What Can We Expect from the Newest Vikings CB?

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Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) runs the ball after intercepting a pass against the Washington Football Team during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday morning, the Minnesota Vikings agreed to terms with former New England Patriots CB Joejuan Williams. He becomes the sixth CB on the Vikings roster this offseason, a room that seems like it could bear for further depth in the upcoming draft. That being said, what exactly should we expect from the newest Vikings CB? Today, we’re going to do a deep-dive into his past production and find out what Minnesota is truly getting in Williams.

Joejuan Williams’ Promise as a Prospect

What Can We Expect from the Newest Vikings CB?
Oct 15, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; (EDITORS NOTE: CAPTION CORRECTION) Vanderbilt Commodores cornerback Joejuan Williams (8) reacts at the end of the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium. Vanderbilt defeated Georgia 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Before we get into his production at the NFL level, we should go back and look at Williams’ collegiate days with the Vanderbilt Commodores. There is a reason he went in the second round of the 2019 Draft. Throughout his career at Vandy, he was one of the most productive corners in the entire SEC.

During Williams’ final season in 2018, he led the conference in passes defended (13) and ranked second in interceptions (4) playing almost exclusively as a boundary CB. He played 905 snaps, with 794 of them being as an outside corner, per Pro Football Focus.

In coverage, PFF suggests that he was targeted 75 times, and he allowed just 36 receptions for a 48% completion percentage against him. Prior to the 2019 NFL Draft, he measured in at 6’4 and 211 pounds, making him one of the largest CBs in the entire class. His 4.64 40-yard dash caused some concern with how he could keep up with receivers at the NFL level, but the hope was that his size would neutralize some of these concerns. Here is what Lance Zierlein of NFL.com had to say of Williams ahead of that draft:

Long press corner who has shown an ability to use his size and aggression as a zealot in contested catch battles. While he has traits to build upon, the Georgia game shined a light on his press inefficiency, lack of speed and inconsistent ball skills with his back to the quarterback. Coaching and scheme can improve or cover some of those areas, but the early results could be a bit uneven. If the technique catches up with the traits, the play demeanor and talent should make him a solid NFL starter.

His Role with the Patriots

Oct 31, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) reacts after the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Chargers 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As predicted by Zierlein, Williams got off to a bit of a slow start in terms of his NFL career. During his rookie season of 2019, the cornerback played just 85 defensive snaps over the course of seven games (including the playoffs).

In each of the two years since, his coverage snaps progressively grew larger, taking 118 snaps in coverage during 2020 and 179 coverage snaps in 2021. In all, he was targeted 42 times in his first three seasons, allowing 25 receptions for 400 yards and 3 TDs. He is yet to record his first NFL interception, and a shoulder injury sidelined him for the entirety of the 2022 season.

Williams remained largely a boundary CB during his tenure in New England, playing 240 defensive snaps from out wide compared to just 28 in the slot. However, one area that has progressively gotten better was his run defense. Over his years with the Patriots, he saw both his run defense and tackling grades for PFF grow higher in every season.

Where Williams Fits on the Vikings Depth Chart

Vikings Sign Former Patriots CB, a 2019 Second-Round Pick
Aug 11, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) walks onto the field before a preseason game against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

According to reports, one of the main factors that led Williams to Minnesota this offseason is familiarity with the system. During the majority of his coaching career, Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores learned under Bill Belichick in New England for 15 years. While Williams never was coached by Flores, the Vikings DC took many of the things he learned in New England and implemented them into his Dolphins defenses during his three years as head coach.

Because of the familiarity with this system, it could give Williams an edge over some of the younger guys that will be competing for a starting role like Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans.

Obviously, the signing of Byron Murphy gives the Vikings options as a starter either on the outside or in the slot, and with the potential to go CB early on in the draft, 2023 may not be the year where Williams finally gets his chance as a starter, but he certainly will be a veteran presence in Minnesota’s defense to help bring the younger guys along. Ultimately, this is a very solid signing for the Vikings.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.