Much to the chagrin of Tom Donahoe, the Philadelphia Eagles selected Milton Wiliams with pick No. 73 in the 2021 NFL Draft. In order to learn more about the Louisiana Tech defensive tackle, I reached out to SB Nation’s college blog that includes Conference USA coverage: Underdog Dynasty. The excellent Eric Henry was kind enough to answer my questions.
1) Can you recap his college career?
His story is similar to so many players before him who played at Group of Five programs. Williams was a lightly recruited 225-pound defensive end when he signed with Louisiana Tech in 2017. After redshirting as a freshman and seeing playing time sparingly the next season, he emerged as one of the top defensive linemen in Conference USA in 2019. In two seasons as a starter, he racked up 104 tackles and 19 tackles for loss, playing both end and tackle. What’s interesting about his Tech career is he was largely overshadowed by more high-profile players. Williams was tasked with filling the shoes left behind by Jaylon Ferguson, who set the NCAA all-time sack mark during his time in Ruston. Former four-star recruit Willie Baker was expected to be the premier pass-rush option once Ferguson graduated in 2018. However, Williams’ play on the field earned him selections to all-conference teams in 2019 and 2020.
2) What are his strengths?
Despite the fact that he was a slightly-built defensive lineman in high school, he’s a natural pass-rusher with the ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. His excellent performance during Louisiana Tech’s pro day makes his NFL potential intriguing. At 278 pounds, Williams ran a 4.6 40-yard-dash, put up 32 reps on the bench press, and ran a 6.87 mark in the three-cone drill. That athleticism helped him tremendously at the Group of Five level, where he was able to use sheer strength and speed to win one-on-one matchups.
3) What are his weaknesses?
The obvious thing that stands out is against superior competition (BYU, TCU) in 2020, his play was average. Consistency was an issue at times during his tenure in Ruston. However, these are things that can be expected out of a two-year starter, who was/is still evolving as a defensive lineman. In my mind, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t continue to grow at the position.
4) Are you surprised where he was drafted? Higher or lower than expected? Just right?
Where he was drafted is about right. There’s no denying that his excellent pro day helped his draft stock. While I don’t think it would have been a reach if he had been taken in the second round, the Eagles are getting an excellent value with him in the third round.
5) How do you see his NFL career playing out?
This could be said about a large majority of NFL draft picks, but I think it’s especially true about Group of Five players that they either have high ceilings or they’ve maxed out their potential once getting to the league. Williams falls in the former category. He’s put on over 50 pounds during his collegiate career and as his pro day showed, he’s still capable of maintaining a high level of athleticism. He may need a year or two to adjust to the NFL, specifically the skill level of offensive linemen he’ll face. However, he has all of the physical tools to be a starter on the defensive line.
BLG’s take: Williams’ upside is intriguing given his athleticism. I do wonder how ready he is to contribute as a rookie and how much time he’ll need to develop. Can the Eagles really count on him being DT3 behind Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave this year? I’m not so sure. But maybe he’ll surprise and give the Birds some nice interior pass-rushing juice.
Crazy spider graph via Mockdraftable: