Niner Noise’s annual “Who Is?” series on 2017 San Francisco 49ers players takes a look at undrafted free-agent offensive lineman Darrell Williams Jr and his chances to make the roster this season.
The San Francisco 49ers didn’t use any of their picks in the 2017 NFL Draft to upgrade their offensive line, although the team did elect to take the undrafted free-agent route to add some bodies.
One of those was former Western Kentucky offensive lineman Darrell Williams Jr.
At 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, Williams has the chance to compete for a backup spot along the Niners O-line this upcoming season.
San Francisco 49ers
Williams brings a relatively impressive collegiate accolade to the table, being named to the All-Conference USA Second Team in 2016, after playing opposite fellow WKU left tackle Forrest Lamp.
Lamp was certainly the more heralded of the two lineman. But did the 49ers wind up grabbing a gem after the draft was complete?
Why He’ll Improve
Williams ran a respectable 5.24 40-yard time at his pro day, which isn’t bad for a player of his size.
Speed is important for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and this applies to the O-line just as much.
Shanahan will require his linemen to operate an outside zone-blocking scheme, which requires the ability to move in space.
If Williams can end up grasping this well enough, especially in support of the run, he might be a tool worth developing as a potential backup to incumbent right tackle, Trent Brown.
Why He’ll Regress
At 24 years old, Williams isn’t exactly a young prospect in the early stages of development. Some draft profiles and reports projected him to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick, so the fact he went undrafted speaks to how most of the NFL viewed him, developmentally.
Any lack of agility may require Williams to bump inside from tackle to guard, especially if he has trouble operating in more of a zone scheme.
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The Niners already have a plethora of players capable of playing the interior positions, so this doesn’t bode well for Williams’ chances to make the roster.
What to Expect in 2017
While Brown might not be the ideal fit for a zone-style offense, he’s still probably the best option San Francisco has at right tackle.
The Niners also added free-agent veteran Garry Gilliam this offseason to compete with Brown, and he might be a bigger favorite to secure a swing tackle position over a player like Williams.
Right now, Williams is probably little more than a long shot to make the 53-man roster. He could, perhaps, wind up winning a spot on the practice squad, as the Niners look to develop this promising-but-raw linemen into something useful for coming seasons.
But that’s probably the highest prognosis one can give Williams, even though San Francisco could use some help along its O-line this season.