Sam Williams draft profile

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Character Risks

In 2010, the Steelers approached the Rams and discussed trading Ben Roethlisberger for the top draft pick, which would be used for Sam Bradford. Were you in favor of that trade at the time? If the Rams didn't have Stafford, would you be interested in a Browns type blockbuster trade to acquire Deshaun Watson?

It is nearly impossible for us a fans to do a fair and in depth assessment of some of the draft prospects who come with off the field baggage. NFL teams know way more than any of us, some of their files are exhaustive in detailed background information. In interviews, Ole Miss edge rusher, Sam Williams, doesn't set off any alarm bells. He comes across as a decent guy. Still, it is unknown whether he will get an "all clear" designation or if an NFL team might take him completely off the draft board and toss his name into the "Do Not Draft" pile.

The 2022 NFL Draft is stuffed with strong defensive talent in the first 2 days. In a normal year, Williams would probably get more attention, but with so many good defenders, for the most part he's been shuffled back into the pack and hasn't gotten as much hype. Lance Zierlein gives Williams a 6.31 draft grade with a "will eventually be a plus starter" label. His grade would typically translate to being a 2nd round pick. Recent examples include LJ Collier 6.30 (29th overall pick 2019), AJ Epenesa 6.35 (2nd rd 2020), Darrell Taylor 6.30 (2nd rd 2020), Josh Uche 6.31 (2nd rd 2020), Carlos Basham 6.29 (2nd rd 2021) and Joseph Ossai 6.27 (top of 3rd rd 2021).

Williams is as much of an athletic freak as Amare Barno, perhaps even more so. Weighing 261 pounds at the Combine (considerably heavier than Barno), Williams ran a blazing 4.46 sec in the 40. At nearly the same weight at his Pro Day, Williams had a 4.33 sec shuttle time (better than Barno), 6.93 sec 3 cone (only slightly slower than Tutu Atwell's time) did 25 bench reps and had a 36'' vert jump (nearly the same as Barno).

Williams also piled up stats last season. In 13 games, he had 12.5 sacks, 16 TFLs and 4 FF. In 35 career games at Ole Miss, he had 22.5 sacks. He also turned heads down at the Senior Bowl. Tony Pauline said he dominated, showing an extremely quick get off and toasting players such as Kinnard, Max Mitchell and Cade Mays. If you watch video of those reps, not only does Williams win, but he makes it look easy and effortless.

In a recent 4 round mock by Chad Reuter, Williams was a 4th round pick, 137th overall. This is almost exactly where 3 other major draft boards have him ranked. If Williams is available for the Rams at the end of the 3rd round, should they select him or should they pass?


6'3 5/8'' tall, 261 pounds, 33 1/8'' arms, 9 7/8'' hands, 80 1/4'' wingspan

23 years old. Degree in multi disciplinary studies. Was bonus senior in 2021 under covid rules. Has a young son.

4.46 sec (40 time), 1.61 sec (10 yard split), 32.5'' vert, 10'3'' broad. Had 2nd fastest DL 40 time after Barno. Didn't do other drills at Combine.

Weighed 258 pounds at Pro Day. 25 bench reps, 4.33 sec (shuttle), 6.93 sec (3 cone), 36'' vert jump

ESPN 139th overall (late 4th)

Tony Pauline 67th (3rd)

Ian Cummings 61st (2nd rd). IC says he has an exceptionally quick 1st step and exciting upside, but is a work in progress.

Oliver Hodgkinson 45th (2nd rd)

Shane Hallam 82nd (3rd)

Brian Bosarge 132nd (4th)

CBSSports 68th (3rd)

PFF 132nd (4th)

Lance Zierlein 6.31 grade. Compared to Shaun Phillips (4th rd 2004, Chargers, Purdue). LZ says he'll be a dangerous s't tub-package pass rusher in the NFL, but often gets overmatched and pummeled at the point of attack against the run.

Williams is from rural Alabama. He didn't have a stable home life growing up. His mother lost custody of the children when he was little. He was raised by his grandmother, then an aunt, then later lived with a friend , then with the family of a teacher. He didn't watch or like football as a child, his preferred sport was basketball. When he tried football as a youth, he'd quickly quit, because he didn't care for it.

After his junior year, he was expelled from his high school. Williams said it was over an incident in the woods involving a knife and a group of football players. He only played one season of high school football. He was teammates with Henry Ruggs.

Williams didn't take academics seriously and failed to qualify. He went to community college for 2 years. It was at CC where he first started lifting weights. Reportedly had some personal issues initially adjusting to living at CC and away from home.

After transferring to Ole Miss, he had 6 sacks in 2019 in 12 games.

In July of 2020, Williams was arrested on a felony charge of sexual battery in Oxford, MS. The team imposed an indefinite suspension. In September of that year, the chargers were dropped and the suspension was lifted. He had 4 sacks in 10 games in 2020. Williams posted his best numbers in 2021, piling up 12.5 sacks and 57 tackles with 16 TFLs and 4 FF.

Was at NFLPA bowl, then a late addition to the Senior Bowl. He missed the 1st day of practice, but impressed observers on the 2nd and 3rd days.


Miscast as a DE in a 3 man defensive line at Ole Miss.

Has speed to track down athletic QBs.

The book says he's a bad run defender, but I'd characterize it as a mixed bag. Depended on who was blocking him. Better and bigger OTs dominated him at times, but on other plays against lesser talented OL or where there wasn't such a big size mismatch he shows solid play strength and made some nice stops against the run.

On short 3rd down run, he holds ground against G and T double team block, then stuffs the RB at the LOS. On run play, runs over RT and knocks him on rear end. Plays with good pad level. Stacks and throws TE off, then tackles the RB. Got pads under RT and stacked him. Occupied 2 blockers on run to keep teammate clean.

As a pass rusher he plays with effort and a hunger to try to get to the QB.

Strong lower body. Solid hand eye coordination.

Overpowered pass blocking TE.

Good pursuit range. Flows through trash to find the ball. Understands how to play proper leverage against block.

Rushed out of 4 point stance in wide alignment some plays. Asked to take on double team blocks.

Wins with quick moves on run plays to penetrate through the line.

Changes tempo on pass rush. Threat to get around outside, but also has swim and inside moves. Okay on twists.


Sack total is misleading. In the games I watched, he didn't have a good pass rush win rate. Disappears for long stretches. Got some cheap TFLs, got some sacks against poor quality OTs. Not as elite a pass rusher as it first appears.

Probably better as a 4-3 DE, not as a 3-4 OLB.

Lacks bulk and size. Bullied and pushed around by double team block. Overwhelmed and no match against bigger and longer OTs. Got driven to ground by OT. Gets locked up by better OTs. Struggles to drop anchor and set the edge. Shoved out of his run gap by OT.

Stiff hips. Average ability to redirect his body and bring down shifty RBs and QBs in the backfield or in space. Missed potential TFL due to stiffness.

Inconsistent level of performance. At times, looked heavy legged. Other times more active. A predator on some plays, but motor not dialed all the way on other plays.

Lets pass blocker get into his chest. Hands are not heavy.

Doesn't have a good finishing move to beat OTs around the edge. Doesn't have a good bull rush. Average ability to convert speed to power.

Does not link moves together seamlessly, delays in transition to counter moves.

Instead of holding his ground against run blocks where he's locked up, he'll retreat and give up more space trying to counter, which creates a bubble for the RB to exploit and can lead to additional yardage gained.

Almost never asked to drop into pass coverage. Panicked and grabbed TE going out to flat for pass, trying to prevent separation.

Doesn't have highest awareness and composure. Jumped offsides. Momentarily hesitates sometimes when he should trigger and attack. Got out of his rush lane, allowing QB to run for 1st down on 3rd down play.

Pro Comparison and Grade

Derek Barnett (14th overall pick 2017 Eagles, Tennessee), To Be Determined

Barnett has only averaged about 4 sacks per season in his 5 year pro career. The Eagles exercised his 5th year option for 2021, but he only had 2 sacks and a 61.8 PFF grade. He's never had a season with at least a 70 PFF grade. Recently, the Eagles signed him to a 2 year contract. Barnett has been a penalty magnet and only has modest production as a pass rusher. For a 1st round pick he's been disappointing.

I don't know how to grade Williams, because we have insufficient info to draw firm conclusions about his personality and character. There are red flags that require substantial investigation.

In Chad Reuter's mock, Barno (88), Paschal (107), Wright 109), Robinson (125), Williams (137) and Luketa (138) are all drafted within a round of each other. There are also several other DE to EDGE defenders who I haven't covered who were also taken in the same territory. If you look at the draft boards, Reuter's mock is consistent with the "lower end" of where Williams has been ranked. Multiple other boards have him high enough to be a 2nd round pick.

In a redraft, I'm not sure where Derek Barnett would be taken. Trey Hendrickson (late 3rd round) might be a high 1st round selection. Even though Barnett has been underwhelming, so have many of the other edge defenders in that draft class, so Barnett might still be a relatively early pick.

Do you think Sam Williams is likely to be the best edge rusher available for the Rams at the end of the 3rd round? If he were still available, would you draft him?