Though making 53-man roster predictions offers no substance during the month of May, when the Cincinnati Bengals selected Georgia safety Shawn Williams in the third round, he was quickly tabbed as the most likely draft pick to begin the season in the starting lineup.
Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is putting a stop to the conversation. For now.
"We know what he can do in run support, now we have to see if he can cover," Zimmer told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "He has the ability to cover, he just has to. He has to work on his technique some. If he gets his body position in good shape he should be good."
Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer adds:
For those who are trying to pencil in Williams as the starter at strong safety, Zimmer quickly tried to silence that, noting that Williams has had only two practices. There’s also the matter of the rest of this minicamp, OTAs, next month’s mandatory minicamp and training camp to determine who the starter will be.
Predraft analyses questioned his ability in coverage. NFL.com wrote that Williams doesn't have "the lateral agility to consistently stay with tight ends or slot receivers." ESPN wrote that while Williams has the physical ability, he could "do a better job" keeping his balance during his backpedal and he has "adequate" range but not elite. Our own Joe Goodberry wrote:
He's an average athlete and a risk-taker in coverage. That combination spells disaster in the NFL. He doesn't have the physical ability to stick with offensive players in man coverage and he doesn't have the recoverability when he makes a mistake in zone.
Questionable straight-line speed, which isn't helped by the fact that he's a bit stiff and is frequently late in transitioning. Can get caught peeking at the quarterback and allow receivers to get to him while he's flat-footed, allowing the separation which could result in big plays against the accurate deep ball passers in the NFL.
Based on the personnel within the current roster, it makes the most sense projecting Williams as the team's starter opposite Reggie Nelson. But then again, projecting 53-man rosters in May has never made much sense in the first place.