clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Cowboys 2015 Draft Targets: Florida State CB P.J. Williams

Because there has been such a high correlation in recent years between the top collegians invited to Valley Ranch for pre-draft visits and who the Cowboys end up drafting, it's important to know as much as possible about these players. As a service to you, BTB offers a series of detailed scouting reports on these players, compiled from the work of top draft analysts. Today, we look at Florida State CB P.J. WIlliams

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Kenneth Lamar "P.J." Williams saw action in thirteen games as true freshman in 2012, mostly in a reserve role and on special teams. The following season, Williams became a starter, leading the Florida State Seminoles in passes defensed, with ten, and registering 35 tackles and three interceptions, enough to receive All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. The capstone was  that he came up big in the BCS National Title Game against Auburn, collecting Defensive MVP laurels.

In 2014, with defensive backfield teammates LaMarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks off to the NFL, Williams started thirteen games, recording 74 tackles (6.5 for loss) and an interception, and finishing second on the team in passes defended, with eleven. Although (or perhaps because) opponents rarely tested Williams, he earned First Team All-ACC honors.In his final two seasons in Tallahassee, Williams helped the 'Noles to a 27-1 record.

Williams' best attribute is that he is well-rounded. Although he doesn't stand out as elite in any one area, he boasts NFL-caliber size, strength and movement skills. He plays well against both the run and pass, and can cover outside and from the slot. He can also play both zone- and man-heavy schemes. See, well-rounded!

In addition to his physical gifts, Williams has the mental makeup to play on an island, possesses a corner's short memory and boasts the necessary swagger to regroup and forget when he's beaten. Which is good, because he tends to be vulnerable downfield, especially on double moves. Although fast, he lacks the elite make-up speed to close the distance after he's over-reacted to the first move in a combo route. As one of our scouts below notes, Williams can be set up by receivers to give up big plays.


Want to scout like a boss? Let's start by looking at his measurables:

Height Weight Arms Hands 40yd 10yd Bench Vert Broad 3Cone 20ss pSPARQ (%)
6' 0" 194 31" 8⅝" 4.57 1.55 12 40" 132" 7.08 4.28 127.9 (85.0)

And here they are in the form of a spider graph, courtesy of the folks at

In case you are wondering, click here to see how Williams compares to the class' other free safeties (his pSPARQ score would put him second among available safeties, behind Penn State's Adrian Amos).

How does his tape look? Over at Draft Breakdown, they have five of his games for your study. From 2014, watch him in the opener against Oklahoma State (two tackles, two passes defensed) and against conference rivals Clemson (five tackles, two PDs) and Virginia (six stops, one pass defensed). From 2013 (which most agree was his better year), see how he fares versus Boston College (four tackles, a PD and a pick).


Let's see what our esteemed panel of scouts has to say about Williams and his game:

Gary Horton ( 6th-ranked CB; 62nd overall:

Instincts/Recognition: Shares a lot of similarities with former Coastal Carolina standout Josh Norman (Panthers), specifically his outstanding instincts and recognition skills to make up for lack of ideal fluidity and speed. Shows excellent patience both in press-man and in zone. Never panics. Patient and does a good job of reading receivers' routes. Excellent eye discipline flashing back-and-forth from reading receivers' route to reading quarterbacks' eyes. Good overall awareness. Shows ability to come off of primary assignment to make a play on the ball. Understands route concepts and maintains quality leverage.

Cover Skills: Will thrive in a combination role of press-man and zone coverage, but will get eaten alive in NFL if asked to play much off-coverage. Has awareness and discipline to excel in zone-heavy scheme. Good height, adequate strength and is physical. Also technically sound. Reads release in press-man and maintains leverage, forcing the receiver to go through his body. Opens quickly and puts himself in good initial position to run with receiver. But he has physical limitations. Just decent plant-and-drive quickness when playing off. Shows tightness in his ankles and takes a few extra steps when forced to quickly redirect. Average straight-line speed and lacks closing burst to make up ground when the ball is in the air. Struggles to recover if he gives up early separation.

Ball Skills: Locates the ball quickly and takes good angles. Gets his head around in time when defending verticals. Flashes ability to extend and catch away from frame. Tracks ball well and looks it in. Adequate high-pointing, but could time jumps better. Enough length to reach around some receivers trying to box him out, but shorter arms for frame and it shows when he's contesting versus taller, longer pass-catchers (such as Louisville's DeVante Parker). Adequate ball production with 20 pass breakups and four INTs in two seasons as starter (2013-14). Had a few drops on catchable INTs (10 tapes studied).

Run Support: Aggressive and physical. Plays hard. Will pursue from across the field. Frequently beats blockers to the point. Willing to take on much bigger blockers and sacrifice body to make play. Stronger upper-body power than 12 bench press reps would indicate. Takes good angles in pursuit. Occasionally will fail to wrap up when in position, but overall is a sound tackler for a cornerback, and he flashes some surprising striking ability.

Intangibles: Police arrested Williams on April 3, 2015 and charged him with one count of driving under the influence. Fiery competitor who plays with emotions on sleeve and barks at opponents on tape. Coaches love this guy. Key contributor to kickoff and punt cover teams in 2012. Returned kickoffs in high school.

Nolan Nawrocki (NFL Draft 2015 Preview) 10th-ranked CB; 50th overall:

Strengths: Uses his hands well to redirect receivers. Can shadow and mirror in man coverage. Good leaping ability. Has a 40-inch vertical jump and tied with three others for the fastest 10-yard split (1.50 seconds) of any cornerback at the Combine. Smart and aware. Solid tackler—uses his size well.

Weaknesses: Has short arms and very small hands. Upright and tight in his pedal. Not a confident catcher. Average twitch, short-area burst and long speed. Struggled recovering from the trail position on vertical routes. Gives up too may big lays, unable to recover when he gets beat. Tends to clutch and grab when challenged vertically. Leaves too much production on the field. Not a finisher.

Future: A long, instinctive, bump-and-run corner with the length to match up with big receivers yet lacking desirable speed. Will be best in a predominately zone scheme where he could work short areas and lay the ball in front of him.

Draft projection: Second- to third-round pick

Scout's take: Williams "has decent quickness. He lacks speed. He is polished and makes a lot of steady plays, but he does not finish a lot. Some of out (scouts) like him a lot more than I do. There are (scouts) that have first-round grades on him. I have him in the third (round). There are receivers that can set him up and get on top of him. He struggled catching up in trail and finding the ball."

Lance Zierlein ( 5th-ranked CB; 39th overall:

Strengths: Possesses desired height, weight and speed. Able to face up and handle business from press coverage all game long. Bump-and-run specialist. Length and strength to put a receiver into detour mode off the jam. Waits to open hips up until receiver has committed to his release. Able to turn, run and close. Has feel to stay wired on inside or outside releases. Able to get on top of vertical routes and smother. Can carry speed down the field. Outstanding timing and ball skills to knock throw away. Instinctive and aware, extending outside of his area to make plays. Sure tackler in open field with second gear to explode into ball carriers.

Weaknesses: Physical down the field and could take time to acclimate to NFL illegal-contact rules. Stays on high-side down the field, opening himself to easy comebacks. Appears to lose some interest when asked to cover in zone. Won't be able to consistently jam savvy NFL receivers off the line. Motor runs hot and cold. Shows up ready when stakes are high, but puts it in cruise control and play looks less motivated against lesser opponents. Inconsistent to step downhill and attack the run.

Sources Tell Us: "I think his best position will end up being safety. He's strong enough as a tackler to make the move and his cover skills are what most teams are looking for from safeties now. He would be the second safety off the board if you project him there." - NFC general manager

NFL Comparison: Stephon Gilmore

Dane Brugler (NFL Draft Guide) 7th-ranked CB:

Strengths: Good blend of size, strength and length for the position...fluid hip movements and looks natural in reverse, limiting wasted steps with smooth change of direction skills...mirrors well at the line of scrimmage with excellent footwork, showing patience and balance in his transition...not a quick-twitch type, but shows good read/react quickness...accelerates well with speed to get vertical - was a sprinter in high school (10.68 100-meter dash)...assignment sound and rarely caught off guard with the instincts and feel needed for the position - well-versed in both man and zone coverage...mature eye use and heady ball awareness...aggressive at the catch point and makes it tough on receivers to finish - double-digit passes defended each of the last two seasons...feisty at the point of attack and won't back down in the run game, setting the edge to tear through blocks in space...lowers his pads and throws his body around with the physical demeanor and strong hands to finish...effective blitzer with aggressive drive quickness.

Weaknesses: Lacks ideal girth and build and will be out-physicaled by bigger targets...can get tied up easily with suspect functional strength, struggling to avoid and shed blocks if off-balanced...sloppy tackling technique and more of a hitter than wrap-up tackler right now, striking too high at the contact point...needs to use his arm length more effectively in press and downfield, making too much contact or not enough - needs to find the right middle ground to avoid defensive holding or interference penalties...only average make-up speed and struggles to recover once the receiver gains a step, causing holds...lacks a natural feel with his back to the line of scrimmage - late to turn, locate and make the play...streaky ballskills and will leave some production on the field - doesn't appear natural in this area...minor durability concerns after missing the season opener in 2013 (thigh bruise) and the second game in 2014 (hamstring) needs investigated after an alleged hit-and-run incident (Oct. 2014) - received two tickets for leaving the scene and driving with a suspended license.


Although slightly spread out in terms of overall ranking (a range from 39th to 62nd overall), our scouts still agree that Williams is a second-rounder. Brugler, who doesn't give overall rankings, sees him as a solid second-rounder. And the teams that have expressed interest in Williams all fit precisely in that range, from Chicago (#39) to Detroit (#54), Baltimore (#58) to Dallas (#60). In the face of such unanimity, how can I choose but to do the same? I'll quite happily slot Williams in round two on my "little board."

If the Cowboys select Williams there, I'll be pleased with the pick, if for no other reason that it would mean that they were able to satisfy another pressing positional need - say, defensive end or running back - in the first round, and perhaps do so with a player they liked more than, say Kevin Johnson. If Dallas were able to get a player like - play along with me here - Melvin Gordon or Randy Gregory in round one and then tap into a deep CB class in round two to get a long, athletic corner with some translatable NFL traits, that could only be a good thing, right?


Next up: USC CB Josh Shaw

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Blogging The Boys Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your Dallas Cowboys news from Blogging The Boys