How can I NOT have him earlier will be the cry—and it doesn't matter where he ranks. If it isn't top three, it won't matter. Some folks will be bent out of shape.
Those cries have a case—Williams finally exploded last season and Carolina Head Coach John Fox loves his veterans—usually to the point of benching a more talented rookie.
He might not even have to even make that choice this year as Williams seems to be poised for potentially another great season, while second year RB Jonathan Stewart has yet to become lead back. And wow is that offensive line adept at opening holes for Panther backs to run through.
Yet even though the offense runs the ball a lot (504 attempts last season) will they duplicate the amount of carries from 2008 in 2009?
Stewart pitched in with 10 touchdowns and even while battling an early injury he played well last season. Rookie Mike Goodson might see some work too. As much as they do run there still should be plenty to go around but it also means they will need to spell Williams. How much? And if they don't will he burn out after two heavy carry seasons?
Finally, we have to wonder: was what we saw last year the reality—or a one shot deal? Will he be able to repeat his 2008 performance? We've had one year wonders before—and many teams who grabbed them too early in the first regretted it later in the season.
I like Williams, don't get me wrong. But I'm not sure I like him enough to take him with a top five pick like many are suggesting.