Texas' Connor Williams declares for 2018 NFL Draft: Profile, ranking, NFL fits

Now that Connor Williams, Texas' stud left tackle, has announced his decision to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft -- and not play in the Longhorns' bowl game -- it's time to focus on his profile as an prospect. 

The 6-foot-5, 320-pounder experienced a tremendously clean season a year ago en route to an All-American selection as a true sophomore. He's only 20 years old -- and won't be 21 until May. 

Williams is the first of what will be an avalanche of early-entry declarations, and almost assuredly not the only star who decides to sit out his team's bowl game. 

Where he ranks

Based on his 2016 film, I had Williams as the No. 16 overall prospect in the 2018 class before this season. He was a brick wall in pass protection -- Pro Football Focus counted just four quarterback pressures allowed (one sack, three hurries) on 956 snaps -- and he consistently mauled Big 12 defensive linemen. His blend of balance, power, and technique were special.

So why is he only at No. 27 on my board right now? In 2017, I didn't see the same effortless dominance from Williams, and he got hurt against USC which came after a mediocre showing to begin the season against Maryland.

You can get my full prospect rankings throughout draft season here.


His strength and weaknesses

Williams has world-class feet for an offensive lineman. Because of that, he's rarely out of position, which is the foundation to a blocker maintaining his equilibrium and keeping a centered base. Williams doesn't lunge, and his punch is almost always perfectly timed so defensive linemen can't get into his frame. His feet also help him in the run game, as he's relatively quick to fire to the second level and usually finds linebackers and puts them to the turf. In pass pro, Williams' strong lower half is apparent too. He boasts an ultra-heavy anchor. 

At times -- and I'm talking a one or two times per game against a skill rusher -- Williams will get beat around the edge by a counter move. In those instances, it seems like he's surprised the defender was able to get out of his grasp to execute a secondary move. Because he plays with a noticeable mean streak, he can get a little overzealous when approaching a linebacker beyond the line of scrimmage. In reality though, it's difficult to find a clear-cut hole in Williams' game. 

What's left to prove?

His health. Williams injured his MCL and PCL against the Trojans on September 16 and though he returned in a big way with an excellent game against West Virginia, he had his worst game of his collegiate career the following week against Texas Tech. Teams will be justified wondering if Williams wasn't 100 percent before his injury and if he's close to being fully healthy come draft time. In all likelihood, he'll be fine for the start of the 2018 NFL season, yet for a team to invest a early-to-mid first-round selection on Williams, they'll want all the medicals to check out. 

Possible early-round NFL fits

Browns, 49ers, Giants, Chargers, Bengals, Cardinals

Fortunately for Williams, the teams currently holding the top three picks could undoubtedly use a franchise left tackle. Well, Joe Staley is still holding down the fort on the left side for San Francisco, but he's entering his mid-30s. The same goes for Joe Thomas in Cleveland. Ereck Flowers has improved recently for New York. He's probably not the answer though. Beyond that trio of teams, the Chargers and Bengals are likely to be the left tackle market this upcoming offseason. Cincinnati's offense hasn't been the same without Andrew Whitworth. Lastly, Arizona has one of the most trying offensive tackle situations in football, and with Bruce Arians' love of the deep ball, reliable offensive tackles are even more vital for the Cardinals than they are for other teams.

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