Did the Giants find a cornerback who might be a useful player late in the draft?
The New york Giants used two of their six choices in the 2021 NFL Draft on the cornerback position. They traded up to select the talented Aaron Robinson out of UCF in the third round, and then doubled down at pick 201 (sixth round) and selected Oklahoma State’s Rodarius Williams. Both corners have significant experience playing press man coverage, which certainly insinuates that the Giants and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham would like to diversify their coverages in 2021.
Rodarius Williams is the older brother of 2019 second-round selection Greedy Williams. The elder sibling is a shade under 6-foot and 189 pounds. He’s on the older side of being a prospect and turns 25 at the start of the 2021 NFL season.
Williams possesses adequate overall testing athletic ability which is validated by his tape. However, he honestly looks much longer than his measurements here – for what that’s worth. Williams has played just under 3,000 snaps, mostly in Jim Knowles 4-2-5 and 3-2-6 defenses. Knowles was creative with his blitzing packages when in OKIE fronts. On the backend, he ran a lot of press man and Cover 2 match concepts, with some inverted cover 2 (corners taking deep half responsibility). His corners would also align in off-man match as well.
In 1,622 coverage snaps, Williams was targeted 212 times, surrendering 115 catches (54.2 percent) for 1,636 yards and 11 touchdowns. He only has 2 career interceptions, but 27 passes defended. He also excelled in 2020, giving up zero touchdowns in the Big-12 while knocking 6 passes away, and only allowing 10 catches for 148 yards. It was pretty obvious on tape that offenses weren’t targeting him .
Williams isn’t a lock to make the roster, but his special teams experience may help him steal the last spot for defensive backs. He has 277 special teams snaps to his name, albeit the majority of defensive backs are utilized on specials. I went through his tape to see what he could possibly bring to the Giants – let’s get into it!
Play(s) 1: Press at line
Williams is at the bottom of the screen here and the offensive formation assists him a bit with handling the receiver’s stem as receiver starts in play splits of at least 3 yards. However, I like how Williams understood his positioning and easily rode the receiver off the red-line while using the sideline as an extra defender. He aligns with inside leverage, giving the receiver one option and Williams handled him easily up the stem and through the transition. Once contact was made, Williams flips his hips and is in much better position to possibly make a play on the football than the receiver.
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Here, Williams is aligned with inside leverage with quarterback Brock Purdy (15) on the far hash. Williams is supposed to not get beat inside, but the receiver’s release gets him shading to the outside and gives him just enough space to maneuver back inside. There’s no panic with Williams here, which is great to see. He just transitions, gets his hips flipped, and rides the receiver up the seam while staying right in his hip pocket and allowing no separation.
Williams sees another inside release, but he’s in an outside shade. He shuffles his feet a bit until the route is declared and then he makes contact with the receiver with his outside arm. Williams seems to be anticipating a break back outside, so he transitions adequately (stumbles a bit out of the break), but stays right in the hip pocket of the receiver. He also transitions his hands well to feel the receiver; when he does this in a subtle manner, it’s fine – but he can tend to get a bit grabby as well. He had 13 career coverage penalties during his time at Oklahoma State.
Play(s) 2: Press passes defended
Williams is aware that he has help over the top on this play when starting in a press alignment, so giving some space in a trail type of technique isn’t terrible as the route wears on. However, Williams feet at the line of scrimmage are a bit wonky; the patience here is manipulated by the receiver firing his feet. Nevertheless, Williams is able to get his hips flipped, close the receiver’s space, whip his head around, locate the football, and play through the catch point.
Tulsa aligns in a STACK at the top of the screen and the receiver who is outside releases in that direction. There’s no manipulation, so Williams easily gets his hips in that direction and starts to work up field, closing the receiver’s space and putting pressure on him. I absolutely love how Williams whips his head around at the 20-yard line and knocks the ball away with great location ability and spatial awareness. Limit space, locate the football, make a play – great to see.
Here’s the end zone version of that play:
The receiver’s initial stem attacks inside and Williams shuffles in that direction until the receiver darts back outside. Williams makes contact as he turns and the receiver attempts a little push off to assist Williams vertically. To the credit of Williams, he gets his hips flipped and stays on top of the receiver while closing to the missed catch point and showing aggressiveness. The ball was uncatchable, but it was great to see the change of direction and instinct to get on top of the route and play through the receiver.
Play(s) 5: Big play potential
Towards the end of the Tulsa game that finished in a 16-7 victory for the Cowboys, the Golden Hurricane ran this play and expected to have an easy touchdown against this man defense. The receiver gets an easy catch in space with one man to beat — Williams — who had to travel across the formation right before the snap. The majority of the defense bit down on the play action, so it was up to Williams to make this huge stop. Williams is very aggressive and shows a lot of fight with his tackling – he didn’t miss a tackle in 2020. This tackle attempt is a bit high, but he gets the job done and brings the ball carrier down. Joe Judge and Dave Gettleman put a high priority on secondary members who are capable tacklers.
Here’s another important play near the goal line on third down against Baylor. Williams is at the top of the screen, closer to the end zone. This is an excellent feel for concepts – it’s a quick stick/slant out of a stack and Williams senses the slant cross his face. He grabs a bit, but puts himself in position to jump and undercut the slant route. He then finds the football and makes an easy catch to stop the Bears from scoring six.
Play(s) 4: Vision
Williams is at the bottom of the screen in off coverage; Iowa State attempts to run a clear out, three-level read, with a double move from the tight end. Oklahoma State is in a split safety look – good on Williams not to ride the initial vertical route too far; he sees the tight end breaking outside, so he reacts and shuffles outside to limit the tight ends space and not allow for a big play attempt. Purdy is forced to dump the football in the flat for a small gain.
The ball isn’t thrown in his direction, but watch closely at Williams eyes; he’s reading No. 2 and No. 3 – it’s what he’s coached to do, those are his assignments outside in the flat. Williams doesn’t bite on the No. 1 receiver’s vertical route because he’s aware of No. 24’s presence to take that responsibility; instead, he reads 3 to 2 and takes the outside assignment. These kind of pattern match/zone match concepts are common in the NFL, so it’s good to see Williams execute them well.
Play(s) 5: Tackling
As we saw earlier, Williams is no stranger to aggressive tackles. He’s in off coverage at the top of the screen and the backside outside run doesn’t go as planned for Iowa State. Seeing the play break down, Williams travels about 15 yards towards the line of scrimmage to stick the running back in space; he breaks down, comes to balance, goes low, and effectively trips the back to the ground.
Watch how Williams, who comes into the screen from the cornerback position (off coverage), stays square and doesn’t allow the back to easily juke him or make him miss – he stays patient and waits for the ball carrier to make a decision. Once he goes outside, Williams closes width and knocks the ball out of his hands. Unfortunately, it rolls out of bounds, but I loved to see the discipline and processing ability to not allow for an easy missed tackle, while also creating a potential turnover.
There’s been film through this article that shows him flipping his hips in a solid manner, but it’s typically when he’s engaged and has a hand on the receiver. Williams struggles a bit with sinking his hips in and out of tight breaks that are horizontal – lateral quickness isn’t great in this area. In the clip above, he attempts to make contact and put his weight on the receiver as he breaks inside. However, the receiver falls, and so does Williams as his momentum is going forward with this sloppy transition. This doesn’t happen all the time when he has to make tight turns, but the overall transitions can get sloppy at times and he does have a high center of gravity, while being high cut in his hips.
(top of screen)
Williams is at the top of the screen here and he kind of gets lackadaisical and allows the receiver to break back towards the sideline. He doesn’t maintain feel on the receiver and once he breaks back towards the sideline, it takes Williams a bit too long to stop his momentum and explode back towards the receiver. His start back up ability when his momentum is seized, in a transition, isn’t overly impressive.
(aligned on bottom of “S”)
Williams tends to get a bit grabby at times, especially when he’s in off coverage. He usually initiates contact when in press, but it’s not as egregious as catching receivers and physically altering their stems 7+ yards down the field. Williams seems to not trust his feet or overall athleticism in some of these situations which results in poor technique and potential pass interference calls. Plays like this will be a problem if he doesn’t clean up his feet and anticipation ability.
The Giants landed a solid depth piece who could contribute on special teams in the sixth round, with developmental upside. I love his tenaciousness and willingness to get dirty in the run game; he’s competitive, tough, and plays longer than he measured. He has a lot of experience in press man alignments which can be advantageous; however, he may have to use excellent technique (patience, footwork, decisiveness, etc.) at the line of scrimmage to mask his slight deficiency with his lateral quickness and agility.
Williams plays through the catch point very well and has a knack for getting his hands on the football. He really looked solid in 2020 and didn’t surrender a touchdown in the Big-12 while also not missing a tackle. The athletic ability isn’t elite, but he seems to be a quick processor who is physical. Williams isn’t a lock to crack the roster, but he has potential, especially with special teams and with the coverage concepts that we may see Patrick Graham run more often in 2021.