According to Daniel Flick of Around The Block, who was at the Mississippi pro day on March 24th, Ole Miss outside edge prospect Sam Williams will go to Green Bay on one of his three scheduled visits during the pre-draft process. Here’s what you need to know about the projected mid-round selection.
One of the first things — and potentially the reason the Packers requested a visit — that will arise when you look into Sam Williams’ name is his prior arrest. In the summer of 2020, the linebacker was charged with felony sexual battery which led to an indefinite suspension that lasted about six weeks until he was reinstated when charges were dropped before the season kicked off.
While the Packers haven’t taken in many character question marks recently, they did just sign defensive lineman Jarran Reed, who was alleged to have assaulted a woman in 2017 and was suspended for six games in 2019 by the NFL for the incident. Green Bay has used pre-draft visits to vet players with character red flags before, like running back Joe Mixon and edge rusher Noah Spence in recent years.
As a player, Williams got a late start on his football career as a prep and did not have the grades to qualify for the top schools who were interested in him in the recruiting process, so he spent a few years at Northeast Mississippi Community College. By the time he was done with his JuCo stint, he had offers to Oregon, Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU and Florida State, but took his only official visit to Mississippi, where he eventually played his final three seasons, with the help of the extra “Covid season” that the NCAA provided.
Williams played the 4i-technique position for the Rebels, which is seen frequently in the Southeastern Conference. Due to the RPO-heavy offenses in the league, many of the conference’s “edge rusher” prospects end up playing on the inside shoulder of the tackle, like Georgia’s Travon Walker, instead of truly playing on the edge, as defenses attempt to shut down the run with light boxes. Because of that, Williams often played in a four-point stance that limited his get-off and penetration production, as well as snaps on the actual edge of the defense.
Originally playing at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl during the pre-draft process, he was a late addition to the Senior Bowl, which, along with his combine, has contributed to his rising draft stock. At the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, he was both named the captain of his team and the MVP of the game.
Sam Williams is a DE prospect in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 9.65 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 51 out of 1428 DE from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/mMV4o1GbTU #RAS pic.twitter.com/fZEuDrPiqD— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 25, 2022
On the field, Williams is a high-motor player who made most of his production later in the down because of his effort level. He’s a strong player, especially for a 261-pounder, which is why he was able to stick as an interior defender despite being built like a 3-4 outside linebacker.
Due to the position he was played in, he was not given many true one-on-one edge reps, so there’s some projection that will need to be done there. With that being said, his 40-yard dash time of 4.46-seconds and his reported three cone time of 7.03 seconds does correlate very well for NFL success.
His best pass-rushing move at the moment is his long arm, which is no surprise considering his play strength. The big selling point on Williams is that if he can match speed moves, which would seem to be possible considering his testing numbers, to his power moves then he could develop into an every-down player at the pro level.
At the moment, Williams is very raw, despite getting the extra season of college football due to the pandemic. He is currently a smaller power rusher, in terms of skillset, who does a better job of making a dent in the pocket than disengaging on blocks and finishing his own pressures.
While his testing numbers do correlate to success on the edge, his actual reps on the edge leave more to be wanted athletically. This is where the eye of the beholder is going to drastically sway what you think of Williams’ evaluation. On one hand, you can make the case he was playing out of position and should be able to develop better at these skills as a professional. On the other hand, we’ve seen players like Solomon Thomas never truly reach their potential, despite being in a similar out-of-position situation at the college level with high-end edge defender testing numbers.
The combination of pad level and core strength also leads to issues on film. Despite often starting plays with his hand in the ground, even in a four-point stance, Williams quickly stands himself up in a way that exposes his body and leads to him being contorted and out of position to make a difference on plays. Is that going to get better if he’s in a two-point stance as an outside linebacker?
On film, Sam Williams looks like a fourth-round outside linebacker prospect, which is roughly where he’s ranked on the consensus draft board. He’s a strong player with a potentially untapped upside as an edge defender due to the fact that he was asked to play so many interior snaps at Ole Miss.
The absolute wildcard in his evaluation is what teams make of his 2020 sexual battery charge, which was eventually dropped. In the end, that may be why Green Bay invited him for a meeting in the first place.