He's been called a quitter, a problem child, and a draft risk. Now he can be called a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.
When general manager Mark Dominik made Mike Williams the 101st selection of the 2010 NFL draft, he assumed the role of riverboat gambler, taking a chance on one of the most maligned players in the draft.
The selection of Williams in the fourth round protects the franchise from a potential bust but gives them the opportunity to secure one of the most dynamic receivers available.
Considering wide receiver was the weakest position on offense, why the heck not? Dominik knows that in this draft the Bucs need at least three or four of their picks to come in and make an immediate impact.
Along with fellow 2010 draftee Regus Benn, Williams can become a dynamite weapon for quarterback Josh Freeman. Williams was given a late first round/early second grade by many scouts but the off-the-field stuff pushed him down in the draft.
He was suspended multiple times by Syracuse and ultimately decided to quit the team rather than serve yet another suspension in the middle of the 2009 season. Most of the disciplinary stuff was just a result of poor decisions—cheating on an exam and breaking curfew—but he was hardly a menace to society.
“I believe that as a scouting staff and an organization that we put the most time into this player—more than anybody,” Dominik told the Pewter Report. “It was that important. He was one of the 30 visits to this organization so we could spend a full day with him. I’ve had multiple conversations with Doug Marrone, the head football coach at Syracuse University. At the end of the day I feel very good about our selection and the talent he brings."
What he brings is a big, speedy target with great hands and the ability to get yards after the catch. He scored 20 touchdowns in 29 games for the Orangemen, including a string of at least one touchdown in 10 consecutive games.
USF fans know Williams well, as he torched a Bulls secondary that boasted two NFL draft picks for 186 yards and two touchdowns.
Overall, he finished with 133 receptions, 2,044 yards, and 20 scores despite being disadvantaged by subpar QB play and not getting along with the coach.
"We spent countless hours with him at the Combine, here and we went to his workout," Dominik said. "We went to his private workout. I don’t think anybody spent more time on this kid than the Buccaneers did and I think we’re going to reap the rewards for it.”
One of the greatest indictments of Williams is that he quit on his teammates and school.
"Anyone that knows me, even (Syracuse) coach (Doug) Marrone would tell you I’m not a quitter," Williams told the Pewter Report. "If I was a quitter, when I was suspended because of my grades I would’ve quit then. When I was suspended from that game for my paper, I would’ve quit Syracuse then. I’m never a quitter. I’ve never done that. That’s not my style. Tampa Bay won’t see that. They are going to see that I’m going to fight hard for everything I do. It does kind of get to me when people say that because it’s not even a word that I use."
After making the move on Williams, Tampa Bay addressed a special teams concern in the sixth round by drafting punter Brent Bowden.
Bowden has a powerful leg and a terrific ability to place the ball inside the opponent's 20-yard line, totaling 72 in his career at Virginia Tech.
Tampa Bay went back to the defense in the seventh round, drafting a pair of linebackers and a defensive end.
The first, LB Cody Grimm, another Virginia Tech Hokie, is the son of legendary Washington Redskins offensive lineman Russ Grimm. Many pundits believe Grimm will be a special teams demon and difficult to cut.
The Bucs followed Grimm by going back to the linebacker well at Florida State to grab Dekoda Watson.
If Watson can provide the same impact that fellow FSU alum and seventh rounder Geno Hayes has given the Buccaneers, Tampa Bay may have found another late round steal.
He has the perfect size and speed for the Bucs defense and should definitely provide another presence on special teams.
The Bucs rounded out the draft with Stanford defensive end Eric Lorig.
Tampa Bay also traded two of their seventh round picks to Denver for a 2011 fifth round pick, replenishing the sixth round pick they lost in the deal for Reggie Brown.
These five players join Gerald McCoy, Brian Price, Regus Benn, and Myron Lewis as Tampa Bay's 2010 draft class. Early returns from most draft pundits believe the Bucs had one heck of a weekend.
If these players play the way the team hopes, the Bucs may have fixed issues at wide receiver, defensive tackle, cornerback, and punter while providing depth to their linebacking core.
Rome wasn't built in a day, Bucs fans. Tampa Bay still needs that edge rusher from right defensive end, more safety depth, and a game breaking force at running back.
If Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris can get the best out of these kids, Tampa Bay could be inching ever closer to respectability.