The Buffalo Bills selected linebacker Dorian Williams out of Tulane in Round 3 with the 91st pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Williams will join a current linebacker core in Buffalo that consists of All-Pro Matt Milano, three-year veteran Tyrel Dodson, 2022 third-round pick Terrel Bernard, and 2022 seventh-round pick Baylon Spector. Initially, Bills general manager Brandon Beane said Williams would start off playing outside linebacker only, but then changed his tune the next day, saying that the Bills aren’t ruling Williams out at MLB and that he could be in the mix.
Regardless, the Bills need a replacement for Tremaine Edmunds after he left in free agency, but it still remains to be seen if Williams could be that replacement — or if there will be a shift in defensive philosophy with head coach Sean McDermott calling the plays in 2023.
If you’ve followed along in any of my pre-draft analysis articles, you know that I liked Williams as an LB option for the Bills. However, I thought that he would be a great Day 3 option. I can honestly say that I wasn’t ecstatic with the Bills picking Williams in the third round — not because I don’t like the player, but because I thought it was a little early to draft him. If the Bills thought Williams can help their team over others still on the board, I’m okay with the pick. I personally thought defensive tackle Siaki Ika would have been a great pick at 91 (he ended up getting picked 98th overall by the Cleveland Browns). My guess is the Bills already knew they had a contract agreed upon in principle with free-agent defensive tackle Poona Ford, so they didn’t need to reach for a DT in the draft. Regardless, I think Dorian Williams is a player who will fit in well with the Bills’ organization — I like what he has to offer.
A common complaint about Dorian Williams by Bills fans is that he is about the same size as the other potential MLBs currently on the roster.
- Williams = 6’1” 228 pounds
- Dodson = 6’0” 238 pounds
- Bernard = 6’1” 225 pounds
- Spector = 6’0” 234 pounds
But just because he’s similar in size to these players doesn’t mean he is the same type of player. Williams has a playing style that’s much more reminiscent of an MLB than say, Terrel Bernard. Williams has long arms (33 3/4”) that help him disengage from blocks, he plays downhill and can take on opposing offensive linemen in the hole. Williams is fast for a LB (4.49-second 40-yard dash) and he uses this speed to beat blockers to the hole — and when he gets there he brings the thump. This speed also allows him to be adept in pass coverage, not to mention it makes him a threat rushing the passer on a blitz from the inside or outside.
Just because Williams isn’t the size of a “typical” MLB doesn’t mean he can’t play the position. I think Williams has the potential to be the future starting MLB for the Bills, but he will definitely need time to develop and I wouldn’t be surprised if Buffalo asked him to bulk up a little. For now, I expect him to be a big special teams contributor in all four phases while he competes for the future MLB job.
Dorian Williams’ college career
Dorian Williams arrived at Tulane and contributed right away, seeing action in 11 games as a true freshman. In his sophomore season, he ranked second in the FBS with 16.5 tackles for loss and earned himself a second team All-AAC selection. In his junior season, Williams recorded 73 tackles and earned an honorable mention in the AAC. In 2022, his senior season, Williams turned up the heat and tallied 132 total tackles (ninth in FBS), 8.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, and two forced fumbles. These impressive numbers garnered him a first-team All-AAC selection. He ended his career on a high note by being named Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl with 17 tackles in a win over USC. For his career, Williams posted 306 total tackles, 27 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks.
2023 NFL Scouting Combine
Williams measured in at 6’1” and weighed 228 pounds. He also has 33 3/4” arms. Here are his testing numbers from the NFL Combine:
- 40-yard dash = 4.49s
- 10-yard split = 1.54s
- Vertical jump = 33.5”
- Broad jump = 10’0”
Williams showed off his speed on this sack. He timed the snap perfectly and beat the guard inside with speed. Then he showed no let-up as he chased down the QB on the rollout to come up with the sack.
Never give up
Williams never gave up on this play. He was cut to the ground by the RB but popped right back up to his feet and grabbed the QB for a sack.
Williams was tasked with spying the QB on this play. He patiently lurked a few yards behind the defensive line and when the mobile QB broke the pocket, Williams attacked with tenacity and got the sack.
Proficient in pass coverage
Williams had the RB man-to-man on this play. He showed the speed to keep up and used the angle he took to squeeze the RB to the sideline, leaving little room for the QB to throw. He did a good job of finishing the play and causing an incomplete pass.
Get out of his way
Williams absolutely demolished an impeding blocker on his way to make a tackle for a minimal gain.
Williams did a nice job of letting his block reads tell him where he needed to go. He had a pulling guard and a TE cross-blocking, leading the way around the left edge. He beat them to it and squeezed the run lane down to make the tackle on the RB.
Check out this big hit by Williams early in his career at Tulane.
Williams did a wonderful job on this play of identifying the receiving threat over the middle and then getting his head turned back around to look at the QB. He put himself in the perfect position to cover the middle of the field and it paid off with an interception. Well done!
I’ve had time to reflect on the Buffalo Bills picking Dorian Williams in the third round, and I admit I may have had him undervalued. There is no question, Williams can play ball — and play it well. Yes, he may still be undersized for a “typical” MLB, but the Bills like good football players on their team, and that’s exactly what he is. I think there is reasonable potential we could see Williams develop into Buffalo’s MLB of the future — and hopefully, he can do just that. At the very least, it will be fun to talk about as he develops.