One of the most unknown players from the 2016 Detroit Lions draft class is fifth-round selection, linebacker Antwione Williams. Williams played college ball in Georgia Southern, a former FCS school whose record has been 18-7 since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014.
Because of the nature of a small school team, there isn't a lot of information out there on Williams or where he'll fit in with the Detroit Lions. But with a little digging, an interesting prospect emerges.
Williams grew up in Atlanta, Georgia competing with his brother and sister in sports at a young age. He played football in high school and eventually was offered a scholarship for college, despite not showing up on Rivals' or ESPN's radar.
Choosing to play locally at Georgia Southern, Williams took his time getting accustomed to college football. He actually saw the field quite a bit early on, grabbing three starts in both his freshman and sophomore years. Things were lined up for him to take over a full-time starting role in 2013, but he suffered a torn tricep and sat out the season after being given a medical redshirt.
When he came back from the injury, he blew up the scene, receiving All-Sun Belt honorable mentions in his junior and senior years. Here's his stat breakdown from college:
Williams likely caught the eye of many scouts with his size. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, Williams is a physical beast. As pointed out by our own Kent Lee Platte, his physical measurements are all above-average for a linebacker, but his speed is where things get dicey.
Williams didn't measure out that well in the speed and agility category, recording 4.77 and 4.82 40-times at his pro day. Interestingly enough, in a Youtube video created by himself, he boasts a 4.5 40, but he may be a little biased.
Regardless of the true speed measurables, Williams has all the physical tools to be a legit NFL linebacker.
Unfortunately, there isn't a ton of film out there on Williams, having played at such a small school. Williams does, however, have two sets of highlight reels posted by himself on Youtube. Obviously a compilation of just highlights doesn't give us a full scope on his game, but some strengths and weaknesses do still stick out.
Williams is a relentless pursuer on the field. He absolutely never gives up on a play, and is constantly seen making a tackle from the backside of a play. The perfect example of this is on a play where he runs down a back 60 yards down field. Take a look. Here's where Williams starts the play:
Now watch the play in its entirety:
Williams chases this player 60 yards down the field and is able to make up ground despite being five yards back at one point. That's not only amazing hustle and determination, but that is serious in-game speed.
Another big positive from Williams' game is his tackling ability. Williams' big frame swallows up runner whole and doesn't let them free. On his game tape, you can see him consistently knock players backwards, stopping them in their tracks. But why take my word for it, let me show you (he's #37):
Although the measurables disagree, Williams' speed jumps out on tape. He's constantly running sideline-to-sideline, catching up on backside plays or pursuing backs to the sideline. And if you dare give him an opening, he'll shoot the gap with amazing quickness:
Williams hasn't shown an innate ability to defend the pass. In his four season at Georgia Southern, Williams only totaled 10 pass breakups and failed to intercept a pass.
Williams tends to give a little too much focus on the backfield and lose his sense of surroundings, leaving receivers open as he slowly drifts out of position.
But the biggest concern with Williams is his competition level in college. Sure Williams looks big and fast against Sun Belt competition, but whether he can keep it up against NFL offenses is yet to be seen. And it will be a huge step up to the big leagues.
Where he fits with Lions
Williams' size and game speed will be a valuable asset for the Lions' special teams unit right away. His relentless pursuit and big-hit potential could have him making a big impact early on.
In terms of linebacker potential, Williams is the kind of prospect with a high ceiling. He was an exciting player to watch in college, but it'll take time for him to adjust himself to higher competition, while also taking into account the prolific passing game of the NFL. It will take a lot of work, but I think Williams' professional career could take a path much like teammate DeAndre Levy. And with the Lions' linebacker depth being pretty thin, I think Williams will have his shot to go from small time school to big time NFL linebacker.
Learn more about Williams