There have been several sources indicating the Denver Broncos should draft inside linebacker Avery Williamson. It is easy to understand why. The Broncos need to fill a huge hole at the middle linebacker position. At 6-foot-1 and 246 pounds, Williamson has the necessary size for the position. He also ran a 4.66 forty yard dash leading analysts and fans to opine that he has enough speed for pass coverage in today’s NFL. He made a lot of tackles at Kentucky. He is projected as a late round draft choice and since the Broncos have found two other productive Kentucky linebackers that fell during draft day (Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan) thoughts are he may be a potential steal. Will Williamson make it three for three from Kentucky for the Broncos?
After watching some game tapes here is my assessment of Williamson.
Pass coverage: Williamson reads pass plays quickly and drops into coverage with no hesitation. However, he did not make many plays on the ball. His coverage skills need work. He possesses good closing speed when the ball is in the air. He needs that speed because he was usually too far off the receiver. He had no passes defended and zero interceptions in 2013. He would not be able to step in and start covering athletic tight ends or running backs in the NFL without solid coaching and technique work.
Blitzing: He does not have good pass rushing skills. Williamson blitzed hard and at full speed, but a lineman usually picked him up. He will need more pass rush moves and better timing to be effective on blitzes. He had one sack in 2013.
Run defense: This is where he should excel based on his size, strength and speed. However, I did not see the instincts necessary in defending the run. He looks slow to react on run plays allowing lineman to reach him at the second level. He doesn’t take on those blockers with physicality. He sheds blocks decently, but his lack of instincts puts him behind. He makes a lot of tackles five yards past the line of scrimmage.
In the games I watched, I saw him make only one play at or behind the line of scrimmage against the run. The hole opened in the line right in front of him and a lineman missed his assignment, as Williamson was unobstructed to step in and fill the lane. It was a very easy read and a linebacker would have to be blind to miss it. He stepped into the hole and made a solid tackle on the running back.
In the NFL he will get blocked much easier than in college as most guards and centers can move to the second level. When he guesses he is almost always out of position to make a play. Even though he possesses decent straight-line speed I did not see great sideline-to-sideline range.
Tackling: He shows solid tackling skills, but not a big hitter. He is not very physical and doesn’t run through tackles. He is credited as having four tackles for a loss in 2013, but only three were solo and another was a sack double counted as a TFL.
Williamson only made three plays behind the line of scrimmage last year. He had zero interceptions, zero defended passes and no forced fumbles. He made no impact plays in 2013. Williamson is not instinctive enough to be a starting middle linebacker in a 4-3 defense in the NFL. He could be a solid special teams player. The Broncos need to look at other prospects.