The 2017 draft is shaping up to be very good for teams that need a safety. The consensus top two at the position are LSU’s Jamal Adams and Ohio State’s Malik Hooker, as both are likely Top 15 picks. After that there is a difference in opinion on who is the best afterwards. One player that I think will take ownership to the #3 safety in the claim is Utah’s Marcus Williams. Williams is a center field type safety with elite range on the ball and a very fluid athlete. I have him leapfrogging Eddie Jackson to the #3 safety in the draft and a fringe first rounder.
The Patriots have a solid free safety who they’re likely to lose in free agency in Duron Harmon, so Williams provides a nice contingency at the bottom of the first, top of the second round. Williams is a very intelligent football player, which combined with his athleticism makes him an ideal fit for the Patriots if they’re looking to draft a safety high. Williams has excellent ball skills with 10 interceptions on 44 targets the last two years. He can start right away for any team, although the Patriots would likely have him compete for the third safety role in camp. Williams is an excellent fit for any scheme that puts him in the deep part of the field where he can watch the QB and make plays on the ball.
Areas he’ll need to improve on are tackling. By improve, his technique is sound but he doesn’t have the power behind the tackle to stop the ball carrier’s momentum. That can be easily fixed with better tackling technique and hard work in the weight room. What can’t be taught is his athleticism and ability to use it to make big plays. He also missed some time in the 2016 season due to an injury. The good news is he’s healthy now and can contribute in Year 1.
Vs. Arizona State 2016
Patriots Fit: The Patriots can play him right away as the third safety in their Big Nickel package as well as utilize his speed on special teams. Williams was an immediate starter at Utah, so he has plenty of experience at the position. In addition to providing the deep safety element the Patriots will miss when Harmon walks, the Patriots also have a quality talent to step up in case Devin McCourty were to ever get injured and provide a long term replacement for when McCourty starts losing a few steps.
Pro Comp: Eric Weddle. Williams range and high football IQ is a weapon for whatever secondary employs him. Teams will have a tougher time completing deep passes down the field. In the Patriots situation, he keeps the same elements in the defense that Duron Harmon has given them the last four seasons, although Williams is the superior athlete of the two.