A top CFL wide receiver getting permission from his team to pursue opportunities in the NFL is no shocker, hardly noteworthy even. But CFLpass has to give kudos to D’haquille Williams of the 2017 and ’18 Edmonton Eskimos and quite possibly of the 2019 Buffalo Bills for landing with an NFL side with whom he could stick.
Williams left Auburn after a senior year shortened thanks to his involvement at a dustup in a local bar. He went uncalled in the 2016 NFL Draft, but spent the ’16 season on the Los Angeles Rams practice squad. For the 2017 season, Williams got with Edmonton and played in most games, though ending up the team’s no. 4 receiver that year.
Last season represented Williams’ true breakout year in professional football, simply killing it all season and giving one of the Eskimos their few bright marks in a disappointing season. “Duke” was tops in yardage at 1579, his 17.9 yards per catch was second best in the league, and he placed fourth in receptions. Williams was also one of three players to bag a league-leading 11 receiving TDs.
Clearly, someone in Buffalo was watching. Three days ago, Williams was given his release from the Eskimos to try out with NFL teams and within 60 hours he’d inked his name on the dotted line with the Bills. Fair enough, the deal was a mere futures/reserves contract which essentially carries no guarantees whatsoever, but the league’s dominant QBs for years running, Bo Levi Mitchell and Williams’s former passer Mike Reilly have each received a handful of tryouts with teams but no dice as yet for either.
On the other hand, leading the Eskimos’ WR corps seems to be a stepping stone to such a reserve contract at least: After winning the league’s Most Outstanding Rookie award in 2015 and leading the Esks in ’16, he spent the preseason with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and 2017’s breakout player and CFL receptions leader Brandon Zylstra won him a spot on the Minnesota Vikings’ proper 53-man roster but only had one reception in ’18.
CFLpass can’t imagine D’haquille won’t get a shot to make the Bills, a team that was bottom-3 statistically in most passing statistics and the team’s leading WR in 2018 was 23-year-old second-year man Zay Jones.