Together we have followed the processions of mock drafts, social media cut-ups, and PFF grades without any real attachment to reality. Tonight, all of that comes to an end. The decision makers demolish the posts and words scattered by the soothsayers across this imaginary landscape. Over the last few months, we have seen just about every tackle mocked to the Texans at #23: Greg Little, Cody Ford, Dalton Risner, Andre Dillard, and we have argued over the merits of each and every single one.
Yet despite all of this constant droning about tackles, I don’t want any of it. I’m expecting the big three tackles Dillard, Jonah Williams, and Jawaan Taylor to all be reassigned across the country by the time Houston goes on the clock at #23. I don’t see Ford, Risner, Little, or the rest of the tackles as a mid-20s first round selection. Instead, I want the Texans to go cornerback in the first round.
Houston’s cornerback room is a millennial’s refrigerator. There’s a Brita filter the size of an aquarium. Some coffee. A deflated bottle of yellow $.79 mustard from hot dog day. A withered avocado that wasted its youth. Old salsa, frozen, unable to rot in the back, a gift from a young happy couple.
Houston has Bradley Roby, a great CB3 and brain searing CB1, Johnathan Joseph, who will recognize short stuff and get beat deep until the world finally ends, Briean Boddy-Calhoun, a buy-low slot option, Aaron Colvin, who had one great season as an inconsequential piece on an all-time great pass defense and was injured last season, special teamer Johnson Bademosi, and names we’ll forget by September.
Not only is the talent shoddy, but the talent won’t remain and isn’t developing. This is an older, veteran group that will turn back over next offseason. Colvin and Bademosi are the only ones with a contract that extends past 2019, and as of today, it’s looking like Colvin won’t make it past this season.
The Texans’ pass rush consists of Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt. That’s it. They accounted for over half of the team’s sacks and quarterback hits in 2018 and slightly less than half of the team’s pressures. When these two aren’t getting there, the quarterback has forever and a day to throw the ball. The back end, as currently constructed, doesn’t have the ability to make up for plays when Watt and Clowney can’t bring it.
The 2019 schedule is demonic. This season, they face Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota/Ryan Tannehill (lol), Nick Foles, Derek Carr, Joe Flacco, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, Patrick Mahomes, Drew Brees, Lamar Jackson, and Jameis Winston. Even the previously crappy passing offenses have upside this season. Winston will be playing in Bruce Arians’ swashbuckling downfield throwing offense with monstrous receivers. Maybe Mariota will finally be healthy for an entire season; if he isn’t, Blaine Gabbert isn’t Plan B anymore. Carr has Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams, and may once again post decent protection. Jackson will play in an offense that’s had a year to develop for him, and he’ll be playing for San Francisco 2010’s heyday offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Additionally, Bill O’Brien still hasn’t shown the ability or desire to consistently let Deshaun Watson sling it. He wants to run the ball. He wants to win 23-17. Sure, there’s context here—Watson’s lungs the color of plums, offensive line woes thanks in part to cell phone kiosk mismanagement, and injuries depleting the wide receiver group. Yet even when things fall into place, the Texans’ offense is often the same inside run/inside run/3rd and 6 shotgun pass until the team falls behind and Houston has to throw downfield to keep up. The team still hasn’t fully been placed upon Watson’s back. The Texans’ defense is still vital.
And so, because of this, I want the Texans to draft Greedy Williams at Pick #23. I don’t want them to trade up or move down. I want them to stay right where they’re at and grab the cornerback from LSU.
Williams has the athleticism to run with any wide receiver at the next level. Well, any wide receiver until Tyreek Hill jams L1-R1-left down right up left down right up into the controller. Greedy maintains control of just about any route, but he can turn and run down the sideline with first round wide receivers like A.J. Brown and D.K. Metcalf.
In this clip, Williams is on the short side of the field. He wants to suffocate the receiver to the sideline and, with the ball on the left hash, keep him from running wild to the enormous open space to the left of him. He’s a searchlight on the inside shoulder. Once the receiver steps wide, he turns his hips to run with him. This movement is swift and fluid. From there Williams has the quickness to run laterally with the receiver as he sprints wide. Williams is ahead of him during the entire race and looks for the ball when the receiver does. The coverage keeps the receiver slow and leaves him unable to play the ball, which allows the safety to make the catch in the gap.
He’s liquid in and out of breaks, and his hips are elastic. He plays fade routes so well. He uses his 4.37 speed to limit deep catching receivers. This speed and quickness allows Williams to play aggressively, guess wrong, recover, and still play the ball. He can atone for his sins in the middle of the play.
Here the receiver really sells the outside move. His first three steps are low and explosive; he looks like he’s trying to play footsy. Williams bites wide and is forced to turn and chase when the play is infantile. Despite being on the outside shoulder of the receiver, he’s able to run back and get to the wide receiver’s inside shoulder.
Pay attention to how he plays the ball here. Williams is a New England Patriot. The throw is to the receiver’s outside shoulder and along the hash. Williams is on the inside shoulder. Williams limits the receiver’s vision with his right hand and is able to get into the receiver’s basket with his left hand. Cornerbacks are going to get beat sometimes, especially ones like Williams that will garner the toughest matchups. Their ability to recover and play the ball is integral to their success.
The ability to play the ball correctly in the air is one of Williams’ best skills. He understands the subtlety of hand placement and how violent hands in the correct spot can deride what should be an open catch.
That play is a rare instance. Typically all the stutters and jams don’t bother him. Like an offensive tackle, Greedy mirrors his opponent well and scratches his head at the exact moment when the receiver does the same. Like Lifetime, he’s one of Jersey’s best dancers.
Williams is a pure outside cornerback. That’s exactly what the Texans need. He doesn’t need to mix it up in the slot or run around the center of the field. He knows how to use the sideline to his advantage and plays fade routes as good as you can.
This is off-man coverage. Williams maintains control of the entire route, keeps inside placement, puts himself between the quarterback and the receiver, and takes the shove to move the offense back 15 yards.
Williams can play just about every coverage. He can play press-man, man, off-man and deeper zone coverage. This is man coverage against a post route. The receiver has to quickly eat the space between him and William and beat him out of his break at the top of his route. It’s first and ten. The route possibilities are endless. Regardless, Williams is in control of the route the entire time. He backpedals to the first down marker with the receiver still running straight ahead and then runs laterally with the receiver out of his break without conceding any ground. When the receiver breaks inside, Williams gives him the space to do so, sticks to his inside shoulder, and comes across him to defend the ball at its highest point.
The ability to turn and run is especially important in zone coverage like Cover Three or Cover Four, when the defensive back is turning and running laterally to cover the deep third or fourth part of the field. Williams has an understanding of zone coverage. He feels it well. There’s nothing worse than a secondary playing zone and being unable to pass receivers off to one another. Here, Williams ignores the decoy comeback and runs with the fade route. He recognizes the play right away and turns from the cornerback to the wide receiver. It’s just about impossible to beat him deep. Williams would be perfect playing Cover Three and Four in Houston, as Romeo Crennel often likes to do to protect his cornerbacks from ending up in flames.
It’s not all perfect. Williams isn’t the best at playing man or off-man, reading the receiver’s route and then breaking on the ball. He has the speed to close quickly. He just doesn’t recognize the route early enough at this stage of his life cycle.
Additionally, he isn’t the strongest player. He benched 225 only 8 times at his Pro Day. Still, he’s better at jamming the line of scrimmage than you’d expect him to. He uses his long arms well and understands hand placement. Williams just doesn’t have the strength to consistently kick the wheel and steer the boat off course.
The biggest knock on Greedy is his tackling ability. In a league that’s being filled up more and more with quick slants, read pass options, quick screens, and jet sweeps, it’s more important for a cornerback to tackle than ever before. Williams is a pick-a-side-and-throw-the-shoulder tackler.
Supposedly he had a stinger in his shoulder last season and spent his sophomore season already looking towards the NFL. There were reports last season was just about surviving for him, and sitting out LSU’s bowl game is an example of this.
He should still be a better tackler, though. He has the size to mash more than he does. He has to make plays like this. These are the type of runs NFL offenses are constantly trying to create as they spread the field out more and more to get their skill players in one-on-one situations at full speed. This is a nauseating tackle attempt. I’m upset.
Williams isn’t like Marcus Peters. Contact isn’t a disease for him. He doesn’t stand still while open receivers scream past him. He can come in, grab the leg, hold on, and yank, or run downhill and toss a shoulder.
Yes, the tackling can be atrocious. Who knows if this is just who Williams is as a player or the product of a string of conservative business decisions to ensure a future payday? Hopefully next level coaching and a guaranteed first round contract can correct this. The coverage is too good for the tackling to outweigh everything else here. Even if tackling is more important for cornerbacks nowadays, covering receivers remains the primary responsibility of the position.
I’m all in on Houston taking Williams in the first round. He’s the best coverage corner in this class. He has 4.37 speed. He can play a variety of different coverages. He has the athleticism to run with elite receivers along the sideline.
The Texans need cornerback play just as badly as they need tackle play. The key difference is the Texans can stand still and potentially select Williams instead of having to move up to bring in one of the big three tackles worthy of a first round pick.
Do it, Houston. Stay still and take Greedy Williams with Pick #23.