In an edge rusher class that is extremely top-heavy, depth players are valued even more by those teams that don’t see pass-rush as a pressing need. Sam Williams can be one of those players. The Ole Miss product was a production monster on one of the weaker defenses in the SEC. Williams led the team with 12.5 sacks, which put him in fifth in the nation. The thing we need to find out with Williams is if that production can translate into the NFL.
Make sure to check out all of our other NFL Draft Scouting Reports.
Name: Sam Williams
Jersey: No. 7
School: Ole Miss
Weight: 260 lbs
Games Watched: Baylor (2021), Alabama (2021), Mississippi State (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Pass Rush Ability (12.75/15)
Those 12.5 sacks do not lie. Williams is a pass-rush specialist, and it is his calling card in the NFL. Early on, teams will be able to insert Williams on pass-rushing downs because of his polished ability in this area. He’s very active, has nice counters, a bevy of moves, and can either come in as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 edge rusher if he can increase some functional strength in the passing game.
Williams tested inconsistently in terms of explosiveness during the pre-draft process. His 32.5-inch vertical jump was less than ideal and gave early woes. However, the 123-inch broad jump is a crazy good number. This narrative from the testing does show up on film as well. Williams will have snaps where he looks sluggish off the line and going into the offensive lineman. But there are other plays where he’ll shoot right off and bring a serious pop to begin his pass-rush sequence.
First Step (8/10)
Explosiveness and first step can combine into one trait for Williams. Both rely on how the other works throughout the snap. Sometimes when the first step isn’t great, Williams uses his best explosiveness to get to the quarterback. When the explosiveness isn’t great, Williams will rely on a better first step to win the rep. Consistency from these two attributes will have to be cleaned up, though the potential is there.
At an official 6-foot-4, Williams has a great bend. He can get right around a tackle, and it’s impressive, to say the least. This is why we say Williams is a pass-rush specialist. That unique bend for someone his size gives the classic vibes of a rotating defensive edge. Now, the bend can get stifled at times, but it’s easy to see the potential here, especially with the leverage Williams gains each play.
Hand Usage (8.25/10)
Williams’ hands are active early and often. He packs a really nice amount of counters and some pretty distinct moves with his hands. The passing game sees Williams get a very nice punch early, and keeping those arms extended to rip right off the lineman and make a play. The hands get a little worse against the run, but we already know by now that won’t be the focal point of Williams’ game in the NFL.
There are not many prospects that you can fault for having a bad motor, and Williams does not fit this bill. While he’s not going to be the alpha defender like Aidan Hutchinson or Jermaine Johnson, Williams lets his game do the talking, and the hype comes with it. You can see teammates rally around him, which boosts Williams allowing for more explosiveness and excitement in his game.
Tackling is certainly not a weakness of Williams. When he gets to the quarterback, more often than not, they are going to be on the ground. He’s done well to trip guys up against the run and wracked up a very impressive 31 solo tackles last season. Williams also forced four fumbles in his 2021 campaign, so he obviously knows when and how to attempt to punch the ball out and cause a turnover.
Strength at LOS (6/10)
The next two traits are why Williams isn’t projected to go as high as the other big names in this draft. He won’t get driven back that far, but Williams can get his gap assignment opened up because the functional strength isn’t the greatest. It’s something he can work on early on, though right now, this will be an issue with Williams’ game. Whatever team drafts him will have to get him in the weight room immediately, especially if Williams is slotted into the 4-3 position.
Run Defense (6/10)
The strength plays into the run game. Teams have been able to set the edge on Williams in the run game, which is the biggest reason why we describe him as that pass-rush threat and not such a balanced player. Still, there have been times against the run where Williams has won several reps. Part of those 31 tackles come off of stopping the run, and it’s one of the next steps toward the development of Williams.
Williams can play in any system at the next level. Now, that does depend on the weight he plays to. He’ll have to add 10 more pounds to play 4-3 edge rusher (an easy task) or drop just a few to slot in at 3-4 edge rusher. If Williams was to play 3-4, teams wouldn’t have that much versatility with him as he almost never dropped into coverage with Ole Miss. Nevertheless, any scheme will do for Williams, an instant boost in the eyes of NFL general managers.
Even with all that top-end talent in this year’s draft, Williams is very close to working his name into that group. The talent level he brings presents the look of a Day 2 pick, though he could fall into Day 3 depending on certain circumstances. If a run of edge rushers goes in the first round, a lot of teams will already have had their guy for a while. Others that don’t need edge rushers would be most likely to wait until Day 3, but with all the unpredictability coming in this draft, Williams could end up anywhere, on any day.
Rookie Projection: Rotational Pass-Rusher
Third-Year Projection: Borderline Starting Edge Rusher
Player Grade (76.75/100): Late Third-Round Pick
Pro Comparison: Whitney Mercilus
Check us out on our socials:
Twitter: @PTSTNews and @TalkPrimeTime
Facebook Page: Prime Time Sports Talk
Join our Facebook Group: Prime Time Sports Talk
Follow Charlie Parent on Twitter @Charlie_Parent
Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images