Scheduling note: I’m skipping over Marqueston Huff and coming back to him.
As a reported visitor whose three game videos I’d already watched, I had a reasonably informed take on Avery Williamson when I wrote up his selection. In watching his games in more detail, I could think more seriously about his specific traits and his potential role on the team (though I still have more Ray Horton ILB watching to do in this area). My basic book on him remains the same, a tackling machine for Kentucky but a box player whose pass defense ability beyond underneath zones is an open question. The more careful viewing showed some encouraging signs for his potential as a strong inside linebacker than I’d seen the first time-taking on a fullback and stuffing the play here, avoiding the second level block of the Louisville lineman there-but also some of the plays I wondered about in the NFL, like failing to disengage from that Vandy wide receiver (or was he a tight end?) on that screen or some aggressive pursuit angles that opened up cutback lanes for touchdowns or surprising third down conversions.
Really, though, my book is the same as it was, and everybody’s else is the same as him. He’s a 34 inside linebacker, so he’s in the right spot. He’ll primarily be a box defender in the NFL. Greg Cosell thought he had plus athleticism and movement, though from the context I think that was in the context of 34 stacked inside linebackers as opposed to, say, Zach Brown athleticism and movement. He can shoot gaps, though one play against Louisville stood out to me as he shot the weakside gap and didn’t make the play. At the same time, he wasn’t Colin McCarthy, heedlessly gap-shooting regardless of whether it made any sense to do so. He went about where he should have been in the draft; the Titans reportedly considered him in the fourth round, which would have seemed a tad early (though if Preston Brown can go in the third round, who knows). People seem to say nice things about him-a team captain like every other Titans draft pick, a player who grew up a Titans fan in Milan, TN, Ruston Webster indicated the scouts really liked him and he was happy to draft him (an accolade I didn’t have noted as applying to any other draft pick this year, not to say he wasn’t similarly glad to take them).
The most important thing about Williamson is he gives the Titans a different type of linebacker, one they didn’t have on their current roster. Whatever their more specific strengths and weaknesses, Zach Brown, Zaviar Gooden, Colin McCarthy, and Wesley Woodyard are all primarily space players who need to be protected and shouldn’t be expected to have success if they have to consistently take on and fight through defenders. Moving to a 3-4 defense, even the Ray Horton one-gap version of it, the Titans needed a more physical inside linebacker. Williamson will probably only play situationally as a rookie, though he should be a core special teams player (another consensus point is that he should be a good one). Other things, like improved play recognition, better pass coverage drops, a more consistent job of taking on and defeating blocks, may or may not come in time. As a fifth-rounder on a team that seems to not value their post-fourth-round picks, even if he remains more or less what he is, he’ll have a role on the team. Frankly, given that he is a fifth round pick, his likely role makes him a reasonable value, and anything else will be a bonus.