The 2018 NFL Draft is over, but we are not done reviewing the draft just yet! In the coming days, BTB will release film reviews on each player drafted by the Dallas Cowboys. This article features second-round pick Connor Williams out of Texas.
For viewers of the 2017 Dallas Cowboys, one thing was clear - in comparison to past years the offensive line did not live up to expectations. Injuries and overall inconsistencies led to a dip for the 2017 group in comparison to the 2016 group.
After the 2016 season, Doug Free retired and Ronald Leary signed elsewhere in free agency. Dallas needed to replace their left guard and right tackle. La’el Collins made the transition over to right tackle, showing more bright spots than rough patches in his first year at the position in the NFL. However, the Cowboys struggled at left guard with the duo of Jonathan Cooper and Chaz Green.
Despite their lack of talent at the position, left tackle Tyron Smith was still able to help out whoever was at left guard. But once Smith’s back concerns starting kicking in, that is really when the bottom fell out for this group.
Dallas knew that they needed to get back to their identity on the offensive side of the ball in the 2018 season. With the question of left guard, the Cowboys had a variety of directions they could have gone in to improve their group. After selecting the best player available on their board in Leighton Vander Esch in the first round, the Cowboys drafted another Day 1 starter at pick No. 50 in Texas’ Connor Williams.
Despite being just 20-years-old, Williams has been a very productive and reliable player over the last few seasons with the Texas Longhorns. Williams moves extremely well. He’s fluid in his motions, has great footwork, and excellent technique to go along with it. On top of these traits, Williams displays good hand placement that allows him to bully and push around the defensive lineman across from him.
Despite playing tackle during his college tenure, the Cowboys will take advantage of Williams’ lateral quickness, refined technique, and shorter arms, and instead use him at guard. There really is not a better situation in the NFL for a rookie to step into than play between Smith to his left and Travis Frederick to his right. Let’s take a look at some of Williams’ snaps to see what makes him special.
At just 295 pounds, Williams has the mold and frame to stick with quicker pass rushers. Although he was beaten off the snap by this defensive end on this play, the good news is his recovery, hand placement and his ability to keep pace with him that leads to a nasty pancake block.
Look how easy it is for Williams to stick with the man in front of him. He makes a nice initial punch, then moves laterally so efficiently. Each step is fluid and none are wasted. Williams can simply hover around with the opposition that are trying to get past him. It is quite impressive.
Going back to his functional strength, Williams can handle a bull rush. Once initial contact is made, Williams has enough strength to set his feet and hold up the defender.
Because his hands are so powerful and his footwork is so seamless, he is going to be a difficult player at the second level of the defense for linebackers to handle. In this clip, Williams makes his initial block, disengages and gets hold of an Oklahoma State linebacker and does not let up or let go.
This clip provides a close-up of Williams’ combination of hand placement and balance. Williams does not give away his position. He does not lean or lunge into defenders. He instead engages, settles his feet, and punches with his hands to provide proper spacing. Leaning or lunging has given him some issues in college, one area where he needs to be more consistent.
A contributor from the get-go at Texas, Williams is a refined offensive lineman that has been seasoned very well. He is ready to be a Day 1 starter in the NFL thanks to smooth footwork, lateral quickness, hand placement, and his intelligence.
Due to his shorter arms, Williams will be better suited to play guard in the NFL. However, in the unfortunate event that the Cowboys get bitten by the injury bug upfront, there is no reason why Williams could not step down and provide an impact at tackle.
Over the offseason, Williams would benefit from adding more core strength so he can have better opportunities tat leverage in the NFL. In Dallas’ heavy zone-blocking scheme, the Cowboys are going to get a player who can move quite well laterally.
Drafted in the second round, the Cowboys got awesome value for a player that has the potential to make Pro Bowls in his NFL career. With the addition of Williams, the Cowboys should have no problem getting back to their ways of running the football and tiring out defenses.
Games Watched: West Virginia (2017), Maryland (2017), Baylor (2016), Oklahoma State (2016).