He broke onto the CFB scene with an eye-opening redshirt freshman campaign, and maintained production in 2021. His 2022 campaign may have been shortened by injury, but Garrett Williams isn’t an NFL Draft prospect to forget. Where does he stand — not only amongst the talented group of cornerbacks but on the 2023 NFL Draft board as a whole?
Garrett Williams NFL draft profile
- Position: CB
- School: Syracuse
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height/Weight: 5’10 3/8″, 192 pounds
- Length: 31″
- Wingspan: 74 1/2″
- Hand: 9 1/4″
By now, many schools have the recruiting process down to a science. But there’s such a saturation of talent at the high school level that stalwart prospects can fall through the cracks. For many underrated players, all it takes is an opportunity at the collegiate level to prove themselves. At least, that’s all Williams needed.
Williams didn’t come with a lot of fanfare as a recruit. He was a three-star from North Carolina who — despite having tremendous ball production on his résumé — didn’t even crack the top 100 at his position on ESPN’s board. Williams’ biggest offers came from schools like Maryland, West Virginia, and Coastal Carolina. But soon enough, he made plenty of Power Five programs pay for overlooking him with the Syracuse Orange.
Williams was primarily a special-teams contributor in 2019 and redshirted that year. But in 2020, he found his way into a full-time starting role and blossomed when given the chance to shine. Over a full slate of games, Williams racked up 64 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack, two interceptions, and nine pass deflections.
The Syracuse CB earned Freshman All-American honors in 2020 and followed that campaign up with another respectable showing in 2021. He doubled his deflection output with another nine and took home All-ACC recognition for the second straight season.
Williams was on his way to completing another strong season in 2022, when disaster struck seven games in. Against Notre Dame, Williams tore his ACL. The injury not only ended Williams’ season, but also complicated his draft stock, as he was not able to test.
Now, as other prospects in the stacked 2023 CB class have risen up the board, Williams has fallen back under the radar. But perhaps it’s time to remind the masses what Williams can do. What does his tape tell of his capabilities, and can he be a starter at the NFL level?
Garrett Williams scouting report
Williams has the production, and he’s made plenty of flashy plays. But looking at his composite profile, how well does he translate to the NFL game? Let’s take a look.
One of the first things that stands out on Williams’ tape is his athleticism. The Syracuse CB is an explosive athlete out of breaks and brings searing closing speed. He can hit a blistering second gear when closing on plays and accelerates very quickly out of his stance.
Gearing up with little delay, Williams can explode out of transitions and match WRs out of stems. His burst allows him to close ground quickly in recovery, as well as make plays in pursuit. In run support, he can suddenly throttle up to get past blockers and seal off runs.
Linear explosiveness is invaluable for CBs, but Williams is also a twitchy, energetic mover who can match WRs with loose hips. He jolts around in condensed areas and sinks his hips to mirror WR movements. The Syracuse CB has excellent corrective twitch and naturally leverages himself with suddenness and fast feet. Moreover, his high-end foot speed allows him to react and adapt quickly ahead of WR stems.
Williams can throttle up and down with impressive freedom and can immediately halt his momentum at stems, showing excellent reactive quickness. The Syracuse CB has the change-of-direction ability to quickly reset his alignment and get depth after play fakes. Also impressive is Williams’ hip fluidity. He’s able to swivel around with ease on 180-degree transitions after aligning outside and match WRs in stride downfield. He plays low in his stance and can mirror WRs off the line.
It certainly helps that Williams is a fleet-footed athlete with an urgent, active play style. But he’s shown he can effectively channel his athleticism in coverage with competent technique. More often than not, Williams uses feet first. He can seamlessly transition from a backpedal to trail coverage, flipping his hips upfield and opening his strides to pinch WRs against the boundary. He also brings natural balance to his pedal.
Not only does Williams bring good technique, but he compounds that technique with bristling physicality. He’s proactive and calculated in using his arms to disrupt route stems. Additionally, he shows discretion in deciding when to press. He’s patient and disciplined with his hand usage and lets his base dictate what he does. And at stems, he can use precise one-handed jams to gather WRs and help assist him in recollecting his feet. For his age, he shows great patience and decisiveness when using targeted physicality.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Big Board
Of course, proper coverage play takes more than technique and physicality. You also need an effective processor. Luckily, Williams shows promise in that category as well. The Syracuse CB has superb play recognition, which shows up in both phases. He closes on screens and route breaks with impressive quickness and spaces himself well in zone, showing spatial awareness and adaptability.
Williams has shown he can pass off routes in zone and hawk on underneath routes. He also improved his discipline against stop-and-go routes over the course of the season and displayed blind spot awareness when tracking WRs in press-bail. While his technique can improve at times, Williams is able to quickly process double-moves and recover positioning after overcommitting one way.
Williams’ foundational strengths — namely explosiveness, processing, and physicality — grant him near-elite ability in run support. The Syracuse CB is more than willing to play physically and dish out big hits coming downhill. As a support defender, he’s aggressive, rangy, and quick to react. He triggers fast and crashes the line of scrimmage with relentless energy.
Going further, Williams can use his physicality to break free from blocks, disengage, and free himself to make tackles. He launches into contact and often takes good angles to the ball in the open field. What’s more, he actively squares up runners to obstruct their path forward and is willing to set contain on outside runs. Williams can stand up blockers in congestion and attack the torso. He can also get ahead of outside runs and wall off lead blockers, functioning as a homing missile for developing run schemes.
Furthermore, Williams can use brisk lateral movements and twitch to adjust tackling angles at a moment’s notice in pursuit. He’s also flashed the ability to effectively lead with his shoulder and wrap up as a tackler. Overall, Williams sports a supremely energetic playstyle and has tremendous competitive toughness in all phases.
Just as Williams makes plays on the ground, he can make plays in the air. The Syracuse CB has smooth vertical athleticism and can rise and contort to make plays on the ball. When he tracks the ball effectively, he showcases an impressive sense of timing and control on extensions. Additionally, he’s highly competitive at the catch point and plays the ball through the entire catch process, constantly seeking to dislodge with proactive hand use.
Williams’ areas for improvement
Although Williams isn’t a liability in terms of size, he’s average-sized across the board at CB. His length and mass are not strengths. Additionally, his long speed, while solid, is not elite. Williams doesn’t have elite recovery speed when he loses a step and has a visible cap at times when tracking WRs downfield.
Technically, while Williams is strong, he still has room to improve. The Syracuse CB can be inconsistent in maintaining balance when stacking direction changes. He can be caught flat-footed on breaks, delaying transitions. Additionally, he can be baited into lurching too much by double-moves. He sometimes grabs at the stem while keeping his base idle and can tug too much in attempts to recover.
Williams’ weight transfers can be smoother and more controlled at times. There are instances of erroneous footwork at stems, and Williams can more efficiently leverage himself against WRs. Occasionally, he’ll be drawn too far upright on his backpedal, which can sap his explosiveness in breaking back toward the ball. Williams can also be more disciplined playing with cushion. He sometimes sits on routes too early and allows WRs to get by him with double-moves.
Carrying on with coverage, Williams can play in-breaking routes more tightly off the stem. His hips appear a bit stiff when trying to sink on sharp transitions inside. Moreover, in zone, he can be indecisive when routes force him into 2-on-1 situations. He can strive for a better balance of patience and decisiveness at times, and he sometimes attempts to anticipate routes when he should remain reactive in coverage.
While Williams has great ball skills, he does look back for the ball too early at times while tracking downfield. This can cause him to lose positioning, as well as impact his timing and coordination when the ball comes his way. He can also be walled off by larger WRs with his size.
In run support, Williams can be more consistent wrapping up as a tackler, as his lighter frame can hinder his ability to finish takedowns. He can improve his play strength, and he also occasionally over-pursues angles coming downhill.
Current draft projection for Syracuse CB Garrett Williams
Despite his injury, Williams still grades as a fringe-Top 100 prospect on my board. Especially for teams that employ man-heavy coverages and value tenacity in run support, Williams is worth mid-to-late Day 2 consideration, and he’s a priority prospect if he falls to Day 3.
Williams brings plenty of appealing tools to the CB position. He’s explosive, agile, twitchy, fluid, and physical. He actively uses feet first with his technique, can mirror WRs off the line, and jam to disrupt at stems. Downfield, he’s proven himself to have very natural playmaking ability, and he’s a major force in run support.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft CB Class
Williams’ 2021 season wasn’t quite as enthralling as his standout redshirt freshman campaign, and his 2022 campaign was unfortunately cut short by injury. That injury left some lingering issues unresolved for Williams. He has to improve his ball tracking downfield, as well as further refine his footwork and maintain consistency against double-moves.
Still, Williams has all the building blocks necessary to smother receivers in man coverage with his lightning-quick foot speed, fluidity, explosiveness as a closer, and tenacity at the catch point. His athleticism, combined with his terse physicality, can be an asset on the boundary, and his dual-sided playmaking ability as a disruptor and support defender is rare.
Though he doesn’t have elite size, Williams has the athletic upside and temperament to eventually grow into an impact starter on the boundary.
Listen to the PFN Scouting Podcast
List to the PFN Scouting Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Scouting Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms. Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review! Rather watch instead? Check out the PFN Scouting Podcast on our Scouting YouTube channel.