, really every day.'' -- Jason Garrett on Mo Claiborne.
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