I recently had the time and pleasure to sit down and take a call with DJ Williams. The senior defensive back from Utah State has potential to be drafted as either a nickel or outside cornerback. Coming from Smyrna, Tennessee, Williams earned honors as New Mexico Bowl Defensive MVP and ESPN All-Bowl Team in 2018.
In just two years at Utah State, Williams racked up 114 tackles, six tackles for loss and six interceptions. Before playing at Utah State, he was a transfer from Independence (Kansas) Community College where he earned honors as NJCAA First Team All-America and First Team All-KJCCC. With a 5-9, 180 pound frame, Williams projects to line up in the nickel early in his career.
Before diving into the interview, I cut up some of Williams’ tape to discover what exactly his skill set is and what he’s capable of.
As the receiver is breaking, Williams does a good job to open his hips and match his receiver’s steps and speed down the field. In this video, Williams (bottom of screen) takes away the inside of the field with his body positioning. As the receiver breaks from his stem and opens up to the outside, Williams has the acceleration to quickly pick up and keep with the receiver.
Williams (bottom of screen) lines up in press coverage on this play. He shows a bit of his physicality as he jams the receiver at the line of scrimmage. This takes the receiver off of his route and doesn’t allow him to get a clean release. Williams commits hard to the jam and is left a step behind the receiver after he breaks out of it, but his acceleration allows Williams to catch and keep up with the receiver.
Williams has strong ball skills and good ball tracking abilities. In this play, the receiver causes Williams (bottom of screen) trouble at the beginning of the route. The receiver sells his route to the outside and with a sharp cut back inside is able to turn Williams around. The receiver is ultimately running a vertical route which affords Williams the time to regain coverage of the receiver. After Williams regains his coverage, the quarterback releases the ball and Williams shows off his ball skills as he tracks it and comes away with the interception.
Williams (top of the screen) is beat off the ball here by the receiver. He takes a false step forward which causes him to open his hips slower than he’s capable of. With the forward step and no jam at the line of scrimmage, the receiver is able to gain a lot of ground and pick up speed leaving Williams a couple steps behind. However, the quarterback makes a poor throw leaving the ball behind the receiver. As the receiver looks for the ball, Williams properly snaps his head as well and displays his ball tracking skills as he’s able to get a hand on the ball and disrupt the pass.
Williams (bottom of screen) keeps his head to the quarterback and is able to quickly digest the screen play developing in front of him. Although he doesn’t make the tackle or truly affect the play, Williams quickly breaks on the ball and is in good positioning had the ball carrier broke through the first wave of tacklers.
Overall, when lined up in press coverage, Williams showed both the physicality to stunt a receiver’s release as well as the quick feet to mirror a the release. When lined up with cushion, Williams presents loose hips and strong footwork to match his receiver’s routes around the field. He has a great natural feel for the game that allows him to break on routes as well as the closing speed to break quickly. In the air he has adequate ball skills to make plays on the ball with his hands and disrupt the ball’s path as well as come away with interceptions. Against the run, Williams has a nasty streak with impressive physicality that leads to heavy hits. He fights through and around blockers in the screen game and has a nose for the ball.
Williams is a role player that strives off his physicality and ball skills. He has film as both a nickel and an outside corner, though NFL personnel are projecting him more to the nickel position. He’s a Day 3 pick with the potential to become a consistent nickel piece on a defense.
In the interview I was able to ask Williams some questions about the draft process, how his game translates to the next level along some other interesting questions.
Elijah McNaughton: “You said your pro day is canceled, how’s the virus affecting everything? Is it different from what you were expecting?”
Williams: “It’s definitely affecting everything, because people, like me, that didn’t go to the combine, that’s the day that we had planned to show teams that we could run fast and move fast and look good and that it correlates to the good film that I have. But I mean, it will all work out, I still have team’s calling me and talking to me, so it’s still working.”
EM: “You mentioned you talked to the Bills a little bit. When you’re talking to teams what do you talk about?”
DW: “All the teams that talked to me, they just mainly let me know how they really like me at the nickel spot. You know I could play outside corner too, but they mainly just like me at the nickel position.”
EM: “You mentioned you could play nickel or slot, but I saw most of your film was at the outside corner; which one do you like more?”
DW: “I mean honestly, I like the nickel position better but the system that my college had, I had to really play everything, which was cool with me. I can play whatever honestly, but I do like the nickel better because that’s one of those spots that people think is more difficult and it can be more challenging but I think that makes it more fun.”
EM: “What about man and zone? I saw you play both but which one are you more comfortable in?”
DW: “I like playing man, but I like playing zone too. I got most of my interceptions in zone defense, but of course it’s always fun to just lock up. They both can be fun, but I can fit in any system honestly.”
EM: “I saw the one pick you had against New Mexico. You just cleanly jumped the route. When stuff like that happens, how much of it is from your film prep and how much is just a natural feel of what’s going on in the game?”
DW: “Well honestly that play right there, we were in Cover 3, so I really wasn’t supposed to jump that route. I was just reading the quarterback’s three step and I saw it was quick game and I just jumped it. I just took the risk and jumped it. That’s one thing that I did, I really took the time out of my week to watch the film and one thing that I learned, the quarterback can tell you a lot, and he showed me the quick game there and I just jumped it.”
EM: “What would you say your best trait is playing?”
DW: “I would say my best trait is my ball skills and my physicality. I love to tackle and I love to hit, and I also have good ball skills. I feel like I can catch the ball like a receiver.”
EM: “Playing in the Mountain West, you’re about an average size right now. But getting to the NFL, everyone’s bigger, faster, stronger. How are you preparing for that?”
DW: “I know my whole life growing up, I’ve never been the biggest. But I know that I got God with me and with that being said, I fear nothing, I fear nobody and I know that. No matter what, I got everything I need and that’s what God blessed me with. I’m ready man, honestly, I’m ready for whatever challenge or competition coming my way. I know that I can be great and I will do great.”