Anthony Ratliff-Williams was an electrifying dual-threat quarterback in high school. As a college fantasy football player, it’s pretty disappointing that we never got to see him play QB in Chapel Hill. We’ve gotten glimpses of him on trick plays but not nearly as much as I would like. That being said, AR17’s future at the next level is undoubtedly at WR and as a returner. There was a foundation that had been laid though as he played receiver as a sophomore in high school. The Tar Heels also have a recent track record of converting players and developing them into top-notch wide receivers. Ryan Switzer and Mack Hollins were the elder statesman at UNC when AR17 arrived, and both of those guys played running back and defensive back in high school before moving to wide receiver at UNC. Both players made good decisions as they are employed in the NFL now. Former UNC WRs coach and current Philadelphia Eagles coach, Gunter Brewer, is one of the best in the business and deserves a ton of credit for his ability to bring out the best in his athletes.
Athletic would be the main adjective that I would use to describe AR17. It’s evident in his Lamar Jackson-like high school quarterback tape, and it flashed throughout the 2017 season. AR17 had this to say about his ability and development, “For the most part, I was blessed with athleticism, so I have to thank God for that… But other than that, having guys like Mack Hollins, Bug [Howard], Switzer and [Austin] Proehl in front of you makes it easy because you feed off their energy and watch their film and take what they learned in their reps and games and work into it. That’s what I did… Everybody has their challenges when they come to school and have advantages to their game and learn to play off those, I talked to those guys and their advice to me was learn what you can now, implement it into your game and let the film and everything else take over.” He showed that incredible athleticism last season against Pitt where he threw a TD, caught a TD, and returned the opening kickoff for a TD!
Chew on this: the Buffalo Bills traded Tyrod Taylor and took Josh Allen in the first round while this guy is ‘19 eligible!
The catch is pretty straightforward. Well executed pick play where all he has to do is keep his feet and catch it for the easy six.
Even though it didn’t result in a touchdown, it’s worth seeing another incredible catch he made in this game.
AR17 returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in 2017.
Let’s take an extended look at his 2017 game against Duke, courtesy of @caddytothellama. He locks up Byron Fields on this running play and shows he can be a capable and willing blocker.
Here he smashes Jordan Hayes, a safety, with a block.
This play displays his incredible athleticism. He is well-covered but tracks the ball, adjusts, and makes an acrobatic catch at full extension.
Quick off the line, doesn’t get run into the boundary, and makes a nice over-the-shoulder-catch for an explosive play and a TD.
This is another acrobatic catch where he shows off his leaping ability, body control, and concentration to haul it in.
Here is a play at the end of the game that shows some of the not-so-good from their TE, QB, and AR17. Without knowing the specific play call, I can’t tell for sure who is at fault, but all three could have done better. Improving his route running and the nuances of the position are areas where AR17 will need to grow. The good news is that he has only played WR for one year since he was a teenager. (This play may or may not have covered the point spread for Duke backers. Check out our great partner gtbets.eu and end up on the right side of these in 2018!)
AR17 finally gets some cushion here late in the game. He does an excellent job coming back to the ball in space and shows off his tenacity and strength as a runner.
AR17 was targeted 64 times and made 35 catches in 2017. He racked up 630 yards at 18 yards-per-reception but had a poor 55% catch rate. UNC had miserable QB play last season, and he only had 39 passes that were deemed catchable by Pro Football Focus. While the sample is small, his four drops on 39 catchable balls put him slightly below the average drop rate for FBS receivers in 2017. In my opinion, his hands aren’t a problem. They are two of his most significant assets. It’s fun to see incredible athletes make splash plays so I’ll highlight a few more here.
Channeling his inner-Doug-Baldwin with the change of speed stays clean, and then makes the “Wow” grab. Little sauce after the catch is lovely to see.
When UNC got him into space, he was a problem. Great burst after the catch as he shows why he is such a dangerous return man.
While he’s still learning to use his technique to create separation, his God-given-ability allows him to win even when he’s not open.
There is a wide range of potential outcomes for AR17. He is more athlete than polished receiver at the moment, but his natural ability allows him to do things that most receivers in college cannot. Listed at 6’1” and 205 pounds, he has comparable size to former Colorado State WR, Michael Gallup. Similar to Gallup, he plays bigger than his size and also shows he can be a versatile weapon. He can win deep, beat you on contested catches, and also be lethal with the ball in his hands on underneath routes. Considering that he has only played WR for one season, I think he has an enormously high ceiling. He will be a fourth-year junior this year that will be both NFL-draft-eligible while having two more years to play for UNC. The Tar Heels will hope for consistent QB play and for that to trickle down to the pass catchers. I was fortunate to be early to identify North Carolina State Wide Receiver, Kelvin Harmon, as a breakout candidate in 2017 and I feel similarly about Ratliff-Williams in 2018. He is a player who I think is currently undervalued in both CFF and Devy formats, based upon what I’ve seen in drafts this spring and summer. AR17 is the type of player that I like to target towards the back end of Devy drafts. His versatility, both as an inside and outside receiver, coupled with his ability as a return man, overall athleticism, and aptitude as a blocker will make him a desirable commodity to many NFL franchises.