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Kiper: Trent Williams is more likely to boom than bust

ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper disagrees with the notion that Redskins first-round pick Trent Williams is a boom-or-bust prospect.

“If he’s a bust, I’d be surprised because he can play so many positions,” Kiper said on a teleconference this afternoon. “If he fails at left tackle, move him to right tackle. He could play center. For their scheme, with his athleticism…he’s got a chance to be a very good left tackle, a quality left tackle. If he doesn’t, he moves to right tackle. That’s the security blanket against the bust.”

It’s an interesting outlook, and one that I believe coach Mike Shanahan agrees with. In fact, the very first sentence Shanahan spoke at his new conference Thursday night made it clear that Williams’ versatility weighed heavily on his decision: “Trent Williams is a person we had targeted that can not only play the left, but the right side as well, and he played the center position,” Shanahan said.

Of course, it’s not worth admitting because you’d never want to draft a pure right tackle (or a guard or center for that matter) No. 4 overall because the value doesn’t match up with the degree of importance associated with the position. Everyone’s plan is for Williams to be a successful, cornerstone left tackle. If he’s not, the pick will be heavily–and justifiably–scrutinized, even if Williams ends up a quality right tackle.

For what it’s worth, Kiper cited Oakland’s Robert Gallery (2nd overall, 2004) and Green Bay’s Tony Mandarich (2nd, 1989) as players whose path Williams could follow if he doesn’t play well at left tackle. Gallery, you’ll recall, was a bust at left tackle but has become a serviceable left guard for the Raiders. Mandarich was a notorious draft flop as a left tackle in Green Bay, but he later revived his career as a decent guard for Indianapolis.

Williams, though, certainly doesn’t want to be associated with those guys.

“If he’s a bust, I’d be surprised,” Kiper later reiterated. “There’s more of a chance he’s a boom. I still would have opted for [Russel] Okung (who went sixth overall to Seattle), but, hey, for their scheme, Williams fits it. He’s a gifted athlete. He’s got awesome talent. I hope he plays up to it.”

As for the other two linemen Washington drafted, Kiper doesn’t seem particularly high on seventh-round center/guard Erik Cook or tackle Selvish Capers. As you’d expect with players drafted so late, Kiper called them “developmental.”

“I think Cook, 6-6, I had him at 315, 320, the kid has got some physical ability to bring to the table,” Kiper said. “His grade wasn’t free agent or whatever. It was late-round/free agent, so he’s got a chance. He presents some versatility along the interior.

“Capers, you look at it, at the Senior Bowl we heard him, he’s got to get stronger in the weight room. Nineteen reps is not where you want that to be. You want that to be around 25, not at 19. Good athlete, though. I think the quarterbacks at West Virginia—White and Brown—helped him. He needs a lot of work, and he needs a lot of coaching. I think the down the road, maybe, if [Redskins OL coach] Chris Foerster can coach him up, maybe he can be a backup. I don’t know about being a starter, but maybe he could be a competent backup. That’s still to be determined. That’s based on coaching. Coaching is going to determine Capers.”

Among the Day Three picks, Kiper is most intrigued by sixth-round tight end Dennis Morris and seventh-round receiver/returner Terrence Austin.

“Morris made some big catches for Louisiana Tech this past year,” Kiper said. “[Fourth-round linebacker Perry] Riley played well at LSU. Austin just had a knack for making things happen at UCLA. He just had that knack.

“Morris and Austin should have a chance right away, at least in camp, to show some ability and promise. I saw them at the college level show a little bit. Not enough to get high grades—one was a sixth-round pick and one was a seventh-round pick for a reason—but I wouldn’t be surprised if either Morris or Austin showed promise in training camp and one of the two made the team.”