By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Over the past two seasons, Williams was one of the best ballhawks in college football, yet never received the amount of acclaim that he deserves. He is an interception threat who covers a lot of ground on the back end. It wouldn’t surprise this analyst if Williams is one of the steals of the 2017 NFL Draft.
In his debut season, the freshman notched 59 tackles with an interception. He broke out the next season, making five interceptions, five passes broken up and 66 tackles. Williams stayed consistent as a junior with 64 tackles, three passes broken up, five interceptions and two forced fumbles. After those two consecutive productive seasons, Williams decided to skip his senior year and enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
Williams is a real asset for pass coverage. As the deep center fielder, he can break on the ball well and is dangerous to pick it off or slap it away. Williams is a real ballhawk, and his interception production in his career was not a fluke. Williams is very rangy, and is adept at making some big plays downfield because he is very instinctive. He covers a lot of ground in the deep part of the field and has the recognition skills to get in position to make big plays. Williams is very good at reading a quarterback’s eyes and getting in position to make plays. He has soft hands to make the catch with the athleticism to adjust to the ball.
Williams has good length and height for his position with potential to develop as a safety who could help cover receiving tight ends and big receivers downfield. He is at his best playing the rangy center fielder and using his speed and instincts to cover the back end.
In run defense, Williams is at his best coming downhill and is willing to dish out some hard hits. However, he has a lean frame and could use more strength for tackling NFL running backs. As a result, he is more of a free safety and is not an interchangeable safety candidate to switch free or strong pre-snap to confuse quarterbacks. Still, finding good free safeties can be difficult in the NFL. Williams’ pass coverage and ballhawking skills to create turnovers could make him a future Pro Bowler.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, Williams is likely to be a second-day pick and could be a starting free safety early in his NFL career.
Player Comparison: Tashaun Gipson. Williams reminded me of Gipson during his 2013-2014 run with the Browns; he totaled 11 interceptions over those two seasons. In the NFL, I think Williams could be a better, more consistent version of Gipson.
NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, Houston, Seattle, Buffalo, New York Jets, Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Los Angeles Chargers and Pittsburgh
There are a lot of potential fits for Williams on the second day of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bears, Chargers, Panthers, Bengals and Bills all have top-10 picks and could use a safety. Williams won’t go that high, but at least three of those teams could be targeting a safety in Round 2 assuming that Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker go in the top 10. Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu could also go in the middle to late portion of the first round.
Chicago signed Quintin Demps but could use a safety to pair with him. Williams could interest the Bears if they don’t take a safety at No. 3. The Chargers need a true replacement for Eric Weddle, and if they don’t take a safety in the first round, Williams would be a good fit for them in Round 2 or 3. Carolina needs a safety upgrade, while the Bengals really missed not having Reggie Nelson last year. Buffalo has a need at safety as Aaron Williams has an uncertain future due to a neck injury.
The Jets could use an upgrade at free safety. Tampa Bay needs an upgrade at safety as well, and Williams would make sense for the Bucs on Day 2. Cleveland needs improved safety play, and Williams would make sense for one of the Browns’ second-round picks or their third-round pick.
After losing Quintin Demps, the Texans have a huge need at safety. Williams could be a prime target for them on Day 2. The Steelers could use a safety to pair with Sean Davis, and Williams could give them a gifted young tandem. Atlanta could use a free safety to pair with strong safety Keanu Neal.
Sources say the Seahawks love Melifonwu, so perhaps Williams could be in play for Seattle also. Earl Thomas has made some noise about retirement, so the Seahawks could start thinking toward the future.
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