The Patriots are opting to go with big and physical over speed in the draft, drafting N’Keal Harry with the last pick of the first round last night then trading up to grab Vanderbilt CB Joejuan Williams. The Patriots sent the Los Angeles Rams the 101st pick in the draft to move up 11 spots from 56 to 45 to make the selection.
The first thing that stands out with Williams is his size and length. 6’3 1/2” 211 with 32” arms is an ideal size and length for a press corner. Not only is he big, he plays that way too as he is physical at the line of scrimmage on the outside. He faced off against tough SEC competition in D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown, and Deebo Samuel, so he’s as battle-tested a CB as he can be. Williams was a 3-year starter, with the ball production improving in his last 2 years.
- Big frame with long arms, ideal for press
- Plays physical on the outside and in the run game
- Short memory, which is critical for the position
- Solid agility traits for his size
- Matchup player vs. TEs?
- Press technique needs refinement
- Will struggle against exceptionally fast and exceptionally agile receivers in the NFL, Patriots need to avoid those matchups
- At times will panic and grab the receiver with the ball in the air
Rookie Year Projection
At the beginning, I think the Patriots will be selective in picking his matchups. The size suggests covering big receivers and flexed out TEs in space where he takes away those players’ height advantage. When you look at the AFC competition, the Patriots had their hands full with Travis Kelce, Eric Ebron, and Mark Andrews when looking at last year’s first place teams. Drafting Williams is the counter to that and with him on the field, expect a lot of Cover 1 with Devin McCourty being the single high safety while the team employs 4 corners on the field.
Long Term Projection
Think Brandon Browner 2014: Big and physical CB who matches up against big receivers and TEs who are more known for their receiving than blocking. I’d like to see him be able to play in the box as he has plus size for the strong safety position as well plus his tackling abilities profile well for that role as well. When looking at the #1 type receivers who are big, fast, and physical, Williams will get the underneath coverage with aggressive safety help over the top. In terms of potential impact, it will be interesting to see if he becomes more than just a tall and physical CB with below average speed, although Browner and Richard Sherman made a career out of it with the latter being a potential Hall of Famer.
How Many Downs Can He Impact: 3, potentially 4 on certain ST units
Due to lack of top-flight speed, probably the only thing that kept him out of the Top 20 like with Harry, I don’t see potential in the kicking game as a gunner but perhaps a vice/jammer on the punt return unit. Outside of that, he’s a mostly situational player on defense as a match-up type guy. There may be more potential than that down the road, especially if he can add a bit more straightline speed and can handle multiple roles in the defense.
Pick Grade: B
I can see the pick, although I preferred addressing the defensive line over adding a CB to an already crowded CB room. However, the good news is they drafted a CB with a unique skill set relative to the guys they already have at the position. The second round is a bit of reach for a situational/match-up player, but compared to other DB reach picks in the second, this one is a lot easier to stomach. This may be a move with the postseason in mind and looking at the changes at the TE position the last 5-10 years in the NFL where it has transitioned from a blocker and occasional pass receiver to the other way around. With the addition of Williams, the Patriots have the best CB group in the NFL and can cover almost any type of receiver out there.