The Cincinnati Bengals are putting a premium on defensive line talent this offseason—namely in the form of youth and in the hope for improved health. While the defensive line prospects in the 2021 draft class aren’t the deepest group in recent memory, there are some potential studs.
One such rookie is Milton Williams out of Louisiana Tech. He has a lot of tools NFL teams covet and with the right situation (namely coaching and scheme), Williams could become one of the better interior linemen in the league.
School: Louisiana Tech
Position: Defensive Lineman
Weight: 284 pounds
Projected Round: Rounds 2-4
Williams has been a riser in many circles over the past few weeks. Early in the pre-draft process, Williams was considered to be a Day 3 project, but with a great Pro Day workout, there is growing sense he will be gone by the conclusion of Night Two.
Check out the Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of Williams below. Given the tape, the athletic profile, position and potential, some have likened him to players like Geno Atkins and Ed Oliver.
Milton Williams is a DE prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.98 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 4 out of 1325 DE from 1987 to 2021.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 19, 2021
Split projected, times unofficial.https://t.co/lcjBKT8QyO #RAS pic.twitter.com/vVKuTKDegu
Now, something to note with Kent Lee Platte’s RAS score is in his designating Williams as a defensive end. While his size could theoretically push him outside in certain schemes and formations, he is most effective using his strength and use of leverage inside.
Williams moved at both interior spots for the Bulldogs, making his versatility an attractive trait to NFL defensive coordinators. His size, strength and athleticism provided a lot of mismatches for opposing offensive linemen.
When looking at the film, Williams really stands out often. The sacks and tackles-for-loss are definitely “wow plays”, but there are times where he needs to shore up consistency.
Fit with the Bengals
Most folks believe that the Bengals will be seeking interior defensive line help in the draft as early as night two. Whomever they select will have a great opportunity to contribute, but will also be entering a crowded position room.
Cincinnati is getting back Josh Tupou, D.J. Reader and Renell Wren from 2020 injuries and opt-outs, while also adding Larry Ogunjobi to the interior defensive line. However, the large vacancy left by Atkins is palpable and the team is looking for a long-term solution.
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has been seeking to be diverse on his side of the ball through moveable pieces on his defensive line. Williams can provide that type of flexibility for Cincinnati’s defense.
He may have some trouble seeing a large role with the Bengals right away because of positional depth and needed development, but there is a ton of clay to mold for a staff with Williams.
Given that he played at a smaller school and some facets of his play need to be shored up, patience will be required. But, he could blossom into a dominant defender in time.