'Cadillac' adds more cargo space
INDIANAPOLIS -- The tailback known throughout his career as "Cadillac" conceded Friday that, at the conclusion of his senior season, he was tired and worn down and, perhaps as important, fretting that NFL scouts might view his relatively light 205 pounds as a matter of concern.
So what did Auburn tailback Carnell "Cadillac" Williams do about it. He showed up here for the annual predraft combine workouts at a robust 217 pounds, the most weight that he has ever carried on his 5-foot-10 7/8 frame, but feeling no slower for the extra bulk. The meatier Williams drew double-takes from a few scouts as they passed him in the corridor that connects the Indiana Convention Center to the RCA Dome.
Which was, Williams suggested, precisely his plan.
"I don't want them thinking I'm one of those rinky-dink little backs," said Williams, who is vying with Auburn teammate Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson of Texas for the top perch on the tailback prospect pecking order.
"When they look at me, I want them to see a guy who is quick, and can make the big play, but a back who can run with power, too. I made it a big deal, maybe my biggest goal over the last month or so, to add the weight. I feel good about it. Plus, going into the NFL, I know the physical pounding is going to be a lot worse. So I'm bigger, and just as fast, so there's nothing wrong with that."
There remains a pervasive mindset in the NFL scouting community that, more so than at any other position, it is easier to find a running back outside of the first round who can still come to a team and make an immediate impact. And, indeed, there is a group of solid tailback prospects this year, runners who will go off the board in perhaps the second to fourth rounds, who will fill the bill. It happens, it seems, every year.
But there is also a suspicion that all of the Big Three tailbacks in the 2005 draft will be chosen in the top half of the first round, that all will have very productive careers, and that at least one of them could turn out to be a special player. Right now, there is no consensus about which of the three backs that will be and beauty is clearly in the eye of the beholder at this juncture of the evaluation process.
|“||I want them to feel very confident they can give me the ball 20 times (a game) and that I'm not going to fizzle out on them in the fourth quarter. At 217 (pounds), I mean, I'm no little back, and no one can try to say I am. ”|
|— Carnell Williams|
Truth be told, Benson, Brown and Williams all passed the so-called "eyeball test," which is essentially scoutese for meaning they certainly look the part. But who will play the part better than the other two? Williams didn't even try to feign modesty in issuing his opinion that he is the premier runner in the 2005 talent pool.
"Hey, all three of us are great backs, and I'm sure we're going to see plenty of each other during our NFL careers," Williams said. "Ronnie, obviously, I've known him for years, love him as a teammate, have nothing but respect for him. Cedric, I've gotten to know him now a lot better, and he's cool, too. But if it's me doing the picking, I take me, and know that I'm getting a hard-working, quality, big-play runner."
At the practices preceding the Senior Bowl college all-star game last month, Williams put on a clinic, and addressed some of his perceived shortcomings. He caught the ball better than most personnel people felt he could, showed willingness (if not necessarily polished skill) to block and ran hard between the tackles. That didn't mean he moved significantly ahead of the other two in this draft class, but it didn't hurt him, either. And if he can turn in good on-campus workouts for scouts -- Williams will not run the 40-yard sprint here but might participate in some position drills -- he could create a bit of separation from Brown and Benson.
Then again, given that those two players are superb backs as well, all three could still be tightly bunched right up to draft day. Which, in part, is why Williams figured that some extra pounds might, figuratively at least, provide him a little more weight when it came time to parse the skills of the tailback trio.
"Every little thing, sometimes even the elements you don't think much about, helps you," Williams said. "These guys, they look at everything, you know? I want them to feel very confident they can give me the ball 20 times (a game) and that I'm not going to fizzle out on them in the fourth quarter. At 217 (pounds), I mean, I'm no little back, and no one can try to say I am."
"Money management. Or, I guess, more like actually having some money to manage." -- Texas tailback Cedric Benson on his biggest off-field priority after the draft.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here .