This is the seventh installment of a series reviewing Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith’s first draft class in Atlanta, which included a total of nine players. We’ll go chronologically through these draft picks in the order they were selected; next up is the Falcons’ last fifth-round pick, who looks to be a special teams ace of the future.
If you’ve missed any other installments, be sure to check them out!
When the Falcons initially signed Cordarrelle Patterson, I predicted he’d set career-highs in every rushing statistic while still contributing a considerable amount of special teams. Little did I or anyone else know that the former All-Pro return man would have a profound impact on the Falcons offense.
With his usage so high, his impact in the game’s third phase was minimal. Enter Avery Williams.
Williams was selected out of Boise State, where he was a standout special teams player, even named the Mountain West special teams player of the year in 2019. During his last season playing for the Broncos, Williams tallied four touchdowns — two punt returns and two kick returns.
During his rookie season, Williams totaled 490 kick return yards (21.3-yard average) and 153 punt return yards (7.7-yard average) — ranking in the top 25 in both categories. It is clear the Falcons valued his special teams’ value as a returner, but he’s more than just that. As a gunner against the Bills, Williams forced Marquez Stevenson to fumble on a Thomas Morstead punt, which resulted in a safety.
Williams’ future as a key cog on the special teams is solidified even after just one season, but his outlook as a cornerback intrigues me. He played in seven games as the defense’s nickel corner; his highest snap total came against the Washington Football Team in Week 4. He’s got a lot of work to do improving his coverage, but the situation shouldn’t be evaluated of what he doesn’t do on defense.
Against the Bills, Williams was given an elite 90.3 grade by Pro Football Focus after his forced turnover. If he’s even close to the type of special teams player Matthew Slater is for the Patriots, everything Williams provides on defense should just be cream on the top.
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