2018 Prospect Watch: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

Conner Williams, Texas Longhorns
Photo credits: ChatSports.com

Connor Williams led the underclassman rush to announce his early entrance into the 2018 NFL Draft. Now that the Longhorns’ left tackle will sit out in the team’s appearance in the Texas Bowl against Missouri, it’s time to evaluate the tape and see how the stud tackle profiles as a draft prospect.

At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, Williams was a beast in his 2016 season, which earned him an All-American selection as a true sophomore. He has proven long-term success and experience and won’t even turn 21-years-old until May. An early season knee injury kept Williams out of action for most of the season, but a solid end to the season and dominant campaign a year ago solidifies Williams’ first-round prediction.

While watching film on his 2016 games against Notre Dame and Iowa State, and his post-injury return against West Virginia this November, Williams consistently showed that he is tremendous with his feet. He keeps a steady base in pass protection and doesn’t lunge at pass rushers. Williams instead manages to keep his balance and effectively initiates contact with pass rushers with well-timed punches that engage the defender with Williams in control.

He doesn’t rely on his hands to stay on a defender, which renders swim and spin moves useless. Once he connects with a defender, Williams will not let him off. Players simply don’t get past Williams once engaged, and Williams stays on them until the whistle blows.

Quick to get to the second level, and aggressive once he arrives in Linebacker territory, Williams often manhandles linebackers as a run blocker. You’ll often see Williams pancaking a defender to the turf seven yards down field while a running back bursts into the open field. Williams looks natural in sealing edges to help backs break loose on the outside and plows holes for backs to slide up the middle. A small slight to his game is the occasional over pursuit, but a high football IQ and fantastic field vision help Williams recover from small mistakes.

The single issue with Williams is health. He suffered sprains to his MCL and PCL and a torn meniscus in September against USC. Williams opted against surgery on the ligament injuries to allow for a November return, and Williams sure boosted his draft stock with a dominant performance against West Virginia. Williams reminded us of the nastiness he can play with; just look at his treatment of this Mountaineer defender:

There’s not a noticeable deficiency in Williams’ game, and he’s a strong candidate to be the first offensive lineman off the board on draft night. He has the potential to lead an NFL offensive line. His combination of agility and size makes Williams an ideal fit as a left tackle in the NFL, and if the Colts select Williams, he will anchor the offensive line in Indianapolis for a long time.

The Colts have been long overdue to find a dominant left tackle. Lack of talent along the line has held a potentially high-powered offense back for years now. The position can change an entire NFL offense, just ask the Cincinnati Bengals who lost long-time left tackle Andrew Whitworth this past offseason and now rank dead last in the NFL in total yards.

Add in Andrew Luck’s recent injury history, and all signs indicate that Indianapolis could certainly use a cornerstone at left tackle to protect its franchise quarterback. If the Colts want to keep Luck on the field, the time is now to use a Top 10 pick on an offensive tackle. Williams certainly fills that need.

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