This is the first of many player profiles as we get ready for one of the few certainties of this offseason: the 2011 NFL Draft. Many thanks to seton hall steelers for help gathering facts and figurs for this post. I asked him to help out gathering info after seeing his tireless inclination to post recently. --Michael Bean--
Aaron Williams is one of a record 56 players with NCAA eligibility left to declare for this year's NFL Draft. Williams grew up quite a bit during his his freshman and sophomore years at Texas. Even though he endured some growing pains in the process, he, quite frankly, should count his lucky stars that he had the opportunity to learn on the fly under Will Muschamp early on in his career at Texas. Not so long ago, it was awfully tough to see the field as an underclassman at Texas. That's partly because UT has churned out more NFL players than any other school in recent memory, but also a product of Mack Brown and previous defensive coordinators stubbornly refusing to play talented but raw young guys in favor of more experienced, but less physically gifted upperclassmen.
Sound anything like the transformation that's occurred in recent years under Mike Tomlin?
Because Williams is so battle tested, he'll likely not be viewed as a huge gamble by those teams that interested in drafting him come April. Most underclassmen have all the physical gifts in the world, but not quite enough in-game productivity to really appease suitors. Williams -- while not the most gifted physical specimen to declare early by any stretch of the imagination -- possesses those desirable physical 'measurables'. Any by desirable, I mean prerequisite for first round talent. Yet unlike so many others with unlimited upside but not much game tape to point to, Williams has played a high volume of snaps at the college level, most of them in pressure packed situations.
Class: Junior (can somebody find me a date of birth, I wasn't able to find one. Thanks).
Projected Draft Status: Very late 1st round to early 2nd round
- If Williams is still available at 31 -- the Steelers spot in the first round -- then I believe the Steelers will have him as the best available talent on the board. If the Steelers pass on Williams for whatever reason, he almost certainly goes within the first 10 picks of the second round.
Other Potential 1st Round Corners:
Patrick Peterson (LSU)... Prince Amukamara (Nebraska)....Brandon Harris (Miami)
Both Peterson and Amukamara are projected to be top 10 picks, with Peterson regarded as a potential top five guy. After those two studs though, Williams ranks right up there with thebest of them. He and Brandon Harris are both first round hopefuls. Both could be snagged by the Steelers were they available at 31.
106 tackles (64 solo), three sacks, 12 tackles for loss, three pressures, four INTs, 24 pass broken up, six forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and five blocked punts (No. 2 on UT's all-time list) for his career
Career Game: 10/16/10 at Nebraska (W, 20-13): 8 tackles, 2TFL, 3 Pass deflections
#1) As a sophomore, Williams helps Texas advance to BCS Title Game defending both the pass and run during the Longhorns' '09 Big 12 Conf. Championship Game win over Nebraska.
#2) A year older (and noticeably bigger), Williams finishes his collegiate career on the 40 acres of the University of Texas at Austin with a six tackle, 3 passes broken up perforamnce against rival Texas A&M. The 'Horns lost theri season finale 24-17 to the Fighting Farmers, a fitting end to one of the more disappointing years in school history. Williams' Video Highlights Against Texas A&M (Nov. '10)
Williams' Strengths (in buzzwords):
Tall and athletic (think Bryant McFadden in his prime)
Great jamming ability (think the opposite of William Gay)
Very quick and agile (shouldn't all DBs be quick and agile)
Can run with receivers step for step (he can't run with the Mike Wallaces of the world, but who can? Most everybody else Williams will be able to run with)
Great ball skills and instincts (something the Steelers CBs could use an infusion of)
Great closing speed (a good thing considering his propensity to gamble and lack of elite speed)
Good tackler (a must to play in Dick LeBeau's defense)
Weaknesses (in buzzwords):
- An intelligent but still raw talent (duh, he's a junior groomed in the Big 12, where the offenses that are deployed are a far cry from the sets run in the NFL)
- Relies too much on athleticism (who doesn't at that age in that environment? Beware though Mr. Williams, you best take good angles in the NFL. Even the relative scrubs at the next level will make you look silly if you don't.)
- Peeks in the backfield too much (not a great trait, but let's just say it's much harder to pull of double-moves in the NFL. In other words, Williams should be just fine if he lands in a situation where there's solid veteran leadership, adept coaching, and he's not thrust into the spotlight too quickly)
Williams is a versatile talent who has a great shot at having a long, productive career in the NFL. Williams might be a good fit for the Steelers because (1) he'd be able to assume William Gay's duties in the slot...(2) with a year or so of grooming and some time in the Steelers strength and conditioning program, Williams could easily be ready to play the No. 2 corner spot in '12 or '13....(3) he's not afraid to make tackles in the running game. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that he takes enormous pride in not shying away from contact.
I watched him plenty, and saw him get juked out a few times. But that's to be expected, at least in the Big 12 where the offenses are well-oiled machines that spread defenses out and force defenders to make open field tackles time and time again. Of course there's going to be occasions when the offense gets the upper hand. That said, Williams wasn't just beaten by better offense. He at times got himself and his defense into trouble by taking undisciplined angles to the ball, relying too much on his ability to react and close on defenders in space. That will get you smoked in the NFL, not to mention a place on the bench. But in my mind at least, it's refreshing to see a young kid want to make big hits in the open field, even if it is at times to his detriment at the collegiate level.
Why? Well, that kind of hubris quickly gets sucked right out of you in the highly hierarchical NFL. At least when you're dealing with good kids that are coachable and not renegade personalities. Williams is just that -- a good humble kid by all accounts. It's a pretty safe bet that under the right tutelage, he will quickly overcome any tendency to expose himself to compromising situations in the open field as a result of trying to do too much.
Angles and anticipation can be taught. A hard-nosed toughness and willingness to hit is a lot harder to impart. Bottom line is I'll take a guy who's got the size and heart to make a hit even if he's a tad undisciplined over a guy who's a bit more mentally sound in his decision making but incapable of playing physical football when necessary.
So, were Williams to wind up in Pittsburgh, the Steelers would likely roll out Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden at the top two corner positions. However, you can count on Crezdon Butler and Keenan Lewis having every opportunity in the world to unseat B-Mac in Latrobe.
Regardless, Williams would likely find the field as a rookie from the nickel, perhaps in a similar role as the one William Gay occupied this year. Williams loves to blitz off the edge, and he's got the closing speed to limit underneath patterns to small-moderate gains. He's also a sure tackler -- a guy you can trust to bring down RBs and TEs after the catch.
Finally it's worth noting that Williams was a member of the UT Athletic Director's Honor Roll in the Spring of '10. There's going to be boat loads of young men who have some scholastic achievements to point to during this year's evaluation process. But pay attention to when Williams excelled in the classroom. That's right, in the spring semester of his junior year, after he'd played his final game for the Longhorns and was eying a move to the next level. There's an endless supply of stories about guys shutting it down academically after their eligibility is up, or after they've become eligible to declare for the draft. There's not too many stories of underclassman sticking with their studies when there's little at stake other than their personal pride and sense of duty and purpose.
Translation: Who ever ends up drafting Aaron Williams is more than likely going to be pleased with the player and person they've entrusted to improve their roster and represent their franchise.