Why the Slide?: James Williams, S/LB, Miami

James Williams

This series was created a number of years ago in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Entering the 2023 college football season, the Miami Hurricanes were viewed and hyped to have a dynamic safety combination with Kam Kinchens and James Williams. Over the course of the 2023 season, both players slid with team evaluators. The lack of a skill set hurt Kinchens, while Williams faced questions on his fit for the next level. Still, Williams was a productive player for the Hurricanes over 2023 and 2022, plus possesses size, quickness and physicality at strong safety. Thus, it was surprising when Williams fell all the way to the seventh round of the 2024 NFL Draft.

According to NFL team sources, there was a combination of factors that led to Williams sliding. One big issue was the projection of him moving from safety to linebacker. The 6-foot-4, 231-pound Williams is almost too big to play safety, and his size fits as a linebacker at the pro level. A slow 40 time for a safety at the 2024 NFL Scouting Combine also illustrated the necessity for such a move. One NFC director of player personnel said about Williams slide, “I’m not sure why he fell that far. It likely was a combination of everything …. scheme fit/projection to LB/testing numbers.”

The Tennessee Titans ended Williams slide in the seventh round, and that was a good landing spot for him. The Titans are looking for some young inside linebackers to emerge, and Williams could play quickly. Tennessee signed Kenneth Murray in the offseason, but he is essentially on a 1-year contract with an expensive option for another season. The Titans also drafted North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray in the fourth round, and aside from them, the depth chart is wide open. Williams will probably have to make the squad by performing well on special teams in training camp and preseason games. He has a good opportunity to carve out a pro career in Tennessee.


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