Sam Williams could solidify Broncos pass rush behind Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb

Sam Williams breaks through the line. Credit: Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports.
Sam Williams breaks through the line. Credit: Chuck Cook, USA TODAY Sports.

While the Broncos did add to their pass rush through free agency this offseason, improving upon one of the team’s biggest weaknesses, there is still plenty of concern about the team’s edge-rushing position heading into this year’s NFL Draft.  

Last season, general manager George Paton made one of the more bold moves in franchise history, trading away former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller in exchange for draft picks. Ultimately, this ammunition attained could’ve been the reason Paton felt so comfortable trading away a slew of picks for quarterback Russell Wilson, but there is no doubt the hole left at edge has been substantial. 

Much to Jerry Jones’ demise, the Broncos poached the exceptionally talented Randy Gregory from the Cowboys in an attempt to improve upon this position group, but the concerns do not stop there. 

The two starting edge rushers for the Broncos — Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb — both have a very scattered past as far as injuries and playing time is concerned. In fact, both players have only played a combined one full season in the NFL, leaving many concerned with the team’s depth. 

Behind them stand Malik Reed and Jonathon Cooper, who would leave much to be desired if asked to play in a starting role.  

Luckily for the Broncos, this year’s NFL Draft is fantastic at edge, potentially allowing the Broncos to strike gold, drafting and hitting on one of the league’s most valuable positions later in the draft than is usually possible. 

If the Broncos do go this route, there may not be a more talented player available than Ole Miss’ edge rusher Sam Williams. 

Positives

Standing at 6’4″ and weighing in at 261 pounds, Williams checks a lot of boxes when it comes to his physical makeup and athleticism. With the lengthy frame Williams possesses, his athleticism is all that much more impressive. In fact, after the testing, Williams scored a Relative Athletic Score (a metric used to measure an athlete’s overall athleticism using a composite of their pro day results) of a 9.53 out of 10.

In this testing, Williams ran an amazing 40-yard dash time of a 4.46 and it shows on the field. The first step of a pass rusher is often the most important aspect of getting after the quarterback and it’s something Williams excels in. This speed is also shown in pursuit where Williams is often able to chase down ball carriers, ultimately making plays others at his position simply can’t make.

Another aspect of Williams’ game is just how powerful he can be. While showing solid effort and potential in the run, this really shows up when rushing the passer. Often, tackles are so scared of his speed, Williams can win by converting speed to power, pushing the opposing lineman into the quarterback’s lap.

Williams can also win inside, first by setting his tackle up with his elite athleticism.

All in all, his elite physical makeup is his biggest draw. The edge position is one that heavily relies on size, speed, and overall athleticism and there is no doubt that Williams thrives in all of those areas.

Concerns

While Williams is most definitely an intriguing prospect, he has his flaws.

The Mississippi standout’s straight-line speed is evident on film but his ability to redirect and bend isn’t a strong suit of his. Simply put, Williams is a massive and very fast athlete. Ripping downfield like a freight train, stopping on a dime, then redirecting can be a struggle. Being the great athlete he is, college-level tackles often could not match up but at the NFL level this is something to keep an eye on as the tackles in the NFL are not as athletically challenged.

Williams had a fantastic year this past season racking up 15 tackles for a loss and 12.5 sacks but in years in the past, he looked like a a different player, making him a one-year wonder in some sense. Specifically, Williams’ motor did not run nearly as hot, his run defense was suspect, and his overall football IQ was questionable. While some may say this is a positive pointing to his growth, it would have done wonders for his draft stock to string multiple good seasons together.

By far the largest of all concerns, Williams was arrested in July of 2020 for an alleged sexual assault and was effectively suspended from the team. The charges were later dropped and Williams was reinstated but draft picks aren’t just spent on players but on people. Every draft pick spent is an investment in the person so any team looking to draft Williams must do a ton of research and feel comfortable with Williams’ personality and actions.

For many teams, this allegation may take him completely off their board, making him undraftable.

Conclusion

As a player, Williams excels in enough areas to make him a more than intriguing developmental edge prospect that could serve as a reserve to Chubb and Gregory in year one of his career. His mix of athleticism and skill shown through his 2021 film puts his ceiling through the roof but none of that matters if the person does not check out. Williams’ allegations are very serious and should not be taken lightly. Unless the Broncos have done an extraordinary amount of homework, making themselves feel comfortable with adding this personality to their locker room, I would not select Williams with any of their top draft picks.

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