With the tenth pick in the NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions selected USC wide receiver Mike Williams. I sat in the Fort Lauderdale airport stunned and somewhat excited as my professional football team of choice selected a tall receiver for the third straight year with a top ten pick. This pick after the Lions signed a fairly good receiver in Kevin Johnson less than a week ago.
Mike Williams is an awesome talent. His forty time wasn't as good as it could be (4.7) but ESPN's draft guru Mel Kiper rated him the #1 overall prospect regardless of position. He scored 30 touchdowns in his first 2 years at USC. He's spent the last year working out with receiving great Cris Carter. He probably would have gone very early in the first round in last year's draft if he was eligible. Even with all of this I cannot escape the fact that the Lions have already spent two early first round draft picks on wide receivers in the last two years and spending another top 10 pick on a wide receiver regardless of his talent level doesn't make sense especially when there are numerous other needs on this team (safety and offensive line for example).
One sports writer of my hometown paper, the Grand Rapids Press disagrees.
One quote that especially stuck in my head for its lack of logic was this:
Passing on him would have been like passing on Michael Jordan because you don't need a shooting guard.
This assertion has hindsight bias written all over it. The fact is that no one on draft day knew Michael Jordan would become the greatest basketball player of his generation. Just like no one knows for sure if Mike Williams will have a productive 10 year career with the Lions or be playing Arena Football in 3 years.
Plus, it's absurd to compare a guy who's never played a professional football game with a man who was the face of professional basketball for a decade. It also misses the reality that Michael Jordan would have been an all-star regardless of the team he was on while in football Mike Williams needs someone to get him the ball. Michael Jordan could get his own shot. Mike Williams can't throw the ball to himself even though his arm isn't bad as Michigan fans will remember from the 2004 Rose Bowl.
For every Barry Sanders there is a Blair Thomas. For every Peyton Manning there is an Akili Smith. For every Orlando Pace there is a Tony Mandarich. There are no sure things especially when it comes to the NFL Draft. Picking three receivers early in the first round three years in a row when your team has other needs is a mistake.