Avery Williamson could be the next in a line of athletic linebackers that have played at the University of Kentucky and found success in the NFL. Like Wesley Woodyard and Danny Travathan before him, Williamson has not been a highly regarded prospect but just been a productive player for the Wildcat defense both playing inside and outside. After contributing as a freshman, Williamson was a starter the remaining three years and has only missed one game in his entire career.
For the NFL, Williamson has the athleticism and bulk necessary to be a productive linebacker but just needs to get more polished as a player. He shows the ability to take on blocks, fight through trash and help against the run, but needs to get better in all areas as well as his ability to track down plays to the outside and the potential is there in coverage, but needs more experience. Williamson warrants a third day pick and his long term potential suggests he could ultimately start in the NFL and be a three-down inside linebacker.
Vitals & Build
Williamson measured 6’1” 246lbs at the scouting combine with 32 ¾” arms. He certainly looks the part with a strong build. Williamson has great burst and shows impressive overall speed. He shows decent hips and fluidity with his movement skills. Athletically, he has everything he needs to be a successful linebacker, but if he can continue to get stronger and take full advantage of his physical gifts, he does still have potential.
Williamson is a pretty consistent wrap up tackler. He seems to understand how to use power without losing the ability to hold onto a tackle. Williamson shows a decent amount of pop in his hits and has shown the ability to continue his leg drive on contact.
The biggest issue that causes Williamson problems is tackling too high, which can cause him to work harder to secure the play. Occasionally, he will stop his feet from working laterally and makes it harder to secure the tackle, but Williamson does a pretty good job of not missing tackles.
Williamson is active and fearless in run support. When he reads the play, he comes downhill and looks to make an impact on the play. He is not afraid to take on contact and try to work through it in order to make the play. Williamson is aggressive, will take play to the opponent, will go in and take on a block but needs to work on the angle he takes on blocks so he does not get shielded from the play. When he does it well, he takes contact but maintains the ability to make the tackle.
Williamson does his best work in the middle of the field and when he is able to attack forward. He has the range to attack outside and flow with the play, but can have issues with overrunning plays. Improving his angles and just getting more experienced with tracking down opponents as he works down the line should allow him to be more effective in that area, but he has demonstrated he is more than capable of getting there to make plays, which is important. Williamson may have problems making the plays, but he has shown they are there for him.
Occasionally, Williamson will make misreads on where plays are going and get caught out of position, but he shows a lot of tools and an attitude that could allow him to find success at the next level with continued work.
Williamson shows the athleticism needed to be a solid coverage linebacker. He seems to be most comfortable and effective in man coverage when he has a clear assignment and can just react to what the opponent is doing. Williamson possesses the quickness and fluidity to keep up with opposing running backs out of the backfield and shown examples where he can run with them step for step.
In zone, he gets to his drops quickly but his feet can get stuck in cement at times as he is looking at the quarterback. Williamson has the athleticism and range to flow around and make plays. He just needs to get more comfortable in what he can do as he does not always play up to his physical tools in that part of the game.
Nevertheless, while Williamson is a hardnosed run stopping linebacker, he has the tools to continue improving and become a three down linebacker. That could make him a little more intriguing to teams and perhaps carry more value in the draft as a result.
Pass Rush & Blitz Ability
Williamson has been used to blitz up the middle and done so effectively. Both in overload situations and delayed blitzes, Williamson’s speed and willingness to fight through contact can make him a viable threat.
Williamson’s best fit in the long term could be as a 4-3 middle linebacker, but he should also be an attractive option to 3-4 inside linebacker. The 3-4 may work for him the best early because he is comfortable playing and attacking in a phone booth, but his range and athleticism to make him more effective with more space to work long term.
Though initially, he will likely be brought in for depth, he certainly has the potential to help as a coverage linebacker, on special teams, and develop into a full service player.
Williamson is similar to James Michael-Johnson, now of the Kansas City Chiefs. Johnson was an athletic prospect with a good build coming out of Nevada not unlike Williamson and went in the fourth round because he was making plays on raw athleticism as opposed to making the right ones and being in the right positions. He may have found a home with the Chiefs now, which could be the type of path that Williamson has in the NFL.
Avery Williamson is an intriguing player because while he is not overwhelming in any one area on the field, he shows the ability to help in just about everything. He shows the ability to help against the run, contribute in coverage and has been able to rush the passer on occasion. Williamson looks like a third day pick and may ultimately start out as depth, but there is potential for him to do much more with time and effort.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com