Another Drafted Keeper

The release of Robert Tate only further solidifies that the Vikings made a solid fourth-round draft choice in defensive back Brian Williams. He has many of the tools desired in a young secondary player.

Another rookie from this year's draft crop has shown positive signs of late, and that is former North Carolina State cornerback Brian Williams.

"We like the performance of Brian Williams and we said that after the [second preseason] game," head coach Mike Tice said. "We really enjoy the things he's doing. He had another interception today [in practice]. I don't think it's by accident. I think he's a very good young football player for us."

Slowed by a hamstring injury for more than a week in training camp, Williams has looked good — both before and after the injury setback.

Williams (5-foot-11 1/2, 207 pounds) is a well-built (19 reps at 225 pounds) cornerback with good feet and a natural feel for the game. He's been physical on run support and shown himself to be a very reliable open-field tackler. He has also demonstrated good instincts, reactions and ball skills in practices each day. He seems to close on the ball well and has shown his outstanding leaping ability (39-inch vertical jump) when competing for the ball.

All in all, he's looked good and doesn't have the wide-eyed look of a rookie at all. He plays with confidence and seems to have a presence on the field of a veteran, not that of a rookie.

When the Vikings initially drafted Williams in the fourth round (105th overall) this spring, they envisioned him competing for the starting free safety position, returning to that spot after spending the past two seasons in college playing cornerback. But once defensive coordinator Willie Shaw got a look at him in the flesh during the early minicamps, he decided to keep him at cornerback for now.

So far, so good.

Williams appears to have the quickness, feet and instincts for the position at the pro level.

In the long run, he might eventually move back inside. Either way, he's a fine all-around athlete who was a terrific running back at Southwest Guilford High School in North Carolina, and also an outstanding basketball player.

Williams was a three-year starter at both right cornerback and free safety for the Wolfpack in college. He also excelled on special teams. He finished his collegiate career with 262 tackles, 9 tackles-for-loss, a sack, two fumble recoveries, a forced fumble, five blocked kicks, five interceptions and 20 pass breakups.

It's still pretty early, but it appears the Vikings have found themselves another genuine keeper from this year's rookie draft crop.



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