As the Kansas City Chiefs prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft in Las Vegas from April 28-30, we’re taking a look at some of the players the team could be targeting with their 12 draft picks: Round 1 (29 and 30), Round 2 (50 and 62), Round 3 (94 and 103), Round 4 (121 and 135) and Round 7 (233, 243, 251 and 259).
The old saying throughout NFL circles — especially in the past 10 years with the evolution of the passing game — is that you can never have enough pass rushers.
At Arrowhead Pride, we embrace this mindset as we bring you yet another deep dive into one of the draft’s lesser-known and potentially underrated edge rushers — Ole Miss defensive end Sam Williams.
Before we examine the measurables and game tape, it should be known that part of the reason Sam Williams’ name isn’t brought up more nationally has to do with some off-field concerns of his past. His upbringing, by all accounts, was far from ideal, and he was expelled from the first high school he attended.
More troubling news came in the summer of 2020 when Williams was temporarily suspended from the Ole Miss football team after being arrested for felony-level sexual battery. The charges were soon dropped, and he returned to the team in September 2020.
Williams was a force as a junior college player for Northeast Mississippi before transferring to Ole Miss leading up to the 2019 season. That year, he started eight games and led the team with 6.0 sacks. In 2020, he logged a team-best 4.0 sacks in 6 starts. Closing out his collegiate career in 2021, Williams set a school record with 12.5 sacks and also forced four fumbles.
After turning 23-years-old on March 31, Williams qualifies as a bit of an older prospect. With a height of nearly 6 feet 4-inches and weighing 261 pounds, the build to adequately fit in as a base defensive end is already there. His arm length — 33 and one-eighth inches — is slightly below average. The explosiveness and foot speed is off the charts — Williams ran a 4.46-second 40-yard-dash with a 1.60-second 10-yard split, while also posting a 123-inch broad jump.
College film evaluation
In the games reviewed through all-22 format, Williams was typically seen aligned with both hands in the ground pre-snap. He also played a 4i-technique often — meaning his helmet was lined up across from the offensive tackle’s inside shoulder. Williams often was on the strong side of the offensive formation with tight ends and wing-backs to contend with on his outside shoulder.
The first thing that should get someone excited when watching Williams is how quickly it becomes apparent that he belongs on an NFL field. Simply put, he pops on tape. Some guys just move differently than others at the college level, and when you see it, you know those players will be playing on Sundays in the near future. That’s Williams.
Williams' foot speed testing was special at the combine. You see it translate to the field consistently. pic.twitter.com/LzaXWwmDEp— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
We already noted the 40-yard dash time that landed Williams in the 98th-percentile among defensive ends historically — and that’s one thing. Seeing it consistently transfer to his on-field play is another, and it does. He is able to leverage his athletic ability into several examples where the quarterback is forced to move off their spot. Standing in the pocket with Williams firing across the line of scrimmage would be a scary thought in general because passers know he can be in their face or on their back so suddenly.
Even though his opportunities to rush the passer from the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle were rarer than what would have been ideal in the games viewed, Williams displays the technical skill that provides hope he can become a nuanced, well-rounded gamer.
Long arm speed-to-power ✔️ pic.twitter.com/obizaM2RWq— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
The trait that stood out perhaps the most within his pass rush reps was his ability to counter and be relentless from the start of the play to the end. Trying to block a player as explosive as Williams is difficult enough as it is — then add on the fact that he can change up his rush plan and burst past linemen in a blink with alternate moves, and you have an ultimate stress test for offensive tackles.
Next up in the AP draft profile series - Ole Miss DE Sam Williams (#7).— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
Against a top-5 prospect here - what I like is rather than just running the arc and eating the L, he counters with the spin. Sometimes this is a sack/pressure, this particular play it's a TD. S/o Metchie pic.twitter.com/E5qttdr6gu
More counters (vs. the RT).— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
For a guy who didn't seem to have a lot of great opportunities to pin his ears back rushing the passer, has to be creative/relentless in how he impacts the pass game. pic.twitter.com/pkJQbiNr9J
Williams will need to add more power through his lower half and punch overall in order to reach his full potential. Really strong offensive linemen can sink their hips and handle his bull rush without much issue. However, that is easier to work on at the NFL level than ridiculous quickness and speed — which he already has.
Turning to rush defense — entering the review based on national conjecture, I expected to be more disappointed in Williams’ ability against the run. While there is a fair amount of room to develop in this area, one certainty is that he brings some qualities to the field that are very hard to find or improve upon.
Imperfect sure, but I'll say this about Sam Williams' run defense - some really nice raw traits and effort are there. (right end of screen) pic.twitter.com/zRqDJXk6fv— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
Lined up outside of LT ~ effort level and athleticism you can win with and rely on. pic.twitter.com/I6xCq3YBbH— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
Effort is a prerequisite to not just solid team run defense but also as individual players. Williams checks this box in a major way. The ability to be explosive with his punch and fire his hands into the right spots shows he is much more than just an athlete playing defensive end.
Even though seeing Williams do more work from a true edge alignment would have been great, he demonstrates some of the qualities that made him a nice fit in the positions the coaching staff at Ole Miss placed him. Not only is he quick in the vertical plane straight ahead, but he can also use that same dynamic athleticism horizontally to defeat blocks and make plays.
Williams spent so much time aligned in a 4i (on inside shoulder of #73/Neal) -- that is a really tough block to avoid altogether and not run yourself completely out of the play. pic.twitter.com/kcE23oI3s8— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
In wider-aligned situations, we see more of the rare traits that make it clear he is an NFL-caliber player:
QB Draw TFL from the edge? pic.twitter.com/wLl59YcIBZ— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
Short-yardage aligned outside of LT: again, the hands and explosion impress in a really tough spot. pic.twitter.com/LjeyqnktdZ— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
One area to hopefully see improvement with as he enters the league is again play strength. Players usually do become more powerful when they spend newfound time and resources on their overall health and sport performance off the field, so it is realistic to project that he will make positive strides. Even if it requires putting on additional weight, Williams has enough athleticism in his body to afford losing a slight amount if it means added power to his repertoire.
Where he has to be careful is not allowing himself to become undisciplined in terms of pad level and gap maintenance. pic.twitter.com/H80CLG8rk8— Bryan Stewart (@BryanStewart_) April 19, 2022
There are moments when Williams seems to be hesitant against the run, perhaps not processing the blocks in front of him quickly and therefore putting him in a difficult position right off the snap. These bigger issues are fixable within the right scheme, especially that knows what to ask of him on the field — it’s up to him to do the work necessary to close gaps.
How he fits with the Chiefs
We can see some of the reasons why Williams is such a strong fit to play the edge position in the modern era of football. The way offenses can put these players into conflict mentally and physically to slow them down means recovery speed is paramount. Otherwise, a good defensive end can go unblocked for several plays and still be largely ineffective because the ball carriers are already long past them. Also, his greatest strengths show themselves most in the passing game — where the most money is made during this current era of football.
The bottom line is Williams demonstrates ability on film that is worthy of being a top-50 draft choice. Based on information not privy to the general public regarding his personal history, that may not happen. Some teams may decide they aren’t going to entertain the idea of drafting him at all.
If the Chiefs are comfortable with the background checks and do select Williams — likely in the 3rd round — they will have secured a long-term starter at defensive end with a Pro Bowl caliber ceiling and the potential to become an elite-level pass rusher.