After Xavier Rhodes left Tallahassee to pursue a career in the NFL, the Seminoles sought another shutdown corner to take his place. Former 4-star recruit P.J. Williams from Ocala, FL. answered the call emphatically as a sophomore and capped off his ascension intercepting Nick Marshall in the 2014 BCS National Championship game.
The buzz surrounding Williams as a playmaking CB carried over to his junior season. However, he finished with only one interception while churning out 74 total tackles -- including 14 in FSU's semifinal loss to Oregon.
The junior decided to take his talents to the next level in 2015 by declaring for the draft as one of the top-rated corners. At the Combine, Williams topped out at some drills while failing to impress in others. Posting a 4.57 40-yard dash time, compared to faster results from other potential first round CB prospects, showed scouts the lack of burst. However, the former Seminole once again performed admirably when he needed to.
After nailing both the broad jump and vertical jump at the Combine, Williams topped his previous results in both drills at 11'3" in the broad jump and 41 inches in the vertical jump per Sporting News. The corner conquered the 40-yard dash with an unofficial 4.4 flat time. Even if it wasn't verified, the desire Williams exhibited at the event was clearly apparent. The kid wanted it:
"I definitely feel I did a good job," Williams told Sporting News following his breakthrough performance. "When I saw everyone else doing it (vertical and broad jump), I said I might as well. I really improved. I was feeling it today."
An uncoachable trait, desire is just one facet that Williams brings as one of the top CB prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Like watching Richard Sherman and other in-your-face physical corners? If so, Williams is your kind of prospect. Excelling in press coverage against college wide receivers, his use of strength and hands allowed the corner to disrupt opposing receivers in their routes.
The physicality Williams constantly displays doesn't just occur in press coverage. The 6'0, 194-pound cornerback attacks the ball in the air utilizing his frame to outwork his man for the ball. In space, Williams punishes ball carriers flying to either their torso or legs to initiate brutal impact.
I really like FSU CB P.J. Williams. Smooth movement skills, great awareness and very physical in run game.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 14, 2015
An instinctual cornerback, Williams diagnoses plays and blows up gadget passes while bringing down the receiver behind the line of scrimmage. He consistently jumps routes to break up passes and brings a high football IQ to the next level.
Another plus Williams offers is the ability to slot into the number one CB role. A plethora of teams currently lack a lockdown corner to match up with the opposition's go-to receiver. Williams can easily progress his way to that assignment, as CB is arguably the hardest position to adjust to at the next level.
There's no denying P.J. Williams' ability to handle competition on the field. It's mortgaging his future off the field that has scouts and GMs hesitant to take a chance in the first round on him. As the charges pile up on Williams, the less cash he sees come his way.The glamorous appeal he brings as an impact CB disintegrates when breaking down the 21 year old's history off the field.
The troubling behavior initially came into focus back in November when Williams was involved with a hit-and-run in Tallahassee driving with teammate Ronald Darby. The punishment later issued was just two traffic tickets as opposed to the initial crime. The questionable decision making by Williams continued at an inopportune time for the junior looking to boost his draft stock in the offseason.
After being charged with a DUI on April 3, NFL personnel and media focused more-so on the arrest as Williams' stunning performance at FSU's Pro Day became an afterthought.
Former Florida State corner P.J. Williams arrested for DUI #Noles #FSU #NFLDraft http://t.co/QIT8hNYfeu pic.twitter.com/f0FLOD8Er1— Bud Elliott (@TomahawkNation) April 3, 2015
On the field, there are a few facets of Williams' game that need tweaking. Bucky Brooks of nfl.com questioned how Williams would do as a zone corner instead of a presser in coverage due to his weak 40-yard dash time and hip rotation.
Both Williams and Marcus Peters are two of the most talented cornerbacks in a strong class for the 2015 NFL Draft. In similar situations, their decisions off the field could result in a slip in the first round or until day two. Williams offers tremendous value wherever he lands and who he falls to.
The physical corner is the rage currently in the NFL and the FSU product will bring the recklessness to the next level. Williams is reminiscent of Calvin Pryor who was a first round pick of the Jets. His style of play also could warrant a look at safety where Williams would be free to roam and initiate contact. A position change for Williams draws added appeal as a safety candidate in a watered down class at the position.
As with most cases of volatile prospects, the risk Williams carries with him could make his talent obsolete if he fails to stay on the field. For the former FSU playmaker, his desire to remain and thrive in the NFL will determine the potential promising career in store for Williams.