NFL.com: Clemson’s Williams, LSU’s Riley a ‘perfect pair’ for Cardinals
Apr 24, 2017, 1:00 PM
There are many different factors that go into drafting a player.
Talent and need are often the two most focused-upon considerations, but a player’s fit within an organization can be just as important.
In fact, a team will often pass up more talented prospects who don’t fit its organization’s scheme or culture.
NFL.com analysts Bucky Brooks and Daniel Jeremiah attempted to find the best fit for all 32 teams by giving them their “perfect pair” of prospects.
The duo determined that Clemson wide receiver Mike Williams and Louisiana State linebacker Duke Riley would be ideal choices for the Arizona Cardinals with the 13th and 45th picks, respectively.
Williams would fill a looming need with Larry Fitzgerald entering his 14th season at age 33.
“I don’t know if you could find a better landing spot for him, in terms of the way they want to play and having a mentor in Larry Fitzgerald that plays the game very similarly,” Jeremiah said. “I think it would be outstanding for Williams. I think it’s the best place he could go in the entire draft.”
Williams led the ACC with 98 receptions last season for national champion Clemson. The redshirt junior added 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns a year after missing all but one game in 2015 with a fracture in his neck.
He also caught 57 passes for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore.
Brooks described the Clemson wideout as a “big-bodied playmaker” with “great hands” and “great ball-skills” who “does a great job playing with a physical style.”
The 6-foot-4, 218-pound Williams would be a nice complement to the Cardinals’ diminutive young receivers in John Brown (5-foot-11, 179 pounds) and J.J. Nelson (5-foot-10, 160 pounds).
The marriage is definitely a possibility, as four of the 64 mock drafts tracked by Arizona Sports since April 1 have the team taking Williams with the 13th pick. That’s tied for the fourth-most by any prospect.
With the team’s second-round pick, Brooks and Jeremiah think the Cardinals should replace recently departed former LSU Tiger Kevin Minter with a linebacker from Minter’s alma mater in Riley.
Riley was a regular starter for the first time last season and led LSU with 93 tackles, while adding nine tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and an interception.
Jeremiah’s favorite part of Riley’s game is the linebacker’s rare athletic traits.
“You talk about range, sideline-to-sideline,” he said. “He gives you that.”
The explosive linebacker showcased this athleticism at the NFL Combine, finishing second at his position with a 4.58 second 40-yard dash, fourth with a 4.21 second 20-yard shuttle and fifth with a 6.89 second three-cone drill.
Although Riley may not have a wealth of experience, Jeremiah pointed out that the Atlanta Falcons’ Deion Jones and Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Kwon Alexander were also athletic one-year starters at linebacker for LSU who have gone on to establish themselves as quality starters early on in their NFL careers.
On top of that, Jeremiah actually appreciated the film of Riley on special teams prior to taking over as the starter.
“You go back and watch him on special teams the year before,” he said. “He was hell on wheels. He was fun to watch.”
Brooks agreed, saying that it speaks to his toughness, feistiness, competitiveness and physicality.
“All those traits lead me to believe he’s going to be a fantastic pro,” he said.