Fayetteville State is not known for producing NFL talent. The last FSU player selected in the NFL Draft was all the way back in 1976. OT Kion Smith received some love in last year’s cycle, but he went undrafted and is on his second practice squad. However, Fayetteville State CB Joshua Williams possesses an enticing scouting report that will lead to a selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Joshua Williams NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Fayetteville State
- Current Year: Senior
- Height: 6’2 1/2″
- Weight: 193 pounds
- Wingspan: 78 1/8″
- Arm: 32 1/4″
- Hand: 9 1/4″
Joshua Williams Scouting Report
Williams was a bit of a late bloomer, struggling at receiver for the first three years of his high school career. In fact, he even considered joining the army following his graduation. However, a position switch to cornerback as a senior propelled him on a path to the NFL Draft.
The Fayetteville State CB is a small-school player with big-school talent. When studying FCS and lower prospects, you want them to dominate. And Williams did just that throughout his D2 career. Although the level of competition will be a rather large knock against Williams, he did what he was supposed to and lock down his opponents.
He is a young 22-year-old prospect, having spent a year at a prep school after high school. Plus, he only has four years of starting experience at the corner position (he played safety at Palmetto Prep Academy). Williams had a chance to put his skill set on display at the 2022 Senior Bowl. And while he had his struggles at Senior Bowl practice, he proved he could hold his own against NFL-level talent.
As a tall, long-limbed DB, some teams may pigeonhole Williams to Seattle Cover 3/press-man-heavy schemes. Yet, the FSU product is far more versatile than that. In truth, that isn’t even where I believe Williams excels. His current skill set translates much better in off-man looks. His ability to turn and run with ease is undeniable. Additionally, his size/speed combination, length, and ball skills add to his allure.
Where Williams wins
You won’t find many corners that are 6’2″ and move the way Williams does — even in the NFL. His backpedal is exceptional as he stays low and smoothly flips his hips inside and out. Quick feet aid a solid start/stop ability, allowing Williams to recover when beaten by double moves. He positions himself well for jump balls, sizing up the receiver. The FSU CB also sets his leverage before looking for the ball and has noticeable instincts and eyes in off/zone coverage.
Moreover, Williams owns stellar raw athleticism. In prep school, he reportedly ran a 4.47 40-yard dash and recorded a 38″ vertical. Even in high school, Williams broke his high school record in the 100m (10.65) and ranked second all-time in 110m hurdles (14.96).
Per Zebra Technologies, he posted one of the top five max speeds at the Senior Bowl (21.75 miles per hour). That was faster than Nevada WR Romeo Doubs (21.25), Arizona State RB Rachaad White (21.15), and NDSU WR Christian Watson (20.71).
While his receiving ability was questionable in high school, it is more than adequate at corner. Furthermore, his receiver background offers him an advantage as he knows what his opponents will want to attack in various looks. He plays through the receivers’ hands and can often identify their route before it finishes.
Versatility is the name of his game
Williams may be a leanly built corner, but he plays with the intensity of a linebacker in run support. He flies toward the football and wants to be near the action on every rep. Despite a wiry frame, he puts his whole body into laying blows and quickly comes downhill. While the want-to is impressive in its own right, Williams is also a solid tackler and knows when to wrap up low.
The Broncos deployed a mixture of coverages over Williams’ career but mainly ran a 4-2-5 base alignment with Cover 3, Cover 4, or man on the back end. Regardless, with proper coaching, he has the physical ability to line up in any coverage.
“I think I’m absolutely a do-it-all corner,” Williams stated. “Here at Fayetteville State, we have to be able to do it all. That’s something that my coaches harp on — not just being one or the other. Making sure that we can do all of it, and I truly believe that I can do all of it. There’s nothing that I’m uncomfortable doing.”
What’s more, Williams has played on every special-teams unit in his career. He has returned punts, seen time as a gunner, and lined up for FG blocks. On top of his receiver background, he was a running back for multiple years before high school. And on defense in his collegiate career, Williams has aligned in the slot, outside, rolled high post-snap, and at various safety looks.
Areas for improvement
Despite some labeling Williams a press-man corner, he didn’t do much jamming at Fayetteville State in the film studied. And when he did, his technique wasn’t sound and was often flat-footed. He regularly looked as if he was blocking rather than jamming the receiver. Still, Williams can launch his arms inside a receiver’s pads and lock him up, thanks to his length.
While I love his ability against the run game, the FSU CB can struggle to disengage blocks, which will only be exacerbated at the next level. He has some hitch in transition and can be high-hipped due to his natural frame, allowing quicker receivers to take advantage.
As mentioned earlier, Williams’ level of competition will come into question, as it should. You aren’t exactly facing top receivers in the CIAA, even though they aren’t just cannon fodder either. At the Senior Bowl, shiftier receivers were able to beat Williams at the line and create separation downfield.
Williams can have false steps transitioning downhill against comebacks/hitches, but his route identification and speed sometimes negated this in college — though that likely won’t be the case in the NFL. Furthermore, the FSU CB is prone to hesitations at the stem of routes, leading to extra cushion for receivers.
Williams’ Player Profile
Williams was a track star first and a football player second for most of his career at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina. He did nearly every sprinting event there was, including the 100m and 200m dash, 110m hurdles, and the long jump. But on the gridiron, after three years at receiver, his coaches moved him to corner.
He naturally picked up the position, but Williams did not receive much recruiting due to his late switch and lackluster numbers. Additionally, he was not D1-eligible, further limiting his options.
Thus, Williams spent a year at Palmetto Prep Academy Columbia in South Carolina, the same school Decobie Durant attended before walking on at South Carolina State. Williams earned more attention after prep school and decided to commit to his hometown school in Fayetteville State — due to their performance. However, the proximity to home was a bonus.
Williams’ career at Fayetteville State
As a freshman in 2018, Williams saw playing time as a nickel corner. He didn’t stuff the stat sheet, but the experience he earned would be invaluable. When he became an outside starting CB in 2019, he dominated the conference.
Williams recorded a CIAA-high 15 pass breakups (2 interceptions), with his 13 PBUs ranking fifth in the D2 ranks. His play garnered All-CIAA second-team recognition. The Broncos didn’t play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Williams stated he grew in maturity during that time, putting his head down in the weight room, his schoolwork, and his job at Domino’s Pizza.
Despite the year off, Williams was named to the Senior Bowl watch list heading into the 2021 season. By the end of the year, he was the only D2 player to receive a Senior Bowl invite in 2021. But before that dream was realized, Williams put on a show for Fayetteville State. Teams rarely looked his way, but he still racked up 3 INTs and 9 PBUs, earning first-team All-CIAA for his efforts.
When it was all said and done, Williams generated 5 INTs, 22 PBUs, and 79 total tackles across 28 games. Although they would lose each matchup (all against Bowie State), Williams was an integral piece in the Broncos reaching three straight CIAA Championship appearances.
What they’re saying about Williams
“We had two scouts that came and did measurables on our rising juniors and seniors, and when they spread (Williams’) arms out and saw his wingspan, they were like ‘Oh my God.’ From that day on, he just took off. We had all 32 teams here this football season.” — Fayetteville State head coach Richard Hayes Jr. on Williams’ impressive length
“Traits-based cornerbacks from smaller schools can be very hit or miss, but Williams’ instincts and body control shine a more favorable light on his potential to become a future CB2/3.” — NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein’s evaluation of Williams
Williams’ NFL Draft ascension
Fans may not know his name yet, but Williams would be a high-reward prospect early on Day 3. His Senior Bowl performance wasn’t all that impressive, but he stood tall against the best competition he has faced in his career.
As a prospect, Williams shows shades of Antonio Cromartie. They are nearly identical in the size, athleticism, and speed departments, but Cromartie was far more polished coming out of Florida State. Now, I’m not saying Williams will be Cromartie, but there is enough there to warrant the comparison.
Williams will receive love from teams that run press and likely fits best in a Seattle Cover 3-type defense. He checks every box in my scouting list, including size/speed, athleticism/agility, instincts, technique, tackling ability, and intangibles. It’s not a matter of if Williams will be drafted this year, it is a matter of when.