Last night, I started working on a piece discussing Tramon Williams, what his ceiling might be like, and how we might evaluate him against other NFL cornerbacks. Most of this post was going to be based on traditional (read: limited) statistics and my own observations. That means that my assessment of Williams relative to his peers at the cornerback position would be biased, despite my best attempts to remain objective, since this is the nature of writing columns that evaluate players based on observations.
Then, Brandon brought this awesome Pro Football Focus post to my attention. Thanks to the statistics presented, I've got a little bit more evidence to go on when it comes to how good of a player Williams is relative to his peers. A lot of the numbers presented back up exactly what I was going to say. Go me!
My guess, based on watching Williams and other great corners last season, was that he was in the top 10 of all NFL cornerbacks, but just barely. After seeing some of his fantastic highlight reel interceptions last year, many Packers fans probably feel this is a bit low, but most of us also only get to see three or four games per week, and that's if we're lucky. Williams is the only guy that we got to see 16 times. With all due respect to Jarrett Bush, who is 100 times the football player I ever had the chance to be, the gap in quality between him and Williams is very large. Our views might be a bit distorted in a positive way.
However, it isn't outrageously positive. According to the above-linked Pro Football Focus article, Williams was 8th in receptions allowed per coverage snaps and 1st in catch percentage per coverage snaps. As far as more traditional stats go, Williams put up career highs in interceptions (6) and passes defensed (20). He had an absolutely spectacular season.
Obviously, many elements of the Packers' defense that are outside of his control contribute to his success. B.J Raji clogging the middle, Clay Matthews' pass rush, and the presence of Charles Woodson wherever he happens to be at the time all make Williams' life a little easier. However, these things are almost impossible to account for in any kind of quantitative fashion. Not to mention, Darrelle Revis has a lot of similar benefits.
So where does Williams belong in some kind of rankings? At this point of his career, certainly behind Revis, Nnamdi Asomugha, and Asante Samuel. Ike Taylor is up there too, and Rashean Mathis certainly deserves some consideration due to the fact that he gets very little help from his teammates. And, while he's on the decline now, many argue that Charles Woodson is still a better corner than Williams. After taking those guys into consideration, the tier Williams is on comes into the discussion, and that's impressive.