Sam Williams, Ole Miss DE | NFL Draft Scouting Report

He possesses top-end physical tools, but is Ole Miss DE Sam Williams' NFL Draft scouting report worthy of early-round hype?

Where does the scouting report of Ole Miss DE Sam Williams rank in the 2022 NFL Draft edge class? Williams has elite production and physical traits. But as is the case with just about every prospect, there is more to consider with Williams. What does the Ole Miss DE have working in his favor? What might drop his stock on draft night? We’re here to answer both of those questions.

Sam Williams NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Defensive End
  • School: Ole Miss
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height: 6’3 5/8″
  • Weight: 261 pounds
  • Wingspan: 80 1/4″
  • Length: 33 1/8″
  • Hand: 9 7/8″

Williams’ Combine/pro day results

  • 40-Yard Dash: 4.46
  • Bench Press: 26
  • Broad Jump: 10’3″
  • Vertical Jump: 36″
  • Three-Cone: 7.03
  • Short Shuttle: 4.34

Sam Williams Scouting Report

The JUCO ranks can be a springboard for many players. Several prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft used that springboard to their advantage. One such player is Williams. Once a relatively unknown defender on the JUCO circuit, Williams used his athletic traits to rise and eventually reach the highest level of collegiate play.

In 2021, Williams was one of the most productive edge defenders in a loaded SEC. And that wasn’t by accident. From a purely physical perspective, Williams is a first-round talent. But first-round athletes don’t always go first round — or even come close to it. What else is there to consider with Williams, and where might he end up in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Williams’ athletic profile

Williams’ testing numbers are exciting, and his tape largely confirms what he put on the field in Indianapolis. The Ole Miss DE has an exceptionally quick first step for his size. He also brings impressive closing burst at the contact point. When unblocked, he shows off intense closing speed, and he also possesses the pursuit speed necessary to close off runners on the outside.

Williams can cover a ton of ground around the edge with long, powerful strides, but his physical strengths extend beyond straight-line mobility. The Ole Miss DE sports a compact, well-built frame with a great deal of stored power. Additionally, he has good length for his size, which he can use to assume positive leverage. With his explosiveness, density, and length, Williams can be dangerous on bull rushes.

Expanding on his frame, Williams’ strong base allows him to maintain positioning in the run game. The Ole Miss DE has also shown he can disengage blocks promptly and wrap up ball carriers. He has the upper body strength to wrench down anchors when stacking against the run, and he’s a sturdy tackler who engulfs opponents with his length and mass.

Among other things, Williams has the athleticism to drop into coverage on occasion, although he’s not instinctive or dynamic in that aspect. He flashes lateral agility in space, and he also has the capacity to dip and accelerate while turning around the edge.

Execution beyond the physical traits

Even after a stronger 2021 season, Williams still has room to grow from an execution standpoint. Nevertheless, his physical foundation gives him some exciting upside if he can keep refining his game. Williams shows the capacity for fast, violent hand usage, and he’s also flashed targeted hand maneuvers when ripping down opposing anchors.

In the thick of the trenches, Williams generally plays with a good pad level. He can get below his opponents and establish leverage, by which point his length only becomes more dangerous. The Ole Miss DE also shows glimpses of good leg drive when anchored. Especially in 2021, he improved his power generation with bull rushes and long-arms, and he also flashed club and swipe moves around the edge.

Rounding out his operational strengths, Williams can keep his balance against cut blocks and regain speed quickly. He also has a competitive edge, and when his motor is on, he can be a relentless player in both phases.

Areas for improvement

The upside with Williams is enticing, but he does have room for improvement, even after a strong 2021 campaign.

Williams’ hands and recognition ability are both particularly unrefined areas of his game. The Ole Miss DE did improve his hand usage in 2021, but he’s still relatively raw in that area. He still needs more violence and precision, and he can also be more consistent stacking counters on pass-rushing reps. His hands don’t always strike cleanly, which mitigates his force potential. Furthermore, his extensions aren’t always timed well.

Williams lacks a consistent pass-rushing plan, which can cause him to be rather tentative at times. He doesn’t always play to his athletic maximum, and his feet are sometimes idle as he attempts to read plays. The Ole Miss DE is slow to react to options and ball transfers, and he’s baited frequently by misdirections. His inconsistent attack angles can afford opponents enhanced leverage. He also gives up too much surface area at times.

Going further, Williams sometimes loses his balance against contact. He does have good bend capacity, but he doesn’t always channel it effectively. And finally, his motor can run hot and cold.

Williams’ NFL Draft scouting report overview

The dichotomy between Williams’ athletic profile and his executional profile is fairly stark. Athletically, Williams checks almost every box. He’s long, well-built, explosive, and sturdy. While his bend isn’t elite, he has displayed measured flexibility around the edge. Mentally, however, Williams still has some ground to cover. His improved 2021 campaign is a major step in the right direction, but there’s still work to do.

Williams can generate pressure and discomfort with his raw traits alone. But at the NFL level, he’ll need to combine those raw traits with hand usage, awareness, and multitasking ability if he wants to be a starter. There’s enough to suggest that Williams can be a pass-rushing specialist early on with his traits. And he has the physical upside to be a full-time starter.

Having said all this, there is one more aspect of Williams’ scouting report that bears noting. Williams has a worrisome arrest in his history — one that is discussed later in this report. His character has been a consistent question this cycle, and that alone could drop him down boards. Some may have him off their boards entirely.

Nevertheless, teams will judge him differently. If someone deems Williams’ character a non-issue, he can easily go Day 2. If it’s considered a red flag across the board, he could slip to Day 3.

Williams’ Player Profile

As mentioned earlier, Williams ultimately took the JUCO route to the FBS level. He played football at Robert E. Lee High School in Montgomery, Alabama, and signed with Northwest Mississippi CC after high school. At Northwest Mississippi, Williams kick-started his career and went from a complete unknown to a coveted playmaker.

Williams stood out as a freshman on the JUCO stage, amassing 53 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. His encore season would prove to be twice as prolific. As a sophomore, Williams brought forth 75 tackles, 28.5 tackles for loss, 17.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and 4 pass deflections. Williams was named MACJC Defensive Lineman of the Year for his play and earned a four-star recruit billing as a JUCO transfer.

Williams opened up his FBS recruitment for the 2019 season — teams lined up upon seeing his production and athleticism. He received offers from LSU, Oregon, and Auburn, but the DE ultimately chose to stay in Mississippi and signed with Ole Miss.

His career at Ole Miss

Williams enrolled early with the Rebels and wasted no time adding to his stat sheet. As a true junior in 2019, Williams started eight games in his first SEC action and played in 12. Over that span, the Ole Miss DE accumulated 38 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble.

Williams was immediately expected to return as a defensive catalyst in 2020, but during that ensuing offseason, Williams’s future was doubted. In July of 2020, Williams was arrested on a felony charge of sexual battery. He was subsequently suspended for an indefinite period of time by Ole Miss.

Little information was revealed regarding Williams’ case, but his charges were ultimately dropped less than two months later — the suspension was lifted as a result. The Ole Miss DE put up another productive year, logging 39 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, and a forced fumble in 10 games.

In 2021, Williams took a major leap. He became a dominant force in the SEC, amassing 57 tackles, 12.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss, and 4 forced fumbles in 13 games.

Williams’ NFL Draft ascension

First and foremost, Williams’ off-field history demands careful attention. Williams’ charges were dropped, but that shouldn’t preclude NFL teams from doing their own research. Williams must pass the character inspection before any teams deem him worthy of a roster spot. Thus, the details of his trepidatious history are relevant.

Even without considering off-field factors, however, Williams is still a polarizing NFL Draft prospect. He has the athletic profile to generate excitement, but outside of that, he’s still relatively underdeveloped. The 2021 campaign was massive for Williams, who needed to prove he could have some immediate utility as a 23-year-old rookie. But where he goes off the board ultimately depends on his character evaluation.

Tony Pauline’s scouting report for Sam Williams

Positives: Physically talented pass rusher with off-the-field concerns. Explosive, quickly gets off the snap, and breaks down well. Shows a variety of moves with his hands to get off blocks, immediately alters his angle of attack, and easily changes direction.

Plays tough football, gives effort defending the run, and attacks opponents. Relentless, gets outside the box to make plays, and squeezes through double-team blocks to penetrate the line of scrimmage. Displays speed off the edge and can bend around the corner. Displays pass-rushing skill standing over tackle.

Negatives: Average instincts and slow to locate the ball. Lacks overall body strength. Does not display a dominant base.

Analysis: Williams is a terrific pass rusher who can play out of a three-point stance or standing over tackle. He possesses a large upside, though teams must be comfortable with off-the-field concerns.

Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @IC_Draft.

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