The last time a player from the Syracuse Orange football team was selected in round one of the NFL Draft was in 2013. That player was Justin Pugh who was selected by the New York Giants. They even had a player selected in round one the year before with Chandler Jones going to the New England Patriots. It has been a while since the Orange have had a player worthy of a first-round pick, but Garrett Williams could change that in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Williams ended up committing to Syracuse back in 2018 as a three-star recruit out of Hickory Ridge High School in North Carolina. He wasn’t always a cornerback though, he originally played at the quarterback position until his junior year on the high school team. That year the head coach for Hickory Ridge decided to see how Williams would do at cornerback. In the first defensive series, Williams went on to intercept a pass and turn it in for a pick-six. From there the position stuck and over the next two seasons he would go on to have four interceptions, 26 passes defended, and 99 tackles to close out his high school career. This production led to him getting offers from Syracuse, Appalachian State, East Carolina, and West Virginia.
After redshirting his first year in 2019, he immediately had a breakout season in 2020. He became the top cornerback in the ACC leading the conference in pass breakups with 10, and tackles per game with 5.8. Over the 11 games that 2020 season, he had 64 total tackles with 54 being solo, two interceptions, and even one sack. His first interception at the college level was very similar to his first ever at the position in high school as he intercepted Trevor Lawrence and returned it for a touchdown. This was the first-ever pick-six of Lawrence’s college career.
🚨 PICK SIX 🚨
Syracuse picks off Trevor Lawrence and takes it back for the TD 👀 pic.twitter.com/FTtQGvitJL
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 24, 2020
In 2021, he would again lead the ACC in pass breakups with nine and would have 52 total tackles with five going for a loss. He did that in 10 games as he would miss two dealing with a lingering hamstring injury he suffered in week two against Rutgers. Despite that, he still dealt with it throughout the season and put up great production even though he wasn’t playing completely healthy.
Williams has the skills to be regarded as a top cornerback. His experience at quarterback in high school allows him to pick up on the quarterback’s tendencies quickly and react to get to where the ball is going. He also has great length which he uses to constantly disrupt passing lanes, wrap up tackles, or disengage from blockers. While Williams may not be a burner, he has the long speed to keep up with the quickest of receivers downfield and is very fluid in his transition from his backpedal to coverage. With his ability to trust his instincts in zone coverage, and ability to cover effectively in man, Williams is a scheme versatile prospect.
For the 2022 season where Williams could improve is taking tighter angles to completely secure his tackles. There are also moments where he can get flat-footed when trying to transfer his weight leading him to be a bit delayed in his transition. Other than that there aren’t any other glaring flaws when watching the film on Williams.
By the time of the 2023 NFL Draft, Williams will only be 21 years old with plenty of upside for an NFL team to unlock. There will be other talented cornerbacks like Eli Ricks, Kelee Ringo, and Joey Porter Jr. at the top of discussions as the season progresses. With the skills Williams has shown there is no reason he should not be in the conversation with these players as being a first-round cornerback. As the 2022 college football season progresses make sure to keep an eye out for Williams.