To get to know Detroit Lions seventh-round pick Michael Williams, a tight end from Alabama, I sent five questions to bammer from Roll 'Bama Roll, SB Nation's Crimson Tide blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Williams:
1. A big reason why the Lions drafted Williams is his ability to block. Is it safe to say that blocking is his best attribute as a tight end?
Yes and no. Williams was obviously our primary blocking TE for most of his career, but that doesn't mean he can't catch the ball consistently. Nick Saban will sometimes play with two TEs and an H-back, with one TE used more as a receiver (Colin Peek) and the other as a blocker (Williams). In most situations, Williams was lined up either next to the LT or RT and used almost as a sixth O-lineman. However, Williams has soft hands and was used in the passing game, especially in the red zone.
2. While he may be known for blocking, Williams still put up pretty solid numbers at Alabama, including 4 touchdowns last season. How did he perform as a pass catcher in the Alabama offense?
Whoops, see my answer above. I'll add, though, that Williams won't likely be used to stretch the field as a TE but is very serviceable in play-action-pass and short-yardage situations. His lack of speed could prevent him from being used as a downfield receiving threat in the NFL.
3. On a similar note, were drops ever an issue for Williams at Alabama? Lions starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew has had problems with catching the ball on a consistent basis, but what should fans expect when the ball is thrown Williams' way?
I don't recall many drops. As I said above, he has soft hands for a guy used primarily as a blocker. Don't expect one-handed, athletic catches that will wow the fan base, but if the ball is thrown in his general direction, he'll catch it.
4. Considering Williams spent four seasons playing for Nick Saban at Alabama (plus a fifth year where he redshirted) and started 41 total games, do you think he will make a fairly smooth transition to the NFL? In other words, should the Lions expect him to come in and be ready to play from Day 1?
Honestly, this depends on how the Lions choose to use him. Again, he's not an Aaron Hernandez tight end. He's a great blocker and can catch the ball if thrown his way. And like you said, he played for Alabama, which runs an NFL type offensive system, so terminology and schemes shouldn't be hard for him to pick up. Also, as far as I know, work ethic and off-the-field issues were never a concern for him. So don't expect the same issues y'all have had with other players not named Suh.
5. Is there one play from Williams' career at Alabama that stands out as the most memorable?
He was a quiet workhorse for most of his career, but I would say a play from the 2011 Arkansas game comes to mind. On the first drive of the game for Alabama, the drive stalls and Saban calls a fake field goal. It was a well-designed play and AJ McCarron hits a wide-open Williams streaking down the left sideline. He shows his soft hands and even surprising speed on the catch and run.
Here's a video of the play: