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Cardinals grab big, fast WR in Grambling State’s Chad Williams

Alcorn State's Javen Morrison (45) tries to intercept a pass to Grambling State's Chad Williams (10) during the third quarter of the Southwestern Athletic Conference NCAA college football championship game Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Houston. (Yi-Chin Lee/Houston Chronicle via AP)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Cardinals GM Steve Keim joked that it would not be an Arizona Cardinals draft if they did not take a player from a small school, specifically in the third round.

After finding success in past years with John Brown out of Pittsburg State in 2014 and David Johnson from Northern Iowa in 2015, Chad Williams, whom the Cardinals tabbed with the 98th overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, has quite the standards to live up to.

“Definitely can live up to that,” he said. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter where you get drafted. You have a lot of guys drafted in the third round that were amazing guys.

“I just want to come in and be me and I know for a fact I can live up to that third-round hype that you guys got going.”

The Cardinals obviously see something in Williams, otherwise, they would not have used their third-round pick on him. Expecting Brown or Johnson-like success, however, would be a bit unfair.

Yet, what the Cardinals see in the wideout is someone who at 6-foot-1 at his pro day ran the 40-yard dash at 4.37 seconds while posting a 35.5-inch vertical and 21 reps on the bench press.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said the team was looking for a big receiver, and he believes Williams, who in an early-season game this past season in Tucson against Arizona gained 152 yards on 13 catches, fits the role.

“When you look at his tape, screens, making people miss at that size and running people over and doing all the things,” he said. “And then you look at that 40-yard dash without his shirt on, and you go, ‘whoo, this looks like a linebacker and not that fast wide receiver we were looking at on tape.'”

That Williams was available so late in the third round likely has something to do with his small-school background, because his production — 210 catches, 3,062 yards and 28 TDs in 43 career games — is tough to argue against.

As a senior last season, he caught 90 passes for 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns.

However, there is also a red flag in his background, with an arrest for marijuana and possession of a firearm back in May 2016.

Keim said the team evaluated that as they always do, on a case-by-case basis, and learned that for Williams it was more of a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“All the charges were dismissed and he’s actually a really good kid,” he said. “We spent a lot of time with his coaches, with him, so felt extremely comfortable with his background.”

Williams, who said Arizona was the place he wanted to end up, said he was honest with teams who asked about the arrest.

“Things like that will never happen again, it will never come up again,” he said. “I just let them know how much I learned from it and it really taught me a lot in the whole process.”

With his character not being an issue, the Cardinals snagged a player they, quite simply, liked.

“I’ve always said, because you pick guys that you like and you feel like this guy is going to make our team and he can do the things that we want to get done,” Arians said of the confidence in this pick. “To me it has always been easy when you are looking at that guy in the third round, especially at wide receiver.”

His combination of size and speed is not necessarily easy to find, especially in the third round. Arians likes the player’s physicality, but said without his wheels, the pick would not have been made.

“No, I don’t like slow guys,” he said. “I don’t give a [expletive] how big they are. You’ve got to be able to run past people and if you come in a big, strong, physical package that’s even better.”

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