By: Kayla Mortellaro
April 29, 2016
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals made only one selection on day two of the 2016 NFL Draft.
The Redbirds provided their second round pick (61st overall) to the Patriots, along with guard Jonathan Cooper, in the trade for Chandler Jones; leaving the team with just a third round selection (92nd overall).
But the team didn’t mind having just one selection on day two.
“We’ve probably never been so excited about a second round pick – a Pro Bowler with 12.5 sacks,” GM Steve Keim said in reference to Jones’ productivity last season with the Patriots. “That started the day off with a bang.”
With the 92nd selection, the team picked cornerback Brandon Williams from Texas A&M. Williams, who stands 6-feet tall and 200 pounds, is very raw at the position. Williams is a converted running back to cornerback- only playing on the defensive side of the ball for one season in College Station, Texas.
“I think that the thing he does best is play press man-to-man,” head coach Bruce Arians said Friday night. “But he’s going to be an immediate impact player on special teams; one of the best special teams players in the country.”
Williams ran a 4.37 at the NFL Combine, providing speed and youth, the two areas the Cardinals have been needing on defense and special teams.
Arians is not too concerned about the learning curve at the professional level; citing it as just like any other rookie in the league.
“He’s already been through a little bit of it, but everybody that steps out of that draft onto an NFL field has a big learning curve,” Arians said. “The one thing he can do, he can cover kicks. We know that, and he can play press man-to-man. The rest of it just like any other rookie; he’s going to learn.”
Last season, the Cardinals gave up 1,191 yards on kickoffs, an average of 24.3 yards per kick off return. And the team gave up an average of 11.8 yards per punt return with a long of 66 yards.
Whatever the assignment the coaching staff gives to Williams, he’s ready for the challenge, and that includes being an effective special teams player.
“To me, whether it’s special teams, playing defense or playing offense, football is football,” Williams said via conference call Friday night. “I love to do it. They ask me to do those things, and whatever they ask me to do, I’m going to make sure I do 100 percent.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Cardinals have one lock-down corner in Patrick Peterson. The other side of the ball has been a bit of a rotation of players, including special teams ace Justin Bethel. When asked if Bethel and Williams will be competing against one another in camp for that cornerback spot, Arians said, “He’ll be competing with everybody, yeah.”
Williams was a highly recruited running back out of high school and even played one season at Oklahoma from the back field before transferring to Texas A&M, where he was a part of a stable of rushers. His senior season he was given the opportunity to switch to defense and be a full-time starter. Converting to the position was a challenge for Williams, but he had one of the best defensive backs coaches in the country helping him learn. John Chavis, former LSU coach and former coach of Tyrann Matheiu and Peterson guided Williams in his effort to learn the new position and the side of the ball he had never played before in his football career.
“It was super hard, learning the technique and whatnot of it,” Williams said. “It’s still hard. I’m still learning.”
But his confidence is high that he won’t have any issues transitioning to the NFL level.
“I’m not concerned at all, because I know how much work I’m going to put into it,” he said. “I know I’m willing to do things that most dudes are not willing to do, and I’m ready and willing to do that.”
On the upside, Arians believes his raw talent is a positive thing that will allow Kevin Ross, defensive backs coach, to teach him the right way and won’t have to spend time correcting bad habits.
Once again, a major theme is playing out with the Cardinals draft picks- their love for the game of football.
“The one thing that excited us, aside from his physical tools, was the passion and the love that he has for the game.” Keim said.
Cardinals have the 128th overall pick (round 4), 167th overall pick (round 5), 170th overall pick (round 5, compensatory pick), and 205th overall pick (round 6).