- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

One has the rare frame to be the next Randy Moss. Another has enough talent in his diminutive body to fill out a modern-day version of the Smurfs. And another has the speed to match Torry Holt stride for stride and chase down 50-yard rainbows.

All those projections, of course, are just that — optimistic guesses as to what this year’s top receiving prospects will become following the NFL Draft this weekend.

The Washington Redskins are mulling those possibilities even though the club has five capable wideouts and ostensibly no holes at receiver. Mike Williams, Mark Clayton or Troy Williamson — the three college players described above — could be selected by Washington with the ninth overall pick.

Cornerback remains the odds-on top choice for the Redskins, but a number of highly rated receivers were invited to tour Redskin Park recently. If Washington opts for one, it could have the pick of the litter: Varying opinions around the league mean Williams, Clayton and Williamson could be available at No. 9 and perhaps much later.

“I don’t think there’s an Andre Johnson in this draft,” Houston Texans general manager Charley Casserly said at February’s NFL Scouting Combine, referring to 2003’s third overall pick who already has made the Pro Bowl. “I think we have a lot of good receivers in this draft, but it might be spread out in first-, second-, third- and fourth-round players.”

The only receiver mentioned consistently as a top-five pick is Michigan’s Braylon Edwards, whom Washington opted not to invite to Redskin Park because of his expected unavailability at No. 9. But there is considerable debate as to whether Williams, Clayton or Williamson would be next off the board and doubt as to whether any would be selected before Washington picks.

For Williams, this is a second stab at the draft after being locked out last year. Williams attempted to follow running back Maurice Clarett into the 2004 draft, but a federal appeals court blocked a lower court’s ruling that underclassmen could go pro. Both Williams, who caught 95 passes for 1,314 yards and 16 touchdowns for Southern California in 2003, and Clarett were forced to spend last fall out of football.

That year-long absence is one of the questions about Williams. Personnel evaluators also wonder about his speed, which lags behind that of most usual first-round wideouts, and his frame, which is a prototypical 6-foot-5, 225 pounds but could swell in coming years. At the combine, Williams weighed nearly 230 pounds, and some scouts are projecting him as an NFL tight end.

“I’ve met with doctors, met with physicians, met with trainers to really understand my body,” Williams said. “I spent November and December at 216 pounds, but I just didn’t feel as explosive. I didn’t have my kind of my football swagger about myself. … Most likely when I enter the season I’ll be at 224, 225.”

At the opposite end of the size spectrum is Clayton (5-10, 193), who entered Oklahoma as a 150-pound weakling (by his own description) and exited with virtually every major receiving record at the school.

Williams said his “heart and work ethic” more than compensate for lack of size.

“I go out, and every day I don’t take a play off,” Clayton said. “I run my route. I block. Whatever it is that the team may need as far as special teams or returns.”

Clayton has legitimate speed, having been clocked in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash, but it’s unlikely anyone in this draft could run by South Carolina’s Troy Williamson, the final receiver who gets legitimate top-10 consideration.

A junior entry, Williamson never caught more than 835 yards worth of passes in a season with the Gamecocks. But he has the size (6-1, 203) and a lot of speed.

It remains unclear where a first-round receiver would fit in Washington’s corps, given that newly acquired Santana Moss and David Patten are scheduled to start and James Thrash, Taylor Jacobs and Darnerien McCants all have legitimate claims to playing time. Plus, there’s former starter Rod Gardner, who’s likely but not guaranteed to be dealt for a mid-round pick this weekend.

The other scenario in which Washington could select a highly rated receiver is if it traded back from No. 9 and landed an extra pick in the first or second round (the club currently has no second-rounder). If that occurs, prospects like UAB’s Roddy White, Texas A&M;’s Terrence Murphy and Georgia’s Reggie Brown could be in play.

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