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2022 Cowboys scouting report: Ole Miss EDGE Sam Williams

Could the Cowboys find their next Micah Parsons?

Ole Miss v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Our latest in scouting reports for the Dallas Cowboys 2022 Draft. Today we look at EDGE Sam Williams out of Mississippi.

Name: Sam Williams
Position: EDGE
Height: 6’4”
Weight: 261 pounds

Sam Williams Career Stats, courtesy of Pro Football Reference

Combine Results: 4.46 40-yard dash, 32.5” vertical jump, 123” broad jump

Sam Williams may be this draft’s best kept secret. In a draft class full of top-tier talent like Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson, Georgia’s Travon Walker, and Florida State’s Jermaine Johnson, Williams has been thrust towards the middle of most draft boards. That doesn’t mean he’s not a tantalizing prospect, though, and the Cowboys are reportedly very interested in him, according to Williams.

Williams’ story to get to this point is a unique one. He spent the first two years of his college career at a JUCO school in Mississippi, where he dominated right from the start. That led to him transferring to Ole Miss, where he became a key contributor as an outside linebacker in the Rebels’ 3-4 defense. But Ole Miss welcomed in a new coaching staff after Williams’ first season there, leading to a switch to more of a traditional edge rushing defensive end.

Then Williams’ off-field life hit a snag. He was arrested on a felony charge of sexual battery and given an indefinite suspension from the school as a result. Two months later, the charges were dropped and the suspension was lifted, just in time for Williams to play in the 2020 season. He had a solid season, but it appeared that his time away from the program impacted Williams’ ability to take a step forward.

Due to the COVID-19 eligibility freeze, though, Williams was allowed to come back for the 2021 season. That did wonders for the edge rusher, who had a career year and seemed to make a massive jump in overall play. His 12.5 sacks were more than his previous two years combined, and Williams was a central figure in the Rebels defense en route to the program’s first ever 10-win season.

Burst: This is Williams’ best trait. He fires off the line with such explosion and intensity that it becomes nearly impossible for tackles to get to him in time. Looking through his tape at Ole Miss, Williams possessed this kind of burst the whole time, and it didn’t seem to be impacted by lining up in a two- or three-point stance. Williams backed this up at his combine and pro day; Williams’ broad jump at the combine was tied for sixth-best among EDGE players, and his improved vertical at his pro day would’ve tied Aidan Hutchinson for seventh-best at the combine.

Footwork: Williams has some room to improve here. Due to his exceptional burst, he often works as a straight line rusher because he really doesn’t have to do otherwise most of the time. Williams’ struggles as a pass rusher often came against speedier tackles who could counter his burst, and that’s because Williams wasn’t able to easily alter his path and work around that. It appears that this is just a byproduct of Williams having so much success as a straight line rusher, and not necessarily indicative that he can’t get better in his footwork.

Hand Technique: Williams sure packs a punch. He does a good job of converting his speed to power and striking the offensive linemen with it. He’s stunned a few tackles with his hands and is very active while working through the pass rush rep. That’s encouraging, since a lot of players with the kind of athleticism Williams has tend to be fairly lazy with their hands, but not Williams.

Pass Rush Moves: Williams has a pretty deep tool bag of pass rush moves, although he seems to favor the dip and rip. It’s worked well for him plenty of times, though you’d like to see Williams change things up a bit, especially with the power he has in his hands.

Lateral Agility: There are moments where Williams displays some top-notch lateral agility for his position, and his burst and general athleticism suggest he can be a great mover down the line of scrimmage. However, Williams’ footwork can get in the way too often and obscure how agile he really is. After not participating in the short shuttle and 3-cone at the combine, Williams posted some elite - albeit unofficial - times in both agility drills at his pro day.

Athleticism: Continuing a trend that’s seemingly fit every prospect in this draft class, Williams is an elite athlete. A lot of it translates to his burst off the line, but Williams has good long speed (he had the second-fastest 40 time of any EDGE at the combine) and agility as well. For example, Micah Parsons won a lot of his pass rush reps this past year with sheer athleticism. Williams isn’t quite on that same level, but he’s a similar player in terms of getting to the quarterback by being the superior athlete.

Run Defense: Without question, this is Williams’ biggest area of weakness. He’s certainly not a liability against the run, but Williams is not someone you want to rely on as an edge setter right now. A lot of this stems from his footwork issues, so fixing that part of his game should help Williams progress as a run defender.

Processing: Williams plays the game with a well-thought-out approach. He does a good job of taking the right angles in his pass rush and setting up tackles with his pass rush plan. More variation is needed there, but Williams seems to always have a plan going into each rep.

Intangibles: The first thing with Williams relates to his off-field issues. The arrest and suspension can be a major red flag, and the lack of details between that and the dropping of charges in such a short span of time offers little clarity. Teams will have to really do their homework and really get to know Williams as a person. Aside from this issue, Williams appears to have a clean track record and was considered a leader in the locker room his final year in college.

Williams’ value lies almost exclusively in his capacity as an edge rusher right now. As a rookie, he should be limited to situational packages on passing downs where he can just fire off the ball and go after the quarterback. That’s not a bad thing, though, since pass rushers are inherently more valuable in a league that’s becoming more pass-happy each year.

Williams also shows potential to grow into a more rounded edge defender as he cleans up his footwork and adjusts more to the NFL. Even if he doesn’t develop there, Williams is an athletic freak with ideal size and length at a position you can never have too much of. He’s likely to be a day two selection, although his stock could vary dramatically between teams based on both his elite athleticism and the character concerns.

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