With the Buffalo Bills expected to draft either a quarterback or a pass rusher when they went on the clock early in the second round of the NFL draft late last month, more than a few heads turned when general manager Buddy Nix instead selected cornerback Aaron Williams from Texas.
In reality, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Nix is wholeheartedly known for staying true to his draft board and like many NFL analysts coming in, had a first-round grade on him. Nix liked Williams to the point he paid little attention to at least three or four offers from teams looking to move into Buffalo’s spot with the 34th overall pick.
Clearly, Nix had no interest in passing up Williams.
“Aaron Williams, everything goes in cycles in football and it’s gotten now to where you’ve got big receivers and you need big corners, and they’re hard to find,” Nix said in a press conference following the draft. “This guy is talented. He’s really a good athlete and he’s got some versatility. He can play corner, obviously, he can play in the slot in the nickel, and we think he can play safety.”
Following his selection, Williams made it quite clear he’s willing and even eager to play wherever the coaching staff deems him as the best fit.
“The only way I’m going to fit in is where coach wants me to fit in,” Williams said. ” I haven’t really talked to him about physically what position I’m going to be at, but I’m going to go into minicamp and just play hard.”
Nix recently said that Williams will begin his Buffalo career as a corner in the slot in the nickel defense. Leodis McKelvin is likely to start at one cornerback spot, with either Terrence McGee or Drayton Florence, who’s a free agent manning the other side. If Florence returns it could spell the end of McGee’s Buffalo career. Veteran Reggie Corner will also be in the mix.
Regardless of who’s surrounding him in the secondary, Williams knows the biggest key to his success at the NFL level will come down to his ability to finish plays. Williams only had four interceptions over his last three seasons at the University of Texas; including two sesaons as a full-time starter.
Williams is quick to blame himself, not a lack of passes thrown his way in college for the lack of interceptions.
“I think it was me not finishing plays,” he said. “And that’s the one thing I’m going to work on this year in Buffalo. I’m going to go in there with a goal of finishing plays, getting more efficient and having more turnovers.”
While Chan Gailey and his staff would like to see big plays from Williams, he was drafted high because of his ability to be physical and offer support in the running game. The Bills were dead last in the NFL against the run last season and Williams can help remedy that immediately. He’s regarded as being so strong against the run that ESPN’s Mel Kiper said following the draft that Williams is the best run support cornerback he’s graded in the past five years.
“I definitely take pride (in his physical game) because I just don’t want to be a corner out there just trying to cover,” he said. ” I want to be an all overall great player, not just a player good at one aspect of the game. I want to be an overall player. Being able to cover is an upside to my game.”
Williams earned a reputation around the nation while at Texas in 2009 as being the guy who prematurely ended Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford’s season. Bradford, who later became the 2010 top overall pick of the St. Louis Rams, had his shoulder separated on a blitz by Williams.
“It was just a blitz,” he said. ”He play-faked it, his back was behind me and I had a clean shot. I just told myself it doesn’t have to be a kill shot, just make sure you get him down. I didn’t hit him very hard. When he landed on the ground he fell awkwardly on his shoulder and that knocked him out.”
Much like his future partner in the Bills secondary, Jairus Byrd, Williams has NFL bloodlines flowing through his body. His uncle, Ken Taylor, was a cornerback for the Chicago Bears, including their vaunted 1985 season when the Bears defense utterly dominated the entire league.
Williams says he’s watched plenty of tape of his uncle and that special Bears’ defense.
“Yea, I definitely have watched. There’s no way I cannot watch tape. He comes down every summer to train and watch me. Every time he comes down to my house he always has a tape with him telling me this is how you really need to play defense. ”
As he gets ready to enter the NFL and make himself a home in Buffalo, Williams made just two promises. One is to become the best football player he can possibly be and endear himself to the Western New York community.
The other is to honor his mother by completing his college degree.
“I’m about a year to a year and half, 36 hours. It’s not too far. I plan on getting my degree without a doubt and I promised my mom that. Youth Community Studies, Communications major.”
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