The New Orleans Saints used the 11th overall draft pick in 2017 to select cornerback Marshon Lattimore out of Ohio State. Lattimore was an immediate difference maker for the team's defense, locking down some of the league's best wideouts and winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award while earning a spot to the Pro Bowl. He struggled a bit to open the 2018 season though, as did the rest of the Saints secondary. The secondary improved as the season went along, and Lattimore continues to be one of the better cover corners in the league. He was joined at midseason by former Ohio State teammate Eli Apple, a fellow number one draft pick, via trade with the New York Giants. Apple provided a solid compliment to Lattimore at cornerback, particularly after a season ending injury to Patrick Robinson early in the year. All three players return this season, as will Ken Crawley, special teams standout Justin Hardee, and P.J. Williams. The Saints still struggled at times down the stretch against deeper receiving corps though. The New Orleans offense is armed with a big physical wideout in Michael Thomas, but the NFC South has a number of such targets like Mike Evans and Chris Godwin of Tampa Bay, along with Julio Jones of Atlanta. Today's draft profile highlights a player who could add another solid coverage piece to combat such players to a young but talented secondary.
Joejuan Williams, CB (Vanderbilt)
Williams had been an all-state selection at Father Ryan High School in Nashville, TN., staying in his hometown to attend Vanderbilt University. He saw action as a reserve defensive back in every game during his freshman year, and opened 2017 as a starting corner for the Commodores. He had 10 pass breakups and a forced fumble that year, along with 2.5 tackles for loss among his 39 total stops. Williams grabbed the attention of NFL scouts with an outstanding junior season in 2018 that ended with a spot on the All-SEC 2nd team. He showcased his ball skills with 4 interceptions, leading the S.E.C. with 13 passes defensed, and added 61 tackles with 2 for loss.
Williams participated in just two drills during Feburary's NFL Scouting Combine, turning in a 4.64 40-yd. dash and 17 bench press reps.
Trumaine Johnson (Jets)
Joejuan Williams has terrific size and length, even by NFL cornerback standards. He uses his size and combative nature well to win many contested throws. Williams has smothering coverage skills, causing many teams to throw away from him during his final year with Vanderbilt. He has an agile backpedal, and transitions smoothly in response to a receiver's break. He identifies plays well when in off-ball coverage, and has good enough speed and instincts respond quickly. Williams can capably pick up a coverage switch in multiple receiver sets seamlessly, showing good recognition of opposing offenses to prevent a wide open target. He has a perfect defensive back mentality: supremely confident in his ability and a short memory, enabling him to rebound immediately from a poor play.
Williams needs to use his size advantage and be more physical in press coverage. He lacks the foot speed to stay with faster receivers, and struggles in general against quicker wideouts. He's a bit of a long strider in down field coverage, and can get frozen on comeback routes. Williams is willing in run support and holds up well against edge blockers, but has poor technique as a tackler.
Joejuan Williams is projected to be a day two draft selection, with the length that NFL teams covet along with suitable athleticism and ball skills. He seems best suited for an outside boundary spot, but has shown the ability to take on bigger receivers in the slot. Williams is battle tested after playing the majority of the last two seasons against opponent's top wideouts in the S.E.C. He has the size and physicality to match up well against bigger receivers, and can be a long term standout if used correctly in the right defensive scheme to take full advantage of his skillset.