2021 NFL Draft Profile: Boise State DB/KR Avery Williams
The Boise State cornerback and special teams ace is a unique prospect in this year’s NFL Draft class.
Versatility is the name of the game.
The Atlanta Falcons selected Avery Williams in the 5th round, at pick #183.
With the 183rd pick of the #NFLDraft, we have selected CB Avery Williams.
Welcome to Atlanta, @big_ave21!
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) May 1, 2021
— Avery Williams (@big_ave21) May 1, 2021
Boise State Broncos cornerback Avery Williams is one of the Mountain West’s best bets to hear his name called in this week’s NFL Draft. Few players in the history of the conference have made the kind of mark that he has, which is all the more remarkable given the arc of his collegiate career, as he arrived on the blue as a walk-on and played his way into the starting lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2017.
Four years, two all-conference team appearances, and two conference special teams player of the year honors later, Williams is poised to make the jump to the pros on the back of a skillset unlike any other.
If the above video didn’t give it away, one thing that NFL teams almost certainly have their eyes on is that Williams has proven himself to be a difference maker on special teams. The nine return touchdowns are the biggest highlight, of course, but he also blocked five kicks (one field goal, one extra point try, and three punts) over the last three seasons.
However, Williams also started over 40 games at cornerback for Boise State and there are a few positives of which to make notice in both responsibilities. His agility should play as both a returner and a defensive back, for starters, as The Athletic’s Dane Brugler notes he “plays light on his feet” and both he and NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein agree on “fluid movements, forward and laterally”.
If Williams is going to stick in the same roles he had at Boise State, there are some challenges (only some of which are immediately fixable). For starters, he is essentially the smallest cornerback prospect in this year’s draft class at 5′ 8 3/8″ and 187 pounds, meaning that he could have trouble lining up outside with the bigger wide receivers in the NFL. As The Draft Network’s Drae Harris suggests, he may inevitably be better suited for sub package roles.
There also appears to be a mixed reception regarding Williams’s willingness to get physical. At first glance, of course, that isn’t a bad thing, but Brugler notes that led to 11 penalties over the past three seasons and, more importantly, there isn’t a consensus as to how capable a tackler he actually is and he could struggle to shed blocks.
Lastly, though there are no serious red flags, Williams did have something of a checkered injury history in his collegiate career. While it rarely stopped him from seeing the field, that might help to explain why he spent time at Boise State’s pro day getting reps in running back drills. If a team is going to make the investment based on his strengths, they’ll do what they need to do to protect those strengths.
How do you assess a player that has shown he can do things few others can but has some clearly defined limitations? That’s perhaps the biggest question those in their respective war rooms will have to ask themselves about Avery Williams, but it’s really hard to envision that someone won’t be willing to take a flyer.
It will depend in large part on what kind of future they envision for themselves. In the above chart from Mockdraftable, Byron Murphy is probably the best-case scenario if Williams is able to stick as a defensive back, but the far more interesting possibilities lie in those willing to try him out as a flexible chess piece. After all, his number one overall comparable regardless of position is Louisville’s Tutu Atwell.
I think Avery Williams will end up as a Day 3 pick, probably in the seventh round.