When your Houston Texans selected University of Connecticut defensive end Trevardo Williams, I was excited.
Part of that was for purely selfish reasons, as I had mocked Williams to Houston in my second mock, my Rick Smith mock, and my last mock. His production and athleticism, which we will touch upon later, along with his projected draft round and Houston's need for a third outside linebacker, after the loss of Connor Barwin, made him a target in my eye. Clearly, I was on the same wavelength as Rick Smith.
Even if I hadn't gotten the Williams target correct, I would have been excited upon seeing his YouTube highlights.
Trevardo Williams vs NC State (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)
Trevardo Williams vs Louisville (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)
It should be noted that Williams was a defensive end at UConn but will be an outside linebacker in Houston. You'll see him predominantly with his hand down, but there are some snaps with him as an outside linebacker. Not too long into the first video, the second play I believe, you see Williams stand up. He engages the left tackle, sets the edge, sheds the offensive tackle, and assists in a tackle for a loss. You see it a few more times throughout, enough to see why Houston saw him as a strong-side outside linebacker.
Overall, you can see the quick burst off the snap, the strength to stand up to linemen, and the versatility to play strong- or weak-side, hand down or up. The total package is why I often ignored the biggest knock on Williams, his size. Even at his weight of 241 pounds, Trevardo Williams can set the edge due to his physical tools. He's got long arms, at 32.25", and was able to hit 30 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine. For a guy his size, that's seriously impressive. Combine that with 4.57 40-speed, again on display in both videos, and you'll see the athleticism that caught the eye of defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Williams still needs to develop more pass-rushing moves (Talk about déjà vu, I feel as if I've written that before). Both videos show that there were not a lot of counter moves from his bull rush or speed rush, despite the fact that he has the athletic ability to spin, rip, and change direction. Improving hand/arm use is a common criticism for most front-seven rookies. Moving to linebacker and helping in coverage, as he'll likely be asked to do at times, will require practice, but the athleticism should help him make that move. I would also like to see him build on his lower body strength to help anchor the outside and hold up during an entire game. Partnering with Sam Montgomery should help avoid both rookies from being overwhelmed in the position change, although, to be fair, Phillips' scheme isn't too complex for rookies to play in (see: Watt, J.J. and Reed, Brooks).
Even with room to improve, Williams was a force at UConn. He leaves Connecticut as its all-time leader with 30.5 sacks, including 11.5 in 2012 and 12.5 in 2011. Over the past two seasons, Williams also had 28.5 tackles for a loss. Even as an undersized end, the guy simply made plays in the backfield due to tremendous athletic abilities. It wasn't just piling up on inferior opponents; Williams, over the past two seasons, had 8.5 sacks on NFL-quality quarterbacks like Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, and Teddy Bridgewater.
The Texans selected a very productive player who has clear room to grow and hit another level. Williams will benefit from a NFL strength and conditioning program, he'll get plenty of time to develop pass-rushing moves, and he should get better with each snap at linebacker. Williams should split time at outside linebacker and have significant opportunities on special teams. Immediate impact, aside from the fact that Montgomery and Williams will allow Brooks Reed to move inside, will depend on how Williams responds, but there's no reason, after reading and watching him, to think that he doesn't have the potential to grow into a full-time starting strong-side linebacker. Overall, Williams was a very nice value pick for Houston now and, like many day three Houston rookies, could really bear fruit in a year.
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Battle Red Blog on the 2013 Houston Texans Rookies: Film Room: Breaking Down First Round Pick DeAndre Hopkins | Looking At New Texans Safety D.J. Swearinger | Scouting OT Brennan Williams | Collin Klein To Get A Shot At Quarterback | A Better Look At WR Alan Bonner | Looking At TE Ryan Griffin
From Around The Network: Shakin' The Southland (Clemson) on DeAndre Hopkins | Garnet & Black Attack (South Carolina) on D.J. Swearinger | Hustle Belt (Mid-American Conference a.k.a. #MACtion) on Chris Jones