NFL draft profile — No. 26: Texas OL Connor Williams

Small by tackle standards and slowed by injury, athletic blocker looked elite in 2016

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Each day leading up to the 2018 NFL draft, I’ll break down one of my top 50 prospects. In some cases, we had to make tough omissions because of injuries, poor pre-draft workouts or incomplete information. For more complete scouting reports on all the prospects, check out the Pro Football Weekly 2018 Draft Guide, which is available for order now.

26. Texas OT Connor Williams
6-foot-5, 296 pounds

Key stats: Williams could be the first Longhorns offensive lineman drafted since 2008.

The skinny: Only a three-star recruit after being named second-team all-6A in Texas, Williams nonetheless started his first college game as a true freshman at left tackle for the Longhorns. He started 12 games in 2015, earning freshman All-America honors and honorable mention all-Big 12 (coaches). Williams then took a big step forward in Year 2, starting 11 more games (or 12 played) and becoming the first Texas offensive lineman who was a consensus first-team All-America pick.

Nominated for just about every preseason award he was eligible for, Williams started the first three games as a junior before suffering a left knee injury (torn meniscus, sprained MCL and PCL) against USC. Surgery was not needed and he was given an 8-to-10 week recovery time but returned against West Virginia and TCU — a week ahead of schedule — after missing the previous seven contests. Williams opted to sit out the Texas Bowl against Missouri to prepare for the NFL draft.

Upside: Nice height and big hands. Excellent movement skills and athletic profile — 40-yard dash (5.05 seconds), 10- (1.72-1.75) and 20-yard splits (2.89-2.92), vertical (34 inches) and broad jumps (112 inches) are all in the very good to exceptional ranges. Nicely sculpted physique and said to be a committed weight-room participant. Works at his craft. Vocal leader. Lauded for work in community.

Very good technical skills and pass-blocking technique — looks like a natural out there. Turn back the clock to 2016, and he looked like a possible top-10 pick. Has the knee bend and flexibility to play left tackle. Excellent feet and hands. Can unleash a wicked punch. Works well on the move and is an effective second-level blocker who plays in control. Great field vision and can scope out free rushers, twists, stunts and blitzers before they get home. Effective on combo blocks. Throw out one bad game last year (TCU, right after his return from injury) and his overall season wasn’t nearly as bad as some have made it out to be.

Latches on in the run game with strong hands, rolls his hips well upon contact and will take defenders for a ride. Flashes some nastiness to his game — blocks right up through the whistle. Takes nice angles. Watch here back in 2016 when Williams steers his initial man inside, then resets and locks Baylor LB Aiavion Edwards, allowing RB D’Onta Foreman to run right off Williams’ hip for a 40-yard touchdown up the gut:

Confident in his abilities. Worked at every OL position at his pro day. Played under three different offensive coordinators and appears versatile enough to factor into any type of system and be ready to go Day 1 in the NFL. Could have sat out remainder of season following knee injury but chose to come back and did so earlier than expected.

Downside: Very small by OT standards — combine weight and arm length put him in the bottom 10th percentile for the position. Some teams considering him at guard, not tackle. Tape during 2017 season wasn’t nearly as good as it previously was. Injuries and durability must be investigated. Played about 10-15 pounds above ideal weight last season at 315-320 pounds but weighed in underweight at combine (296).

Long-term health must be checked out. Injury appeared to affect his play last season but wasn’t in top form in first two-plus games either. (Was he hurt prior to the USC game?) Developed a hitch in his pass set, which hindered his hand placement and balance/weight distribution early on. Appeared more effective and comfortable pass blocking in Longhorns’ former scheme, the Baylor-style “Air Raid” system, than he was in Tom Herman’s version of the spread. Cut-block technique appears inconsistent.

Can get pushed off his spot at times. Longer-armed defenders can get inside him and gain leverage. Lunger who will play a bit wildly at times seeking to finish in the run game. In his first game back from injury against West Virginia, Williams came out swinging with an aggressive demeanor but wasn’t as technically sound, snap to snap, as he needed to be. Watch here as Williams (No. 55) takes a false first step on the QB draw in the red zone and allows 5-11, 226-pound Mountaineers linebacker David Long Jr. to slip past his outside shoulder for the tackle for loss:

Has never played in a game at guard or center. Bench press total (26 reps) disappointing with his shorter arms.

Best-suited destination: Williams fits the profile of a left tackle in systems that seek smaller, more athletic blockers over bulk, length and raw power. He also could fit in as a left guard without too much trouble. Williams should have mass appeal, and among the teams that could be strong fits for Williams include the New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers and Washington.

Quotable: “The sky’s the limit [for Williams]. Athletic as all get out. Maybe the quickest feet of any offensive lineman I’ve been around. I have told any of these [NFL scouts] that will listen that he’s a can’t-miss guy.”  — Texas head coach Tom Herman

Player comp: Jake Matthews

Expected draft range: No. 15-30 overall

Greg Gabriel scouting report (subscribers only)

Previous profiles

50. Oregon RB Royce Freeman

49. South Dakota State TE Dallas Goedert
48. LSU DE-LB Arden Key
47. Ohio State C Billy Price
46. Alabama S Ronnie Harrison
45. Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph
44. Texas A&M S Armani Watts
43. South Carolina TE Hayden Hurst
42. UCF CB Mike Hughes
41. USC RB Ronald Jones II
40. Maryland WR D.J. Moore
39. UTEP OG Will Hernandez
38. Stanford DT Harrison Phillips
37. Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard
36. Stanford S Justin Reid
35. Oregon OT Tyrell Crosby
34. SMU WR Courtland Sutton
33. Penn State TE Mike Gesicki
32. Colorado CB Isaiah Oliver
31. Georgia OL Isaiah Wynn
30. Texas A and M WR Christian Kirk
29. Alabama LB Rashaan Evans
28. Alabama WR Calvin Ridley
27. Michigan DT Maurice Hurst