NFL Draft Scouting Report: P.J. Williams

How does P.J. Williams project for the NFL Draft and beyond?

A big corner with good speed and explosive leaping ability, P.J. Williams has good physical tools for the cornerback position. Williams is a physical player who was a of bit boom and bust player at Florida State, alternately giving up plays and making big plays in clutch situations.

Williams is still more of an athlete than a polished cornerback, but his athletic traits, physical and aggressive play, and his nose for the football all suggest that he could become a quality NFL cornerback.

Production

Williams was a two-year starter at FSU after arriving as a four-star safety prospect in the 2012 recruiting class. Williams’ leaping interception was a turning point in Florida State’s come from behind victory in the BCS National Championship Game against Auburn to close the 2013 season, and the Ocala native gained a reputation for being a player who came up big in big moments. True to form, Williams also forced a key fumble to end Oklahoma State’s comeback run in the 2014 season opener. With Ronald Darby on the opposite side, teams nevertheless preferred to target Williams throughout 2014, with moderate success. Had seven tackles for a loss in 2014, reflecting his ability in run support and as a blitzer.

Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
*2012 DB 9 5 14 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0
2013 DB 13 21 14 35 1.5 0.0 3 24 8.0 1 7 0 0 0 0
*2014 DB 13 52 22 74 6.5 1.0 1 14 14.0 0 10 0 0 0 1
Career 82 41 123 9.0 1.0 4 38 9.5 1 18 0 0 0 1
Provided by Sports-Reference.com/CFB: View Original Table
Generated 4/29/2015.

Scouting Report

Strengths

Thickly built with above average length. Plus athlete with fluidity and great leaping ability. Physical run defender who sheds blocks and relishes contact. Excellent blitzer with natural instincts for timing. Can press bigger receivers thanks to his size. Opens hips fluidly and can turn and run. Excellent man corner in the red zone, showing good timing and ball skills. Can play the football above his head. Played in a pattern-match scheme that demanded pro-level route diagnosis and should be able to adjust quickly to NFL coverage complexity. Able to smother when his technique is solid and he stays in phase. Physical enough to play safety. Fought through hamstring issues in 2014 and showed he can play through pain.

Room for Improvement

Can be heavy-footed and repeatedly shows sloppy footwork in press coverage, overextending and stepping outside his frame far too often. Tends to lunge and grab in press coverage rather than mirroring. Impatient and can be victimized with double moves. Out of phase (trailing the receiver) too often, forcing him to run to the receiver rather than being in position to contest the football. A bit of a long strider with average suddenness when reacting rather than anticipating. Lacks outstanding speed (plays closer to the mid 4.5 he ran at the Combine) and labors to recover when initially beaten. Grabby and physical in coverage downfield and will need to acclimate to NFL rules. Fiery competitor when the chips are down, but has an inconsistent overall motor. Loses interest at times in zone and seemed to be in cruise control most of 2014.

Combine/Pro Day Results

Combine/Pro Day Results

Ht

Wt

Arm

Hd

40y

20y

10y

Bench

Vert

Broad

SS

3Cone

6’0

194

31”

8 5/8

4.45*

1.55

15*

41

11’3*

4.28

7.08

Williams’ testing numbers are good overall, especially when counting the improvements made at pro day, where he dropped his 40 time by over a tenth of a second. Here are how his numbers measure up to typical NFL CB prospects:

The biggest concerns here are the below-average short shuttle and three-cone times, which validate the lack of elite suddenness and change of direction ability observed on film. Williams is more of a straight-line athlete than is ideal at the position, and he lacks the elite speed to recover when his other limitations get him in trouble. His arm length is also below average for a corner his height, which limits his effectiveness as a big corner.

Williams was very impressive in position drills, however, showing lighter, quicker feet than I had expected, suggesting that the heavy feet shown in press coverage on tape is likely more the result of sloppy technique, poor eye discipline, and a tendency to lunge than a physical limitation. With more attention to detail, Williams should become significantly better in that regard. But because he does not have elite speed or quickness, more will be demanded from his technique.

Showed even more fluid hips than his teammate Darby in position drills, showing the ability to sink his hips and change direction without false steps, though his feet are not as quick as Darby’s.

Floor/Ceiling

In terms of ceiling, Williams has the tools to become an above average NFL cornerback with the ability to handle bigger receivers on the outside so long as he has some safety help over the top. Alternately, he could potentially grow into a Pro Bowl level safety.

In terms of floor, Williams projects as a quality safety with plus coverage ability for that position and a good special teams player. He’s likely a starter by year two or three even at the floor.

Overall

Williams is a physical corner prospect who will need to go to the right kind of defense to fit his skills and will likely require some safety support over the top, at least initially. He also projects very well at the safety position if he does not pan out at cornerback, and his competitiveness and physical play will also make him a good special teams player. Williams grades as a mid second rounder on my board, largely on his high floor resulting from his potential at safety, where I think he eventually winds up.

Grade: 6.45 (Rookie impact, future starter).

Compares To

Aqib Talib

Overview and Draft Prediction

Potential Range: Picks 28–75

Some have had Williams as high as the end of the first round, but I find that highly implausible. For a player who relies so much on his athleticism, he simply doesn’t run well enough to warrant going so high, nor does his film support a first round grade. He is, however, unlikely to make it out of the second round, especially now that the DUI charge from last month has been dropped.

That charge—combined with the late-night car accident during the season—will, however, likely have some effect, pushing him into the later stage of the second round. I would not be surprised to see Williams go to Pittsburgh with their second round choice, as he fits their mold of secondary player. In any case, I expect to see Williams go in the 45–60 range of the draft.

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