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Boldin-like? Cardinals rookie Chad Williams continues to impress

Chad Williams goes through a drill during an OTA practice May 16. (Photo by Adam Green/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Larry Fitzgerald offered up some fairly high praise for receiver Chad Williams, the Cardinals’ third-round pick out of Grambling.

“He’s extremely explosive,” the future Hall of Famer said Tuesday following an OTA practice. “He reminds me of Anquan Boldin in terms of the strength of his hands. Once it touches his hands, it just doesn’t move. He’s got unbelievable, strong hands.”

Fitzgerald went on to compliment the rookie’s “deceptive speed,” adding he has been making plays and will be of great help to the team.

That remains to be seen, but the excitement over Williams is certainly building.

A 6-foot-1, 204-pound wideout who dominated FCS competition, Williams runs faster than the former Cardinal Boldin while being a bit lighter.

Boldin was chosen in the second round of the 2003 draft out of Florida State, falling in large part due to his running a 4.71-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Williams rose up the Cardinals’ board for many reasons, though his 4.37 second 40-yard dash time posted at his pro day certainly did not hurt.

The draft is in the past, however. These days Williams is battling for a role, if not a roster spot.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has said he has never been around a wide receiver group like the one he currently has, where there are 12 wideouts — plus Andre Ellingon — who could all make the team.

As a third-round rookie Williams is all but a lock to make the roster, but how he will fit within the team’s offense will depend largely on how quickly he picks up the offense. The Cardinals do not need to rely on him this season.

“As soon as I stepped in the room I see it’s tons of talent in the room and every guy in that room,” Williams said. “Every guy in the room can play, man, that room is stacked.

“We have guys on top of guys.”

The 90 catches for 1,337 yards and 11 touchdowns Williams posted last season and 210 receptions for 3,062 yards and 28 touchdowns he had in his college career got him to this point, but will not do much for him going forward.

Much like Fitzgerald, Arians has offered high praise for the rookie’s performance thus far, and Williams himself said he feels the beginning of his career is going great.

“Getting acclimated to the playbook and getting to know guys, you know, how guys play, the feel for things,” he said.

Williams understands the quicker he gets all that down, the sooner he will be able to show the skill and athleticism that has people so excited. The more sure of himself he becomes, the less he will second-guess what he’s doing.

That process is ongoing, and Williams said the heavy competition in the receiver room helps as they all do what they can to make each other better.

“I feel like I learn things from each guy every day, and I feel like they do the same when we’re watching film and on the field,” he said. “It just makes all of us better and compete harder.”

For Williams specifically, he said the team’s veterans have helped him with the game speed and different reads, which has helped him make a big jump. Now, will that translate to the kind of rookie season Boldin had, when in 2003 he caught 101 passes for 1,377 yards and eight touchdowns en route to being named the NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year as well as earning a Pro Bowl nod?

Odds are the answer is no, but that does not mean Williams cannot eventually become that kind of player. Step-by-step he is working toward that goal, though he admits the transition from an FCS-level college to the NFL is not what he thought it would be.

“It’s harder, it’s harder,” he said with a chuckle.

“Just how technical things are, and the technicality of things and how precise things are,” he continued. “It’s just a big jump from any collegiate program.”

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