We continue looking at prospects in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft from a decidedly Cowboys point of view. Taking the Cowboys current personnel, draft position, scheme, and needs into consideration; defensive line, linebacker, defensive backs, as well as complementary offensive pieces at tight end and right tackle, we hope to profile the majority of the potential prospects that could realistically end up as Cowboys within the first two rounds. Now that all of the “official visits” have leaked we’ll profile as many of the visitors as we can.
Today’s Prospect - (Reported pre-draft visitor)
#20 - Marcus Williams - Safety - Utah - 6-1, 202
Games Watched: Oregon, Arizona St., San Jose St., BYU (2015)
Pros: Diagnoses plays quickly and does a nice job of reading route combinations/eyes of the QB. Smooth footwork in his backpedal and transitions. Good range and length to reach the sideline from single-high position in the middle of the field. Takes proper angles in deep coverage and shows very good ball skills/awareness when he can play forward with his eyes towards the line of scrimmage. Ballhawk with very good instincts, always seems to find himself around the ball. Good hands to secure the ball in traffic, impressive ability to high point passes with good leaping ability. Does a nice job of jarring the ball loose on plays where he isn’t in position to make the interception. 11 interceptions in just three seasons, and 10 over the last two, without a redshirt season. Has plenty of experience playing from single-high position, he was rarely within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage unless the opponent had reached the red zone. Impressive Combine performance despite average 40 time (4.54) as he was at or near the top at his position in the vertical, broad jump, 3-cone, and 60-yard shuttle.
Cons: Really struggles against the run. You consistently see him driven back and carried for extra yards by ball carriers, he lacks aggression, and generally doesn’t attack ball carriers downhill unless he has an angle on them (he looks tentative and waits for them to get to him when he’s squared up with them directly). Struggles to stay off the ground in the run game, gets “pinballed” by blockers. Must become a more technically sound tackler. Only average pure speed, although his instincts and play recognition help make up for it. Needs to do a better job of locating the ball when his back is turned to the line of scrimmage, he loses his balance at times and gives up the catch or a penalty. Slight frame with a lack of bulk, will need to add weight in order to improve against the run. Doesn’t look especially fluid or explosive when attacking downhill, seems a bit stiff. Very little experience in the box or in man coverage.
Conclusion: There is probably a reason that Williams almost exclusively played the deep, single-high safety role, often times 15+ yards from the line of scrimmage. Part of it are his excellent ball skills, range, and ability to diagnose plays, while the other part of it is that he seems allergic to form tackling. To me he doesn’t look like someone who can come in right away and play an “interchangeable” type of safety role. He certainly has attributes (ball skills and range) that are at a premium in the league today but you just better not ask him to play in the box or do a whole lot more except play as the deep safety as a rookie.
If he can add a bit of size and improve his tackling the upside is tremendous because he looks like he has the potential to lead the league in interceptions at some point throughout his career. With that said, I do not think he would be ready to come in and start right away considering how the Cowboys like to use their safeties, although he would be a clear and immediate upgrade from the departed J.J. Wilcox who played the single-high safety position in nickel/dime packages last season. He is a natural ball-hawking, centerfield, over the top kind of safety, and he could contribute immediately in that role playing probably somewhere around 50-55% of the defensive snaps.
Based on this I’d look at Williams as more of a backup plan at 60 rather than a priority depending on what else is available, although if the team somehow ended up with a pick in the early to mid third-round I feel like he’d be an ideal pick. Of course if he were available at 92 he would be excellent value there.
I do not have access to coach’s film or anything of that nature, I just watch plenty of football (television broadcast version) and go off what I see out of a prospect.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown for posting the videos that help provide a more in-depth look at this year’s prospects.