Marcus Williams, FS, Utah: 2017 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Nov 10, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Utah Utes defensive back Marcus Williams (20) returns an interception against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 10, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Utah Utes defensive back Marcus Williams (20) returns an interception against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Marcus Williams, a 2013 three-star recruit, started 28 of 37 career games for the Utah Utes.

Marcus Williams finished his three-year college career with 189 tackles, 11 interceptions and 19 passes defended while playing for three different defensive coordinators.

Williams missed two games in 2016, against UCLA and Washington, after suffering an undisclosed injury against Oregon State. He possesses adequate size on a lean frame with good athletic ability. 


Height: 6’1”

Weight: 195 lbs.

Games Watched

2016: Arizona State, California, Colorado, USC

2015: BYU


Marcus Williams displays very good mental processing skills as he reads the quarterback from his free safety position and is not fooled by play-action. He shows good awareness from zone coverage, staying deeper than the deepest receiver as the single-high safety.

His situational awareness is just as impressive. In the play below, Williams and the Utah defense are looking to get off the field on third down. From his safety position, Williams sees USC’s go-to receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster running over the middle of the field. Williams puts his foot in the ground and closes very quickly on the receiver, who catches the ball one yard short of the first-down marker. He does a very good job of securing the tackle and preventing Smith-Schuster from gaining any yards after the catch and forcing the Trojans to punt.

Williams possesses good athletic ability with fluid hips to create quick, smooth changes of direction. This also allows him to cover more ground as he displays very good play speed to cover a wide zone between the numbers. Williams shows off his range in the following play against California. The cornerback at the top of the screen is beaten on a double move by Cal wide receiver Chad Hansen. Initially this looks like an easy six points for the Golden Bears, but Williams explodes to the ball and exhibits very good closing speed to make the stop near the sideline and prevent the touchdown.

On the rare occasion he was asked to play man coverage, Williams mirrors the receiver well and doesn’t give the quarterback a large window in which to place the football.

Williams tracks the ball well when it is in the air and possesses solid ball skills to intercept or breakup the pass.

Against the run, Williams displays solid competitive toughness as he aggressively attacks the play. He goes from high to low quickly and fights off would-be blockers. He’s a solid tackler who does a good job of wrapping up the ball carrier to secure the tackle. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams recorded 64 tackles and missed just three in 2016.


Safeties under 200 pounds are nearly extinct in the NFL and a big reason why is play strength. Marcus Williams allows too many receptions on 50/50 balls due to marginal play strength. Physical receivers are able to use their size to their advantage and box out Williams. As a result, he’s unable to high point the ball and is forced to commit interference or give up the reception.

Against the run Williams is over aggressive, which hampers his ability to constrict running lanes. This also leads to adequate angles to the football. The following play is a good example as Williams is over aggressive and takes a poor angle to the ball, resulting in a big gain on the ground for USC. He does display good competitive toughness to remain in the play and make the stop, but his original angle allowed the opponent to gain an extra 30-35 yards on the play.


Overall, Marcus Williams is a backup free safety at the next level who wins with athletic ability and instincts. He’s not someone who should be expected to matchup against physical receivers or tight ends in man coverage. 

Safeties weighing in under 200 pounds are rarely drafted nowadays. The majority of the time, as was the case with Jalen Mills and Jimmie Ward, these prospects are converted to cornerbacks at the next level. Williams has the ability to mirror receivers, however he must become more physical to contest a higher percentage of passes.

A year or two in an NFL weight room should do the trick, however there aren’t many coaches or general managers who have the job security to spend an early-round pick on someone who is a year or two away from contributing. Unless he’s only going to play as a ballhawk from a deep zone, he could have trouble seeing the field early in his career. As a result, expect Williams to come off the board on day three of the 2017 NFL Draft.