Breakdown: Saints Select P.J. Williams

Everything you need to know about the New Orleans Saints’ third-round selection of cornerback P.J. Williams out of Florida State from Scout's college and pro football experts.

Awaiting Image
P.J. Williams
Florida State / 6'0 / 194 lbs
  • CB
  • [3] #14


Williams played very well at FSU, playing in 40 games and starting in two dozen. He finished with 123 tackles, four picks and 18 pass deflections. This is a physical cornerback that can play man press and off as well as zone. Williams is also physical and aggressive in run support. He had a great chance of landing in the first round but was arrested on a DUI charge on April 3rd. Williams plead not guilty and is now fighting the charge. It’s unlikely that this situation will be resolved by April 30 and could causehis draft status to slide.

Dave-Te' Thomas Player Evaluation

Report from NFL Scouting Services' Dave-Te' Thomas:

Looking at the sad state of the Pittsburgh Steelers secondary, P.J. Williams would be the perfect fit to join a defense that had featured aging boundary cornerback Ike Taylor. The two actually have trained together during the offseason at coach Tom Shaw’s facility in Florida. Williams is a physical tackler whose man coverage skills are exactly what the Steelers have been missing the last few years.

Widely regarded as one of the top cover corners in the country, the semifinalist for the Thorpe Award and a first-team All-ACC selection posted 74 tackles (52 solos), as his 6.5 tackles for loss are testament to his run support work. He also ranked second on the team with 10 pass breakups.

Rated the ninth-best safety in the country as a prepster, the Defensive MVP of the 2014 BCS National Championship Game has been the shutdown cornerback the Seminoles’ staff envision when they shifted him outside in 2013. Last season, opposing receivers managed to pull in just 14.1 percent of the passes targeted into Williams’ area (11 of 78), as he allowed just five first downs.

Originally recruited as a dual threat (also was a receiver), he has the long, lean and wiry build that has the room to add more bulk and strength to his frame. What he possesses is outstanding football awareness, which allows him to play in a variety of roles in the secondary. With his ball skills and leaping ability, some team might also consider him as a valid prospect to handle the high point safety position, especially since the talent level at that position in the 2015 draft class is sorely lacking.

Williams possesses the valid field awareness needed to play in a variety of roles as well as return kicks on special teams. He has long legs and is high cut but still looks fluid in his pedal playing from centerfield. He is effective playing both off and close to the line of scrimmage and is solid at driving on the ball and closing the cushion on underneath routes. He also shows good zone techniques, along with the ability to bump and reroute receivers.

While some scouts feel that Williams could have benefitted with another season at FSU, he is known as a hard-working player who consistently gets praise from coaches and teammates for his work ethic and attitude. He’s the type that will put in time in the film room, as he wants to know his opponents and defensive scheme inside and out. While some teams are questioning his off-field antics, nobody is concerned about his on-field effort, as he always brings a tenacious attitude on every play.

Williams is an aggressive hitter in the secondary who plays without regard to his own safety. He’s most comfortable when coming downhill and cutting down ball carriers with a low shoulder. Even when having to face up to the bigger and stronger runner who lowers his pads or larger receivers with the length to stiff-arm him, the Seminole will not back down from the challenge.

Williams adds to his résumé with his stellar play on coverage units. Last season, he was also utilized on edge blitzes regularly, as the FSU front four had some issues getting into the backfield. He used his quickness and big hits to create havoc, recording seven of his tackles for losses, all when attacking from the blind side.

Williams is a quiet sort, but can also be a vocal leader on the field. He has a clear understanding of the defensive scheme and appears to have that gift for correctly reading the quarterback’s eyes and consistently getting that early jump on throws when working in zone coverage. He’s one of the best in this draft in regards to his route recognition skills in man coverage (allowed just 11 of 78 pass completions in 2014).

Williams loves it when he’s allowed to play mostly in press-bail or off-coverage situations, as he flashes a tough, aggressive hand punch after the snap in attempts to reroute in press coverage situations and while he is not training room strong (just 12 reps at the 225-pound bench press test), he does have enough functional power to knock NFL-caliber receivers off their routes.

Williams still needs refinement with his footwork when transitioning forward from his back-pedal, as he will take an extra step or loop a bit when closing on slants. He does display above-average recovery and straight-line speed to stay with faster receivers down the field if beaten on a double move or losing a step off the line.

Williams plays well using a shuffle technique rather than the traditional pedal and appears to be at his best when the action is in front of him. He’s quick to recognize the switch-off in zone coverage and off-man coverage and displays quick feet and closing burst when coming forward. He also shows toughness to hold up his opponent in press technique.

Williams also appears very fluid opening his hips when attempting to turn and run, as it is rare to see him get too high in his pedal or get his feet crossed. He is a patient sort, very calculating and will not open too early or leave him vulnerable vs. double moves.

With 22 passes defended during 24 starting assignments, Williams is the type that will make quarterbacks pay for poor throws. One reason I have him still listed as a safety option is his centerfielder-like instincts and hands, as he utilizes his athleticism to full advantage when battling on jump balls. He also knows how to contort his body to make difficult catches with his hands extended away from his frame.

While Williams might not be elusive after the making the interception, he has solid hands and typically makes the right decision to get under the thrown ball. He also seems very comfortable tracking the ball over his shoulder, along with taking good angles to the thrown pass to time his jumps well. It is very rare to see him let the pigskin into his pads.

In conclusion, Williams shows overall playmaking ability in pass coverage. He has solid range while the ball is in the air and certainly has the change-of-direction skills to handle tight ends and some backs in coverage, if moved to safety at the next level. He has good feet and very good straight-line speed, but while he may not be a burner, he has the ability to accelerate and chase down plays.

P.J. Williams Scouting Combine measurables

6-0/194 (4.57 forty)
31-inch arm length
8 5/8-inch hands
12-reps bench 40-inch vertical jump
11-foot broad jump
7.08 3 cone drill (right calf strain)
4.28 20 yard shuttle
No 60 yard shuttle

Dave-Te’ Thomas is a sports writer, talent evaluator and scouting personnel consultant for a majority of teams in the National Football League. Thomas runs a scouting information service called NFL Scouting Services and produces THE NFL Draft Report, a publication provided by league headquarters to the media in preparation for the NFL Draft.


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