Bennett Williams Scouting Report | Oregon DB | 2023 NFL Draft
Coming out of St. Francis High School in Mountain View, California, Bennett Williams was a three-star Cornerback prospect who accumulated 166 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 17 interceptions, 48 pass breakups, and three forced fumbles in his prep career.
As a senior, Williams was a two-way standout for the Lancers, leading his team to a 10-2 record and an appearance in the CIF Central Coast Semifinals. After the season, Williams was named West Catholic Athletic League Player of the Year, establishing himself as one of the top defensive backs in Northern California.
Three weeks before National Signing Day, Williams held zero power five offers but had multiple group of five offers from programs such as San Jose State, Hawaii, UNLV, and Wyoming. Fortunately for Williams, he received a late scholarship offer from the University of Illinois and former head coach Lovie Smith, signing his letter of intent with the Fighting Illini on February 1st, 2017.
As a true freshman, Williams became a top performer in the Fighting Illini secondary – leading the team in interceptions and finishing the season with the second in the Big Ten in most tackles among freshmen. Williams recorded 64 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions, two pass breakups, one quarterback hurry, and one forced fumble, and earned Freshman All-American honors from ESPN.
In his sophomore season at Illinois, Williams served a three-game suspension to start the season for a violation of team rules. Although he returned for one game against Penn State, Williams would be dismissed from the Fighting Illini football program two weeks later.
Following his departure from Illinois, Williams returned to Northern California to continue his football career at the College of San Mateo.
In his one season at San Mateo, Williams was a key contributor for the Bulldogs in the most successful season in program history. The Bulldogs finished the season with a 12-1 record and reached the California Community College Athletic Association Championship, where they fell to Riverside Community College in a 31-14 contest.
During Williams’ time at San Mateo, he garnered attention from a few power five programs on the west coast, most notably Oregon, Colorado, and Oregon State. As the 14th-ranked JUCO prospect in the nation, Williams signed with the University of Oregon, where he would be an instant contributor in the 2020 season.
In Williams’ first season at Oregon, the Ducks had their season shortened to seven games due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Still, Williams made the most of his opportunities as a junior, appearing in all seven games for the Ducks, recording 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and two pass breakups.
In 2021, Williams’ season would be riddled with injuries, as he only played in five of 14 games. After starting three of Oregon’s first four games, Williams suffered a non-contact injury that required surgery, forcing him to miss the final nine games of the season. Williams returned for the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma and collected one tackle for loss and a forced fumble. Despite being limited to five games, Williams put together an efficient stat line of 21 tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss, three interceptions, and a forced fumble.
Williams went on to have his best season at Oregon during the 2022 season. Under new Head Coach Dan Lanning, Williams started all 13 games in the Ducks secondary, accumulating 72 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and six pass breakups. Williams finished the season with a run defense grade of 86.2 Pro Football Focus, ranking him second among all Pac-12 defenders. After the season, Williams earned Pac-12 All-Conference honorable mention honors for the first time in his career.
Throughout his college career, Williams recorded 173 tackles, seven tackles for loss, two sacks, eight interceptions, four forced fumbles, and ten pass breakups.
Bennett Williams is a well-rounded defensive back, possessing sharp instincts, solid tackling ability, reliable ball skills, and the versatility to play as a box safety or nickel.
Williams is an intelligent defensive back who uses his great football instincts and vision to diagnose plays before they develop.
As a deep safety, Williams’ keen awareness allows him to disrupt passing lanes and put himself in advantageous positions to make a play on the ball. Williams boasts high-level ball skills and developed a rapport for creating turnovers and forcing incompletions during his time at Oregon and Illinois.
Williams plays the box safety with a linebacker mentality, using his impressive burst-to-close, downhill speed, and overall toughness to make an impact as a tackler at the line of scrimmage. Williams is a sure-handed tackler who plays with good technique and leverage in one-on-one situations. However, he is sometimes prone to settling for arm tackles and could be more consistent with run fits. Still, Williams plays with a high motor and pursuits the play from sideline to sideline from wherever he lines up on the field. Williams’ tackling ability and position versatility provides him a ton of value as a third-down safety.
Williams is a decent cover safety in man coverage. Because he has some speed and length concerns, Williams does not fair well in man coverage against speedy and twitchy slot receivers. Instead, Williams is better suited to line up against Y-Tight Ends in the slot or running backs coming out of the backfield. He shows sufficient physicality at the top of the route and can tackle larger ball carriers in the open field for minimal gains.
Coming off the best season of his career, Williams flashed some intriguing potential as a multi-dimensional safety in Dan Lanning’s 4-2-5 defense. He is an above-average athlete with high football intelligence, great overall toughness, dependable tackling ability and ball skills, and a skill set that allows him to play all over the defensive backfield. Williams will likely slide into Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft as a late-round selection or become a priority undrafted agent.
Mid 6th-Priority Undrafted Free Agent