Perhaps one of the most surprising statistics in football is that 30% of active NFL rosters are made up of undrafted players, the Miami Dolphins of which are no strangers.
Nik Needham, Albert Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Adam Butler, Jesse Davis, Malcolm Brown, Justin Coleman, Robert Foster and Allen Hurns are some notable names on this roster, all of which went undrafted in their respective classes.
The next undrafted player hoping to make his mark on the league is former Syracuse defensive back Trill Williams. Having been cut by the Saints following a failed physical (a mere six days after signing), Chris Grier swooped in claiming him off waivers and in doing so acquired one of the most sought after undrafted free agents in the 2021 class.
“One of the best UDFA in the class- the Dolphins pounced and in doing so brought in a legitimate developmental project who has starting level upside at corner or safety, but needs a position and polish”NBC Sports Thor Nystrom on Trill Williams
Williams was underrated coming out of high school due to questions about his measurables, and ever since then has played like an underdog with aggression and explosiveness. During his career at Syracuse, he played 28 games, starting 15 resulting in: 93 tackles, 3 forced fumbles, 4 interceptions, 10 pass breakups and 3 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Williams, his junior year in 2020 was plagued by injury.
Having sprained his ankle early on in the season, his efforts in attempting to play through the pain ultimately meant further injury ensued, as his injury began to affect his hamstring, forcing him to miss the remainder of the season. After the 2019 season, Williams was regarded as the second best DB at Syracuse behind Ifeatu Melifonwu, while ahead of Andre Cisco who went 65th overall to Jacksonville; Williams was himself projected to go in Rounds 2/3 prior to his injury, making him one of the potential steals in this years draft.
It is clear that Williams has a lot of upside and versatility, he is able to line up in the slot, on the outside, at safety, and can play both zone and man coverage.
He is a long rangy, physical and explosive player. In essence he is the epitome of a Brian Flores kind of player. He has a clear talent for creating turnovers, his ball skills best explained by the fact that Williams played both receiver and corner at high school.
Pro Football Focus graded Williams as the 5th best defender with Syracuse with a grade of 74.9, while he was also the second best player in coverage with a grade of 78.7. However, while Williams’ aggressive play style may be one of his greatest strengths, at times it can be one of his biggest drawbacks, as there have been instances where he has been known to over-commit to a tackle, leaving him out of position.
Nevertheless, such issues are easily coachable, whereas the ability to create turnovers which he possesses may not be.
“Trill Williams was a steady presence in the Syracuse secondary since 2018 where he spent time at wide corner, slot corner, and at safety. While he is versatile and has appeal in any role, I like him best at wide corner. Williams is long, rangy, athletic, physical, and aggressive. His physical skill set is exceptional and he doesn’t have any restrictions. He is springy and explosive, capable of thriving in both man and zone coverage. With that said, he does have room to grow when it comes to anticipatory skills and there were some instances where he didn’t get his head around to the football with his back to the line of scrimmage.
He had three return touchdowns in his three seasons in college and has a knack for coming up with big plays. For a team looking for a versatile defensive back that can be a matchup-neutralizer, Williams has the physical gifts to do that.“Joe Marino- The Draft Network
Williams is by no means an automatic starter in the secondary, nor is he the heir apparent to Xavien Howard, should relations deteriorate further. Instead at this time he is an outsider to even make the final 53 man roster considering the strength and depth at the position, with his main competition being that of Jamal Perry. Williams will be a strong developmental player with a lot of upside, playing alongside some of the best in their craft in the Dolphins backfield.
Comparisons can easily be made with Nik Needham, a promising young defensive back who flew under the radar during the draft, didn’t quite make the 53 man roster after camp, but then started 11 games in his rookie season.
Needham has since become a solid contributor to this defense with 4 INT throughout his first 2 seasons. Williams has already been quick off the mark in Miami, in fact in his first day with the team he intercepted Tua Tagovailoa, along with a couple of pass breakups, standing out in an otherwise talented positional group. He is a physical, scrappy player with the right mindset to fight on every play to make it in the league and has certainly gotten off to a fast start in South Florida.
So what can the Dolphins can expect from Trill?
“Hes a special kid, and I’ve never seen anybody outwork him. He’s different, he makes difference making plays. I’m so proud of this young man. Now we watch the show.”Tre Williams, Trill’s father
While Williams may not be NFL ready Week 1 against the Patriots, his mental fortitude, versatility and aggressive play style make him the ideal student for Flores, Boyer, and Alexander to develop and refine his skills as a solid player in the NFL. Dolphins fans should be very excited to watch the development of this young man.
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