With the 2010 NFL season in the books (and hopefully a new CBA soon in the works), it's time to turn our eyes to the NFL draft, and the pre-draft evaluation process. We've already done scouting reports of the top 40 players on our board, and you can read all the details on the first Shutdown 40 here. For the second Shutdown 40, players 41-80, we have the advantage of combine performances and that much more evaluation material.
Over the next few weeks, we'll also be adding Pro Day data when relevant. But we're always going mostly on game tape; the proper evaluation formula seems to be about 80 percent tape, 20 percent Senior Bowl/combine/Pro Day. If you see what you expect in drills, you go back to the tape to confirm. If what you see in drills surprises you in a positive or negative sense, you go back to the tape to catch where the anomalies may be.
We continue the second Shutdown 40 with Texas cornerback Aaron Williams. In 37 games for the Longhorns, the aggressive Williams racked up four interceptions, 15 passes defensed, 97 tackles (65 solo), 11 solo tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, and three blocked kicks. Better in the shuttle and 3-cone than he was in the 40-yard dash (a pedestrian 4.55), Williams excelled in the vertical jump (37 ½ inches) and broad jump (10.7 feet), and his overall skill set has led some to believe that he could make a great move to free safety at the NFL level. That position is more important than ever in today's pass-heavy NFL, but does Williams match the profile?
Pros: Williams closes in well from off-coverage to outside running plays; he's a reasonably sure tackler and doesn't fear contact. Transitions with his hips pretty well, but where he gets the edge is in his sense and ability in boxing out the receiver and using the sideline on certain routes. Zeroes in on screens and keeps the play in front of him - he doesn't get fooled a lot. Has the footwork to play press and keep up with routes at just about any level, though he doesn't have elite trail speed.
Williams has good field sense; you'll see less-experienced corners get lost on their own assignments and neglect to see what's around them, but he always seems to have one eye on the players around him, and he peels off well to help his teammates if the ball isn't going his way. Can crash the edge on blitzes and gets up to speed in a hurry.
Cons: Occasionally tries to arm-tackle; he'd need some coaching on this if he moved to safety. Doesn't have great ball skills; zero interceptions in 2010 despite a decent number of targets. Not physical enough to be a consistent box or force defender. Will occasionally get washed out by blocks from bigger receivers.
Conclusion: People are always eager to transition defensive backs with good size but borderline coverage skills from cornerback to safety, but there are different skills required, and it doesn't always work out. In Williams' case, I think there are specific things that would give him the edge. His excellent field sense might be enhanced by a deeper initial dropback in center field, he closes in on plays without biting on fakes, and he's got some potential as a tackler.
As an Antrel Rolle(notes)-type player in the right system (like when the Giants actually ran some three-safety sets in 2010), Williams might make a real impact. If he's taken as a pure cornerback, he might resemble Seattle's Marcus Trufant(notes) - better playing off than in press, and a surprising run defender with the ability to do a lot of things in space (but someone who will get eaten up by faster receivers). Williams isn't a bad corner, but he might indeed make a great safety.