Connor Williams – OT
School: University of Texas
Weight: 320 lbs.
Connor Williams NFL Draft Profile
Connor Williams followed in the latest trend of junior players to not only forgo his senior season to enter in the NFL draft but also sit out his last bowl game to avoid injury. Given Williams’ history, it was an understandable decision.
Heralded as one of the top offensive linemen prospects heading into the 2017 season, Williams saw his stock take a hit after suffering a knee injury in the second game of the season. He would come back seven games later but some question if it was too early as he lost some of the dominance that made him a hot commodity the season prior. Despite having a disappointing year, the buzz around Williams still has him being drafted somewhere in the top 15.
Connor Williams certainly has qualities of a great offensive lineman but there are a few red flags that any teams, particularly those in the top ten, should be aware of before drafting him.
Footwork is without a doubt Connor Williams’ main strength as a blocker. It is part of his overall athleticism that despite strength concerns, allows him to protect against edge rushers. His fluidity helps him combat speed rushers and helps him get good angles in the run game. His feet and athleticism help him get to the second level of the defense, adding yet another aspect to his abilities.
If there is one thing all talent evaluators have said about Connor Williams, it’s his ability as a smart player. Not just in the classroom, he had a 3.7 GPA at Texas, but on the field as well. Nowhere is this more obvious than his knowledge of hand placement. Williams consistently knows the best places to punch the defender to prevent them from beating his frame and helps him anchor his positioning.
Very few, if any offensive linemen, never get beat. If they do, they are surefire top-five picks and Williams isn’t that. What helps his stock, however, is his exceptional ability recover after getting beat.
Particularly in the run game, Williams takes advantage of his strong hands and quickly is able to regain his core so even if a lineman does get ahead of him, his ability to recover limits their ability to disrupt the play.
The biggest reason for Williams’ draft stock to be all over the place for NFL executives is because a knee injury is concerning for any player but particularly so for a left tackle. Following the 2016 season, Williams was justifiably at the top of the list of tackle prospects. Average showings against Maryland and then USC caused some concern but he clearly lost a step after returning from his knee injury. Scouts will have to determine for themselves if it’s because he returned too soon or if the injury has caused him to lose some of his ability and agility.
It’s weird to say but sometimes offensive linemen can be too aggressive. Williams has a tendency, particularly while run blocking, to over pursue his man causing his technique to flounder and loses his ability to recover. This is a particularly easy fix especially for an NFL coaching staff but it’s a fix that needs to be had nonetheless.
Occasional Leverage Problems
This might be a bit nitpicky as it isn’t a constant problem in Williams’ game but it popped up enough to warrant mentioning. Occasionally while pass blocking, he goes too high on the defender which makes him susceptible to those who use their hand techniques more than their speed. This plays into fears about his injury as sometimes it seemed he was relying more on his upper body than his lower at the end of 2017, a huge no-no for an NFL offensive lineman.
Connor Williams is a player that has a very high ceiling but also a fair amount of risk. He doesn’t seem to be a lock at left tackle but his strengths play well to the possibility of him working out at right tackle or either of the guard positions should left tackle not work out.
However, since NFL teams are infamously scared of performance issues after an injury, Williams is in real danger of falling out of the top 15 especially given the number of tackles rising up the boards ahead of him without such injury concerns.
NFL Player Comparison
Teams With Need At Offensive Tackle
Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos