Aaron Williams, University of Texas Longhorns, #4, 5:11 7-204
The more I watch Williams on game film, the more I am convinced that if he is to have any success in the NFL, it has to be at a safety position Some teams cite his aggressive play, but he tends to get out of control, too often looking to make the big interception rather than try to prevent the receiver from catching the ball Case in point: on 49 pass plays that he defended against, the opposition caught 28 of those passes (57 14%)
Williams played a crucial role in rebuilding a Longhorns secondary that was one of the nation's poorest units during his true freshman season In 2008, Williams played in all 13 games with just one start while Texas finished seventh in the Big Twelve Conference and 104th in the country in pass defense, allowing 259 38 aerial yards per game
As a sophomore in 2009, Williams started 13 games he played in and the Longhorns secondary saw a dramatic increase in effectiveness Texas placed second in the Big Twelve Conference and 19th in the nation, allowing 179 57 yards passing per game
However, the team struggled throughout the 2010 campaign, as the Longhorns failed to make the bowl season Williams shuttled from strongside cornerback and nickel back, starting 9 of 11 games while producing 46 tackles He missed some midseason action after suffering a concussion vs Baylor
Williams started 23 of 37 games for Texas during his career, recording 97 tackles (65 solos) with three sacks and 11 5 stops for losses He had four interceptions and broke up 15 pass attempts He also caused six fumbles, recovered another and blocked five punts
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Williams failed to impress with his foot speed, producing electronic 40-yard dash times of 4 62 and 4 68 He did show impressive lateral agility, and decent strength Along with his size and leaping ability, combined with his lack of natural hands, he has better safety qualities, where his lack of explosion will not be as exposed in one-on-one match-ups
Williams shows good hand/eye coordination, but you'd like to see him generate a second gear in order to recover quicker on deep routes He has valid feet for the safety position and good arm usage to stick it to tight ends and slot receivers in press coverage, but struggles to recover when handling receivers that get behind him on deep routes
The one glaring concern for a possible move to safety is his zone-coverage awareness skills This is where he gets into trouble mostly, as he seems to have mental hesitation in the deep zone He will gamble too much and peek into the backfield too long, then he has to rely on his speed to recover When a receiver gets a step on him, he does not have the burst to recover and will sometimes will freeze up, allowing his assignment to break free
Williams has too much talent to take chances like he does and he will get "lazy eye" and stare at the quarterback too long, especially when he has to make the switch on combo routes He is quick to jump routes and has the range, but just appears uncomfortable working in the zone than he does in short area man coverage assignments
Williams has the loose hips and change-of-direction agility to close when working along the perimeter He has just adequate catch-up speed and does not play faster than his timed speed indicates, as he will get lost at times on combo routes He needs to do a better job of switching off and even though he has functional acceleration, you'd like to see him play with better efficiency and not get exposed so much when attempting to stay with his man on deep routes He is better closing when pursuing across the field than when he is beaten on long patterns
Compares To: Malcolm Jenkins-New Orleans Like the Saints discovered with Jenkins, some NFL team might be better suited shifting Williams to safety, where his lack of great foot speed and his marginal recovery skills will be less exposed Even though he has an angular build, he packs a thud behind his tackles when he is able to maintain plays in front of him, ideal for a professional safety He will get a little reckless at times and take a side rather than wrapping This will usually see the ball carrier escape his initial hit In run support, he likes coming up to the line to support and fill the rush lanes, but has problems getting back on the pass play when the receiver gets behind him on deep routes
Robert Sands, West Virginia University Mountaineers, #2, 6:04 3-217
While UCLA's Rahim Moore's disappointing 2010 campaign could have earned him this honor, Sands' lack of range and poor tackling ability bears a striking resemblance to recent Tampa Bay bust Sabby Piscitelli This is not to say that he will be a bust at the next level, but with his package of size and speed, it might be better suited for some team to evaluate him as a potential Cover-2 linebacker, where he will draw comparisons to Carolina's Thomas Davis He has experience playing linebacker and is not a neophyte at that position During his playing days at Miami Carol City High School, he was rated the 27th-best strongside linebacker in the country by Scout com
Sands did not start the first four games of the 2009 season before forcing his way back into the lineup at free safety, finishing fifth on the team with 65 tackles (37 solos), including 3 5 stops for loss He led the team and tied for the Big East lead with five interceptions, adding eight pass deflections and a fumble recovery, earning All-Big East Conference first-team honors
Sands was again selected first-team All-Big East in 2010 Leading the nation's 11th-ranked pass defense (174 62 ypg), the free safety started all 13 games as a junior He was in on 53 tackles (34 solos) that included 1 5 sacks, 6 5 stops behind the line of scrimmage and three quarterback pressures He also recorded his sixth career interception
He went on to start 31 of 39 games at free safety for West Virginia, recording 151 tackles (88 solos) with 1 5 sacks, 10 stops for losses, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery He deflected eight passes and had six interceptions His five pass thefts in 2009 were the most by a WVU defensive back in a season since Aaron Beasley set the school season-record with ten in 1994
Sands has an athletic-looking build with good upper-body thickness, well-developed thighs and calves, good bubble and arm length, but while he has impressive closing speed and lateral range, he needs to dedicate more than a few hours in the training room to drastically improve his marginal strength (12 reps at 225 pounds)
The junior shows good ability to adjust on the move, but will miss some tackles when he gets over-aggressive in his pursuit angles He has the large hands and natural arm extension skills to catch outside his frame, but he can get high in his backpedal at times When he keeps his pad level down, he has the flexibility to come out cleanly from his breaks
Sands is more of a collision-type tackler than one who will wait for the action to come to him He is a smart player with good instincts and a nose for the ball, but just needs to play with more control at times, as he will try to go for the "big hit" rather than make plays on the ball He is a decent open-field tackler who plays with a "take no prisoners" approach, but is still learning how to reel in that energy, as he is prone to missed tackles when he gets too aggressive attacking the man rather than make plays on the ball
Compares To: Kerry Rhodes-Arizona Like Rhodes, Sands is best when making plays in front of him or coming up to attack ball carriers in the box He does a decent job of rerouting tight ends and backs in the short area, but will get a bit over-aggressive at times, leading to missed tackles He needs to play with better patience and make plays on the ball more often than he did in 2010, but you would still like to see him get more opportunities to attack the ball in flight, as it is evident he has the hands and speed to be a good ball hawk It might be better served having him fill out his frame and becoming a Cover-2 outside linebacker, but he has to greatly improve his overall strength to make that conversion
Buyer Beware: Defensive backs
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