In our Lottery Tickets series, we break down the lesser-known players who have a chance to make the Kansas City Chiefs’ Week 1 roster. Leading up to training camp, we’ll be profiling the intriguing undrafted free agents and reserve/future contract players who show the potential to stick in the NFL.
Why is is it called Lottery Tickets? The players we discuss are high-upside players that haven’t significantly affected the Chiefs bottom line — but their returns could be substantial.
Under general manager Brett Veach’s leadership, the Chiefs have mostly avoided spending significant assets on the interior of their offensive line. He did inherit Laurent Duvernay-Tardif’s substantial contract — but beyond that, Veach has sought to fill roles with low-cost flyers like Austin Reiter and Andrew Wylie.
True to form, the Chiefs didn’t spend a draft selection on an interior offensive lineman in April. But they did invest in a lottery ticket: undrafted free agent center Darryl Williams of Mississippi State — a battle-tested SEC lineman and Bulldogs team leader.
Williams certainly checked some boxes from a leadership and football character standpoint, but what does he show on tape? What are the things the Chiefs will need to see in order to feel comfortable keeping him on the 53 man roster?
Whether it’s in their outside zone-heavy offense or in the screen game, the Chiefs like to get their lineman moving.
Darryl Williams (#73) has enough functional athleticism to operate in the Chiefs' run game. pic.twitter.com/5dhrzXcGTP— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) May 15, 2020
Williams didn’t test particularly well at the NFL Combine, but his tape shows more functional movement skills. He was asked to reach some difficult techniques by defensive lineman — and was capable doing it, showing some ability in working up to the second level. He’ll need to show a little more control and balance in space, but he displays enough movement skill to develop.
Williams is a quality operator with both guards. He does a great job working combo blocks and getting off them to work to the second level. He communicates well with his fellow linemen — and he needs to do it, because he is at his best while working in tandem with his guards, sometimes needing them when he’s up against power players. He rewards their help by looking for work in pass protection.
Chiefs UDFA OL Darryl Williams (#73) looking for and finding work. Also pancaking a DL trying to jump to contest a pass. pic.twitter.com/RcIC8XohBk— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) May 15, 2020
I think there are times where Williams make some mental errors in protection calls — but he is very active when he’s uncovered. Pass protection isn’t passive — and Williams is proof of that. There are several clips like this one where he’s getting a good hit on a defensive lineman in protection, but it’s also true that they sometimes get the best of him.
If Darryl Williams (#73) is going to stick on the Chiefs' roster he's going to need to handle power better than he did at Mississippi State. He needs to be more consistent with his lower half to help him play with more balance. pic.twitter.com/hDH6u3WZvQ— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) May 15, 2020
Williams’ biggest issue is power players. He needs a lot of technical improvement to handle bull rushes and players trying to go through him rather than laterally.
It starts with his base. He needs to be less upright and needs to sink his hips against power. His feet are inconsistent, so that will also need to improve. Sometimes he’s stagnant, gets caught with a wide (or narrow) base or on his heels. These lower-body issues impact his balance significantly. If he can improve his lower half, that will help fix a lot of what ails him.
If he can, he could look something like this:
NT tries an arm over and Darryl Williams stops it. Good hand placement, leverage and base to win the rep. He needs to do this more consistently at the next level. pic.twitter.com/nc0Z2WoBDy— Kent Swanson (@kent_swanson) May 15, 2020
On this play, the nose tackle tries an arm-over — but Williams is quick off the snap to beat it. He gets good initial hand placement — and a good initial punch that’s tied to his base. He’s able to hold strong through the play, which leads to a touchdown run.
This is a really nice snap that clearly shows Williams is capable of improving his lower half. He just needs to be more consistent.
The bottom line
In the KC Draft Guide, we had Williams as a draftable player. The Chiefs gave him $107,000 guaranteed to join them — a significant investment for an undrafted free agent.
If he cleans up some of his issues, he’s got the football character, effort and physicality that could help him stick in the league. By working on his footwork and base, he could improve significantly, forcing the Chiefs to keep him on the active roster.
It won’t be easy. Due to the lack of a physical offseason program, the odds are more stacked against Williams and the other undrafted free agents; it will be a challenge for them to pick up the mental aspects of the NFL. But if Williams can do it, he’s got a chance.
In addition, the Chiefs are invested in him. Early on, Williams might be simply a practice squad player — but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the roster on Week 1 — or at some point in the regular season.
The Chiefs are going to need help on their interior offensive line — especially in 2021 and beyond. If the Chiefs can develop him low-cost options like Williams, they could pay off big — and in that way, he’s about as good of a Lottery Ticket offensive lineman as you’re going to find.