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"Thou shalt never select a rookie wide receiver" is a commonly accepted axiom engraved in stone on fantasy football's list of draft commandments. Over the years, pundits have repeatedly drilled this golden rule into owner heads. Their reasoning: counting on immature receivers, no matter how gifted, is an exercise in futility. After all, for every Anquan Boldin(notes) there are countless examples of players who took years, many times three, to realize their full potential. Just ask Matt Millen. He's still patiently waiting for genius '05 first-round pick Mike Williams to pan out.

Unlike the former Ding Dong consuming USC product, who is attempting to catch on with Pete Carroll's Seahawks, another Mike Williams, from Syracuse, has quietly made a gigantic splash in Tampa.

Prior to April's draft, character issues clouded Williams' value to franchises. Front office officials throughout the league were concerned with his academic suspension in 2008 and a self-induced dismissal from the Orange, stemming from a car accident with teammates, midway through last season. Despite his terrific early round attributes – size, quickness, fearless attitude, ladder-climbing ability (Visual propaganda here) – teams ignored him on Day 1. It wasn't until Round 4, the 101st pick (WR13), when the 23-year-old's name was called.

Playing with a chip on his shoulder, Williams appears determined to bring naysayers to their knees. Throughout camp he's reeled in one dazzling catch after another. Most importantly, he's showcased the work ethic of a player desperate to catch on, outplaying more ballyhooed rookie Arrelious Benn(notes). So impressed with the kid's effort, Raheem Morris has already tabbed the tacky-handed treasure his starting "X" receiver. From The Tampa Tribune:

The "X" receiver lines up on the opposite side of a tight end and stands at the line of scrimmage. He usually draws one-on-one coverage and is expected to make big plays, like New England's Randy Moss(notes), San Diego's Vincent Jackson(notes) and Miami's Brandon Marshall(notes).

"Mike Williams had a dynamic offseason," Morris said. "He's come in and done everything we've asked. He's been one of the guys who caught the ball and stood out. He's been standing out since he's been here."

"He's a big, tall, fast guy who can go out there and make plays and right now he's running with the ones and he'll have an opportunity to go out there and prove himself in the preseason," Morris said. "Final depth charts don't come out until we play Cleveland, but right now he's running with the ones, getting some reps and he's having a ball."

Obviously, much will be determined about the Young Buc's potential 2010 impact during the preseason. But with limited competition for targets outside Kellen Winslow(notes) and due to Tampa's charitable defense, he will have ample opportunities to rapidly develop into a reliable WR3 in deeper formats - substantial upside for an asset selected on average around pick 158 (WR69) in 12-team leagues. An Adam Sandler/Rob Schneider-like bond with emerging passer Josh Freeman(notes) seems likely.

As Hakeem Nicks(notes), Percy Harvin(notes), Michael Crabtree(notes), Austin Collie(notes), Mike Wallace(notes), Jeremy Maclin(notes), among others, demonstrated a season ago, spread components imported from the college game have eased the transition for pass catchers. No longer avoidable, rookie wideouts are critical roster components even in moderate-sized leagues.

Williams could prove yet again, in fantasy football, draft rules are made to be broken.

Fearless Forecast (16 games): 61 receptions, 841 receiving yards, 6 touchdowns


Image courtesy of US Presswire

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