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NAME: Sam Williams
POSITION: Defensive End
SCHOOL: Ole Miss
WEIGHT: 261 pounds
A native of Montgomery, Alabama, Sam Williams attended Lee High School. He did not immediately begin his college career at the Division I level, as he first signed with Northeast Mississippi Community College. Across his two years there, Williams recorded 128 tackles, 39.5 tackles for loss, 21 sacks, six forced fumbles, four pass breakups and three fumble recoveries.
He received a couple of notable accolades after his final season at Northeast Mississippi CC in 2018. This included being named MACJC Defensive Lineman of the Year and he was also named a first team NJCAA All-American. Upon moving onto the Division I level, 247Sports rated Williams as a four-star recruit. They also ranked him as the third best defensive end prospect coming out of JUCO and as the seventh best JUCO prospect in the nation.
Rallying With The Rebels
Williams appeared to be right at home after joining the Ole Miss Rebels. Additionally, he appeared to grow thoroughly throughout his three seasons there. Starting in 2019, Williams appeared in 12 games and made eight starts. He totaled 37 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, six sacks (team lead) and five quarterback hurries.
Williams then appeared in 10 games and made six starts in 2020. Overall, he finished with 40 tackles, eight tackles for loss (team lead) and four sacks. When 2021 rolled around, Williams broke out as a fifth-year senior in his third and final season at Ole Miss. He tallied 57 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks (new single season school record), eight quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one pass breakup. He later competed at the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Instead of listing positives and negatives for traits, this year we will be listing the best trait of each prospect and work our way down to the biggest area of improvement/absent trait(s), from top to bottom.
First Step Explosiveness
This is an area where Williams was always adept with. More importantly, he steadily improved his get off and explosiveness within his first step throughout his entire time at Ole Miss. Williams is not limited to only exploding from a stand-up position either. The same burst is there when coming out of the blocks when his hand is in the dirt. There is another area of this trait where he has seemingly excelled with more recently. For instance, Williams has begun to noticeably control his speed more efficiently. This shows up when he is asked to chase in pursuit, when he is asked to cut off angles when chasing laterally towards the sideline and when he needs to close his burst at the top of the quarterback’s drop. Overall, Williams can surprise opponents when he is able to fire out of a cannon so explosively.
Williams appears to gain leverage very early on during most reps. He can do this by long-arming blockers. Or, Williams converts speed to power rapidly at the point of attack. Having this length allowed this defender to affect plays in a variety of ways. First off, his nose for the football and length combined made throwing passes in his direction difficult. Throwing the ball over him or around him is no simple task. On the other hand, Williams was able to clog up running lanes and muddy up the line of scrimmage on running plays. His mix of length and power allowed him to handle and control double teams effectively.
There is still a small bit of stiffness to Williams’ game. As in some cases, he lets his pad level get too high and his lower half can be displaced far too easily from time to time. There is still enough flexibility to work with when he rushes the passer, however. Williams is comfortable when asked to use both an inside-out technique and an outside-in technique. He provides adequate bend when he is truly able to get his motor going. Although, that is not something that his defense can consistently rely on to be there throughout the entire duration of a game. His ability to fire with long strides and power certainly help his chances in that regard.
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The positional versatility is definitely there for Williams. He can play as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Elsewhere, Williams has become more comfortable as a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. His ability to rush the passer confidently from a two-point stance, three-point stance or four-point stance provides him more options for which to work with as well. Occasionally this past season, he also reduced down to the inside of the defensive line. Williams could possess more scheme versatility than most may realize.
Starting with his ability to set a firm, hard edge, Williams has become much more secure as a run defender. His angles and pursuit were much improved in 2021. As a result, Williams was able to frustrate running backs by cutting off their running lanes and being able to catch them from behind more often. His ability to assume leverage and win with power also allots him more run stuffing opportunities. Because of that ability, and his aforementioned length, Williams is able to quickly separate off of blocks. His tackling form is yet another area where he recently excelled more often, which boosted his run defending even further.
There are assuredly some inconsistencies to his read and reactionary skills. Mainly, Williams relies on basic technique or athleticism to win the battle in the trenches. There is a lack of planning or decisiveness from him as a pass rusher. For example, the same tracks are often used and his lack of variance with his pass rush moves make him a one-trick pony, so to speak. If those get shutdown, Williams seems a bit lost on some reps. There are also some moments where he has late reactions to reading play direction. He is also tardy to react in space once in a while, to boot.
There is no doubting that Williams is far from a finished product. Most of all, his pass rush repertoire is far from complete. The moves that Williams is most comfortable with are dip and rip moves, as well as a swipe move. However, being able to string moves or pass rush plans together has been a steady work in progress. Williams can be late to fire his hands at the point of attack on designated pass rush reps. On top of that, his hands can often be too wide or too high. This makes it easier for blockers to stun him and stop his feet, which are not always the cleanest. Williams will surely have to trust his power more often at the NFL level.
His footwork will need to be cleaned up as his professional career progresses. Simply put, Williams lets his feet stop far too many times, especially on early downs. There are also questions surrounding his balance. Recognizing play direction more smoothly and not having his wires crossed in traffic could help him in that regard. Meanwhile, Williams is not as explosive or sudden when having to change directions. The twitch is just not there, as things currently stand.
Once again, Sam Williams is a project, and the limitations must be masked as he continues to progress. His top traits are certainly worth betting on, though. Additionally, there is enough versatility and improvement to his game that he can make an impact in both the pass rush and on run defense. His explosiveness, speed, length and periodic bend is something that is still missing from the Kansas City Chiefs pass rush. Moreover, he would still fit the old adage of heavy hands and density that defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has clung to in recent years. If Kansas City could surround Williams with similar molds, he could eventually become an effective defender for the Chiefs.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs draft prospect profiles throughout this spring. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
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