This is actually the second crack at taking a look at Buffalo Bills wide receiver D’haquille “Duke” Williams’s tape. The first time relied heavily on CFL highlights and (very) limited preseason action when Duke Williams was with the Los Angeles Rams. Now that we’ve had a better look at Williams let’s unwrap this riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a jersey.
We’ll start off with a pretty basic route to look at two consistent things the tape shows about Duke Williams. He routinely catches with his hands and shows good strength doing so. He also keeps fighting after the catch. He gets a few extra yards with his head and neck dangerously close to becoming a pretzel.
Williams didn’t show off a complex route tree, but he did show aptitude in the routes he was asked to run. He’s also a physical receiver who can free himself from contact and by using contact.
This was surprisingly common to see with Duke Williams. He’s acting very nearly like a tight end chipping before the route. Williams also consistently showed good body control. Like above, hands catch and fighting for extra yards.
Here’s Duke Williams’s 2019 touchdown reel. This play doesn’t show much new except for the misdirection. Williams gets that big step in quickly and the defensive back can’t adjust in time.
I know what you’re all thinking though. Yeah he’s got some skill as a receiver but how does he look blocking? Inconsistent. Like I highlighted in the first attempt to look at Williams, the now infamous clip of him steamrolling a defensive back was not an indication of his ability to block. Williams has good power for a receiver, but he’s up against some very talented competition and sometimes he gets beat like this.
“Inconsistent” means he turns in some good ones too. I particularly liked this one because Williams latches on early and maintains control. He’s also aware of where Beasley is likely to come through and works to create the best lane possible.
Something I critiqued regarding the Buffalo Bills’ receiving room during the season was the consistent inability to track a ball on deeper throws. This one isn’t exactly a bomb but Williams maintains speed while tracking the ball beautifully.
With so much to love why did Williams sit most of the year? Perhaps some of the incomplete passes that went his way will give us a clue. This isn’t a perfect pass by any means but it’s one that should have resulted in a catch—and Williams had a few drops. On 19 targets (29 including playoffs), that’s not great.
Admittedly, Josh Allen could have placed that last ball better. And on this play the defensive back makes a decent play on the ball. One of the things you’d like to see from a receiver is an occasional catch where you know he bailed out the team. Whether it was an off-target pass or a good play by the defense, Williams had a few opportunities for a highlight-reel catch but didn’t make the most of those chances.
There’s really a lot to like from Duke Williams. As fair as it is to question why he sat so much this year, it’s just as valid to point out that he was active in the most important game of the year. In that game he played 66% of offensive snaps and had ten targets, which led the team.
With Duke Williams on the field the Buffalo Bills had a different dynamic on offense. Williams also had a similar catch rate to John Brown and Cole Beasley, the team’s two best wideouts. There’s really no reason not to keep Duke Williams around.