Did anybody honestly think that Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio could make it through an entire draft without selecting a defensive back? Come on now, have you not been watching? The Patriots like their defensive backs and Joejuan Williams has the physical skills and size to be a different type of defensive back for New England, and a matchup nightmare for NFL offenses.
Williams, who stands at 6’4, 208 pounds is one of if not the biggest defensive back drafted in the Bill Belichick era. Williams, who is from Nashville, Tennessee, attended Father Ryan High School. He decided to transfer before his senior year, moving on to Hendersonville High School in Hendersonville, Tennessee. Unfortunately, he was ruled ineligible because his hardship waiver was declined. Williams was still a four-star recruit though, and he was being heavily recruited coming out of high school.
A staggering amount of schools recruited Willams; 35 big-time colleges came calling, which made the process long and at times taxing for Williams. Here is the list: Vanderbilt, LSU, North Carolina, Penn State, Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Arkansas State, Cincinnati, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Pittsburgh, Purdue, South Carolina, Temple, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USF, Virginia, Western Kentucky, Michigan, and Northwestern. Williams chose Vanderbilt, and it turned out to be the right choice for him. One thing that stands out about that list is the quality of education Williams would receive; he’s clearly a bright kid, and that will be a huge help to the Patriots secondary.
Williams only played two years of varsity football due to the transfer issue his senior year, but he was able to show a lot in just two seasons. His sophomore year wasn’t crazy statistically, but he gave glimpses of what was to be. He finished with 21 tackles and one interception, an interception he returned for a touchdown. His junior year at Father Ryan High School put him on the national radar. He finished the season with 48 tackles, two interceptions, and 14 passes broken up, a skill he has continued to refine during his career at Vanderbilt.
It didn’t take long for Williams to make an impression at Vanderbilt as he played in all 13 games his freshman year. He didn’t start, but he still played a key role in sub packages. He finished the season with 14 solo tackles, five assisted tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass defended. He got better every week, and it is also important to note that he was returning after a long layoff from football.
As a sophomore, Williams became a starter and never gave the job up again. He finished 2017 with 33 solo tackles, six assisted tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, one forced fumble, and 10 passes defended. He wasn’t receiving all the national accolades, but it is important to note that he was on the SEC All-Academic Honor Roll as a freshman and sophomore. Being a student-athlete is not easy, and to succeed on the field and the classroom at a prestigious academic university like Vanderbilt is a testament to Williams work ethic in the classroom and on the field.
Williams picked up where he left off as a sophomore, starting 13 games and finishing the season with 48 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, two tackles for loss, four interceptions, and 14 passes broken up. Williams was considered one of the best cornerbacks in the SEC, and he was rewarded as such at the end of the season. Williams was named Second Team All-SEC and also an AP Second Team All-American. He continued his excellence in the classroom too as he collected his third straight SEC Academic Honor Roll Award. Instead of returning for his senior season, Williams decided to declare for the 2019 NFL Draft.
The upside Williams brings to the Patriots is through the roof, but he needs to take the coaching needed to be a great NFL cornerback. He’s excellent in press coverage, using his size, strength, and surprisingly strong footwork to give receivers an extremely hard time getting off the line of scrimmage. When he does get beat, he has shown the ability to recover and make plays. Overall, he is going to need some time to get acclimated to the speed of the NFL, but he has shown throughout his career to date that when he does figure it out, he takes his spot on the field and produces.