The tight-end position for the Panthers has been a necessary piece of their offense for years. Whether it be Wesley Walls, Dante Rosario, or Jeff King, tight-ends have always been emphasized as a successful component of Carolina’s run-heavy gameplan. The multi-talented Greg Olsen is the man of the present, but who will be the next young TE to emerge in the coming years? That’s the golden question that everyone is asking, and Brandon Williams seems to be the answer.
The 26-year-old is in his second year with Carolina, and his story of how he landed in the beautiful state of N.C. is quite incredible. Unlike most of the guys you see in the NFL, Williams didn’t attend a big-name university. He played for Portland Bible College, a small religious school in Oregon. He was a superhero among students, but football wasn’t his namesake. Instead, he was known as the basketball star, blowing away student audiences with numerous double-doubles.
So why football?
Williams never put the gridiron on the back burner willingly. Before his days at PBC, Williams initially intended to play for Oregon football on a scholarship. That dream was crushed, however, as Williams was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. All signs pointed to football as a non-option, until last year, when he was medically cleared to participate in the 2013 Seattle combine. Once the Panthers noticed his pure athletic skill and fortifying body-type, he was immediately signed to the practice squad.
Although Williams was able to secure a position on the 53-man roster due to an impressive training camp, he never saw consistent playing time in 2013.
A pure receiving tight-end, Williams didn’t currently fit in with the Panthers’ gameplan, and sat in the third row of the depth chart behind ex-Panther Ben Hartsock. Now that Ron Rivera and crew are implementing more two tight-end sets, Williams will finally have his chance to impact the passing game. And if this off-season is any indicator, the young TE could be lining up across from Greg Olsen in 2014.
When you consider how Williams has developed, you can see he’s ready to contribute. His 6’4″ frame has been creating secondary chaos in practice, while his hands are as steady as the best of receivers. He continues to receive constant praise from Ron Rivera, who admits that Williams is making a strong case for the #2 position.
So why get so excited about Brandon Williams?
It’s hard not to. Personally, I haven’t heard the Panthers organization rave over a young tight-end like this in a long time. He’s even being compared to Julius Thomas, the Broncos dark horse, who exploded on the scene last year, especially as a red-zone target.
It’s also intriguing how well Williams fits in to what the Panthers are trying to accomplish on offense in 2014. Carolina started off strong in the redzone last season, but ended poorly. This was especially evident against the 49ers during their loss in their first playoff game since 2008.
With Williams, that will no longer be an issue. His 6’4″, 250 frame will easily tower over anyone, and his sure hands will provide the reliability that Cam Newton desperately needs. Add another 20 yard-line target in Kelvin Benjamin, and the Panthers’ passing game will be scary at the opposite end.
Carolina desperately needed a young tight-end to emerge as Williams has. Greg Olsen isn’t getting any younger, and I see the Ed Dickson signing more as a veteran safety net. Don’t get me wrong, Dickson can produce, but Williams is looking a lot better, and the Panthers will obviously go with the younger, more athletic option for the 2nd spot. With an unproven wide receiving core, plenty of talent at TE is absolutely essential, and it seems as though Brandon Williams could be the answer to their prayers.