2015 NFL Draft cornerback prospects are jockeying for position and fending off challenges in the race to be taken in the first round. Trae Waynes, Kevin Johnson and Combine superstar Byron Jones have already gone under Dave Archibald’s microscope. Florida State CB P.J. Williams is his latest subject.
The Seminoles have had tremendous success of late, winning the National Championship in the 2013-2014 season and losing in the National Semifinal this past season. Williams has been major contributor to that run, winning Defensive MVP of the 2014 National Championship game. Some aspects of Williams’s game will translate to the NFL, but ‒ like his fellow corners ‒ there are also questions.
Tale of the Tape
The chart below shows Williams’s measurements and performances in NFL Scouting Combine drills, as well as the percentile rank of how these figures stack up to other cornerbacks since 1999:
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||Hand Span||40-Yard||Bench||Vertical||Broad Jump||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
Data from NFLCombineResults.com
Williams showed his athleticism with strong performances in both jumping drills, but posted weak performances in the 40-yard dash and the agility drills, suggesting below-average movement skills. More concerning for a press-man cornerback, he measured out with below-average arm length and also fared poorly in the bench press.
His Combine casts doubts on his ability to play as effectively at the next level as in college, though all is not lost: Longtime Chicago Bears star Charles Tillman also measured with just 31” arms and posted 12 reps in the bench press.
A true junior, Williams is just 21. That makes him nearly a full year younger than Trae Waynes and many of the draft’s other top cornerbacks, so he may have room for development.
What He Does Well
The Seminoles frequently use press-man coverage, and Williams was successful in their scheme, showing good mirroring abilities to stay with receivers and timing to make plays:
Oklahoma State’s Marcell Ateman (#3) lines up to the left side, with Williams playing up on the line in press coverage. The receiver takes a step in, but Williams walls him off to the outside, then bails and pursues as Ateman runs a fade to the end zone. They hand-fight, and Williams looks back before punching the ball away from the 6’4” receiver.
Williams doesn’t always get a great punch on his jam, and he doesn’t have elite lateral quickness; however, press coverage sometimes relies more on mentality than technique, and Williams fights for every ball:
The cornerback lines up against Louisville’s DeVante Parker (#9), one of the top receivers in the country. Parker gets an inside release and isn’t slowed by Williams’s attempt at a jam, getting open by a step on the slant pattern. Williams doesn’t give up, however, sticking with the route and diving perfectly to break up the pass. Williams struggled with Parker throughout much of the contest (more on that later) but fought to make it difficult for the receiver with tenacious play like this.
Like most college cornerbacks, Williams can be inconsistent defending the run, but he shows the physical and mental toughness to help against the ground game:
On 3rd and goal, he comes unblocked off the edge but doesn’t over-pursue. He stays square and hits ball carrier Michael Dyer (#5) with good leverage and good form, wrapping up the back for a loss.
Areas to Improve
Change of Direction
Williams can be susceptible to quick-breaking routes:
Another matchup with Parker (#9), who runs at an angle towards the middle of the field, then suddenly cuts towards the sideline. It takes Williams a few steps to change directions and chase after the receiver. Parker opens so much distance that Williams can’t recover even though Parker has to wait for a poorly-placed pass.
Defending the Back Shoulder Throw
The back shoulder throw is one of the most difficult passes to defend, and Williams was beaten with this play several times on film:
Williams lines up in press coverage against Clemson’s Germone Hopper (#5). He fails to jam the sophomore receiver at the line, allowing a free release to the outside. The cornerback stays in good position and swivels his head when Hopper looks back for the pass, but can’t slow his momentum enough to make a play on the deliberately underthrown ball. Williams drifts to the sideline and tries to bar Hopper’s path with his arm, but this only makes it easier for the receiver to come back to the catch. Williams has to get better jams and not over-play the streak route, or quarterbacks will pick on him with back-shoulder throws on Sundays.
Bradley Fletcher. The former Eagle and Ram and new Patriots signee has a similar build and Combine profile, with excellent jumping but weak agility marks. Fletcher has some physical tools and competes hard but struggles against top wideouts and gives up too many big plays.
Williams had a terrific career at Florida State, but he needs more polish to succeed in the NFL. While he has a lot of press experience for a college corner, he doesn’t jam consistently and his arm length may limit his ceiling in this area. He has some slot experience but doesn’t have great lateral quickness. He’s an outstanding leaper but not blazing fast. Williams will have to channel his competitive nature into improved skills if he wants to become more than a depth player at the next level.
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