The impact of small school cornerbacks seems to get bigger every year. This year, one of the players that could be an intriguing player in the NFL Draft is North Dakota State’s Marcus Williams. Williams has a nice combination of size and speed along with an aggressive demeanor and all-out style of play that allows him to be involved in plays all over the field. The Bison corner can make plays in pass coverage, defending the run and on special teams.Jan 5, 2013; Frisco, TX, USA; North Dakota State Bison cornerback Marcus Williams (1) returns an interception against the Sam Houston State Bearkats during the FCS Championship football game at FC Dallas Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Williams is not quite a finished product but what he brings to the table in physical attributes and his mindset could definitely interest teams. Williams has the length to jam, the hips and speed to turn and run with receivers and an aggressive approach to playing the run. The big knock with Williams is how he tracks the ball when his back is turned. There will be questions about the level of competition, but he had some great moments in their game against Kansas State and should get an opportunity in the postseason All-Star circuit to show off his skills against higher level competition. Williams looks like he is a day three prospect but could end up going closer to the top 100 and perhaps clawing his way into day two of the draft with a good postseason.
Vitals & Build
Williams is listed at 5’11” 192lbs with a good build. He is a relatively tall corner but he looks longer and has impressive fluidity. Williams has good flips, can change direction well and has good acceleration. He appears to have good top end speed and his length only serves to help him cover more ground. It also seems like Williams has a nonstop motor and never stops working. Williams shows good functional strength and he appears to have more room to add weight, but he probably does not need much more and should be more concerned with improving the weight he has now.
Williams is an extremely aggressive and willing tackler who can make a big hit, but he will overrun plays on occasion as well and there are times he will go for a big hit and leave his feet and risk missing a play. He is certainly not afraid and does not need to throw his body at the opponent to get them to the ground. Williams has shown he can be a good wrap up tackler and will make tackles, but he can be more consistent with his technique and eliminate some bad habits in search of highlight plays rather than the right plays.
Williams is not only willing to make plays in the running game but seems to bring a great attitude to it and tries to make an impact on that part of the game. He plays the strong side for the Bison and does a nice job of finding his way into plays and making an impact. There is no reason to think that if he can work his way onto an NFL field, he would not be able to be able to man the strong side there as well.
This is really where Williams excels in coverage. He seems to really thrive in playing up in the face of his opponent and though he does not use it often, Williams looks like he could excel in press. For a long corner, Williams can flip his hips and run with opponents really well. He reacts quickly and is able to cover a lot of ground in a hurry and appears to be able to run stride for stride with his opponents while having the length to make up even more ground.
Williams is far better and more effective when he is able to face the line of scrimmage when the ball is in the air. The times he is able to look and see where the ball is going, he is able to make a play on it. Williams can break on the ball pretty effectively and close ground quickly.
When it comes to situations where Williams has his back to the ball, he has trouble locating the football and in doing so, can find himself out of position to defend the play. Williams is able to read the hands and eyes of the wide receiver and will try to deflect the pass or rip the ball out when it touches the receiver’s hands, but there are certainly times when his inability to locate the football has gotten him beat. This is most noticeable on passes with air under them that allow the receiver to make an adjustment and catch the ball, especially when it is short. This can be improved with reps and experience but it really is the most glaring issue for Williams in man coverage that needs to improve going to the next level.
In terms of skill set, Williams could certainly play zone. His physical style of play, length, ability to break on the ball and his ability to play facing the line of scrimmage could make him attractive in that scheme, but his experience appears limited there.
Williams has solid ball skills and will catch the ball given opportunities. The key for him is seeing it. Williams has the arm length and hands that make him able to make plays on a wide radius of plays and he is comfortable making the catch when it is there. He has to improve how he tracks the ball after he establishes position against the receiver going down the field, but he has the range to get his hands on a lot of passes.
Williams has experience returning kicks, but his greatest value going forward could be as a gunner. With his speed, strength, and how hard he works, Williams could work to stay in the NFL in large part because of what he can do on coverage as well as potentially coming off of the edge to block kicks.
Williams is best suited to play in a man scheme because of his length and athleticism, but his physical style of play and long arms might be particularly attractive to teams who like to press. Jacksonville and Seattle are two teams that jump out with his skill set, but Pittsburgh and Cleveland could like him with their mix of press and man coverage. Williams looks he needs a little time to get more polish in his game but he is the type of player whose aggressiveness, hardnosed style and overall physical ability could get him on the field faster than some expect. He looks more suited to be on the outside and could push someone into the slot in nickel, but he does have the fluid hips and change of direction skills to play the slot if needed.
Though he is not as tall, Williams’ style and path to the NFL is similar to that of Cortez Allen of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Allen was even taller at 6’1” coming out of The Citadel and has been groomed in the Steelers scheme and is now one of their starting corners in his third year. That could be the type of path that Williams has.
Williams is not done in terms of polish and needs to improve how he tracks the ball when his back is turned, but his physical ability, aggressiveness, hardnosed style of play, and length will make for an attractive prospect. Although he had some great moments against Kansas State, Williams’ biggest stage to prove himself against bigger competition could come in the Post-Season All Star Circuit. He could be a player that goes to the East-West Shrine Game and perhaps the Senior Bowl and he could impress not unlike B.W. Webb of William and Mary and Robert Alford of SELU did last year. Williams looks like a day three prospect but he could push himself further up in the third day and perhaps the fringe of day two in the postseason process.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com