I got a lot of questions yesterday on why I didn't include two inside linebackers in particular in my evaluation process: Yawin Smallwood, and Avery Williamson.
We will start with Williamson, who is a particularly interesting prospect at this point. But does he fit what the Titans are looking for?
Avery Williamson had a productive career at UK, to say the least. With good size at 6-1, 240 lbs, the former Wildcat plays with a wide, stable base, and shows a quick eye in locating the ball. He was a productive tackler at the college level, with numerous double digit tackle games, and one 20-stop tilt vs Vanderbilt. Beyond this, he shows off the charts character and leadership skills.
Williamson also has experience making calls/adjustments at the line, and directing his teammates to their proper assignments when needed. He keeps a clean jersey when he can, rather than looking to engage blockers, and showcases agility and quickness in the box.
So whats' the downside? First off, Williamson is not a premier athlete. On tape, Williamson looks slow to the perimeter, and this limited range shows we he is asked to cover, something that will only escalate at the next level. Despite his smarts, he is too easily fooled by action, and will need to improve that aspect of his game.
The most troubling detractor is that Williamson sometimes struggles at times to disengage from blockers, and is not a thumping tackler, despite his production.
Upon Closer Inspection
But are these negatives what they really seem? Despite claims of average strength, Williamson still came in at 7th among linebackers in the class at the combine on the bench-press. And the speed concerns? I would say they are overblown too, following a faster than quick 4.66 40 yard dash at the combine. Williamson also showed well in the cones, backing up his relative quickness seen on tape.
So all in all, Williamson may be a minor liability in coverage, but I see no reason to stop him from functioning well on the inside 3-4 as a run stopper. He shows better measurables than former Wildcat teammates; Wesley Woodyard and Danny Travathan, who have achieved degrees of success thus far in the NFL.
Williamson opened a lot of eyes after his combine performance, and while that is sometimes a red flag, it is also the side affect from playing in a less-than-prestigious UK football program, where the limelight rarely shone.
Tennessee has a varied collection at linebacker as of right now, and we have already discussed the apparent hole at the heart of Horton's new-look Titans defense. Would Williamson be a fit there? I would say so. What weaknesses there are in his game can be coached, and while he is far from a "plug-and-play" linebacker at this point, he could be an intriguing option for the Titans in the 4th round. He would fit nicely between Zach Brown and Shaun Phillips on the interior. With Lou Spanos, the Titans linebacker coach, said only yesterday that the team is focusing on backers who can "do it all", Williamson could present an guy with a lot of upside with the potential to do just that.
In Ray Horton's new hybrid defensive scheme, Williamson's supposed limits in range would be minimized, with his nose for the ball highlighted. While he would likely need to stick on special teams to make the roster, I would be on board with Tennessee picking up a guy like Williamson.