A first-round talent who’ll be found on Day 3, Ole Miss EDGE Sam Williams would fill a need for the 49ers, but is he worth the off-field risk?
In just about every single NFL Draft class you look at, there are prospects who have the talent to be a first-round selection but just cannot get it together off the field and end up torpedoing their draft stock.
Teams are often wary about risking draft picks, even late ones, on such players. But the potential rewards are often just too tantalizing to pass up. Then the team either reaps the rewards or remembers why the player was taken off draft boards.
Devonte Wyatt is the biggest name to befall this in this draft class, with the potential first-round defensive tackle being taken off draft boards due to multiple domestic violence allegations that have simply frightened off teams. It takes only one team to decide it’s worth the risk, though, and in such a relatively weak class, it isn’t out of the question he’s still picked on Thursday night, but the odds are not in his favor.
But this article isn’t about Wyatt but about another defensive line prospect in Sam Williams, the EDGE from Ole Miss who has the talent but also an inability to stay out of his own way.
The case can be made for the San Francisco 49ers to take a home-run swing on Williams. The team needs to find a long-term EDGE across from Nick Bosa, and it doesn’t possess a pick until No. 61 overall, way at the back end of Round 2.
Given this, as well as the relatively weak class, it makes sense to risk a Day 3 pick for a boom-or-bust pick.
On the field, Williams is an exciting prospect who had a phenomenal season as one of the best EDGEs in college football. He’s a three-down player who can rush the passer or stuff the run equally well. Williams had 57 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks and forced four fumbles for Ole Miss this year.
Williams also impressed at the NFL Scouting Combine where the 6-foot-3, 261-pound prospect ran the 40-yard dash in a fast 4.46 seconds. The rest of his combine was good if not exceptional, but the Rebels product showed on the tape that he played with strength, so the speed was just one more tick on the scouting report.
So, where does the problem lie off the field?
Williams was indefinitely suspended from Ole Miss after being charged with sexual battery. The charges were dropped and eventually he returned to football, but dropped charges don’t necessarily resonate as innocence as far as teams are concerned. It’s still a major red flag.
Williams did stay out of trouble after returning, however, and his play has rehabilitated his draft stock somewhat. Teams are unlikely to spend a pick in the first days of the draft, however just in case, and he’s likely to go early on Day 3.
Picks like Williams are high risk, high reward. If the 49ers use a Day 3 pick on him and he flames out, does it really matter?
But if he pans out, it’s a steal? It’s worth the risk, and the 49ers could do a lot worse.