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90 Buffalo Bills players in 90 days: LB Dorian Williams

The rookie has a chance to earn a big role as early as this September

Syndication: Democrat and Chronicle Jamie Germano/Democrat and Chronicle / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Buffalo Bills allowed one of their defensive mainstays to walk away this offseason, choosing to move on and redesign the linebacker position rather than dole out a massive contract. For many of us, that led to a belief that there would be some sort of high-end acquisition coming, whether in the form of a free-agent signing or an early round draft choice, to fill the void in the defense.

Rather than a big investment, the Bills have chosen to make a series of smaller commitments, signing a low-cost, low-risk, high-reward free agent at the position, and using a third-round draft choice on a linebacker for the second straight year. Only time will tell as to whether those investments are enough, but with a slightly altered defensive scheme under new defensive play caller Sean McDermott, there is certainly room to embrace the new.

In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss Buffalo’s latest draft pick at linebacker — a slightly undersized third-round choice looking to win a starting gig right out of the gate.

Name: Dorian Williams

Number: 42

Position: LB

Height/Weight: 6’2”, 230 pounds

Age: 22 (23 on 6/28/2024)

Experience/Draft: R; selected by Buffalo in the third round (No. 91 overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft

College: Tulane

Acquired: Third-round draft choice

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Williams signed his rookie contract, a four-year deal worth $5,472,806 overall. Of that total, $914,768 is guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. Williams’ cap hit for 2023 is $978,692.

2022 Recap: Williams had an outstanding senior season for the Green Wave, and he showed up in a big way at the NFL Scouting Combine, as well. Williams had 132 tackles and five sacks as a senior, both of which were career highs. He also had 8.5 tackles for loss. Perhaps most importantly for his NFL future, he showed up in a big way in pass coverage last season, notching his first two career interceptions and logging seven pass breakups. He forced two fumbles, as well. At the combine, Williams ran a blistering 4.49-second 40-yard dash, which was the fourth-fastest time of all linebackers in attendance. His 33.5” vertical leap was seventh among linebackers, and his 10’ broad jump was ninth. He didn’t bench press at either his pro day or the combine due to a wrist injury.

Positional outlook: Williams is one of a host of off-ball linebackers looking to slot into the spot vacated by Tremaine Edmunds, who signed a massive free-agent deal with the Chicago Bears this offseason. Williams is joined by Tyrel Dodson, Terrel Bernard, A.J. Klein, Travis Howard, Baylon Spector, Matt Milano, and Tyler Matakevich.

2023 Offseason: Williams is healthy and has participated in offseason activities to date, often lining up alongside Milano as the middle linebacker.

2023 Season outlook: I think that the Bills want Williams to be the starter next to Milano this season, and looking at the group of ‘backers on the current roster, I can’t say that I blame them. This is the positional group that gives me the most worry on Buffalo’s roster, as the Bills have said by their actions that they plan to replace Edmunds with a group of unproven, undersized players at the middle level of the defense.

When Buffalo took Williams, I wasn’t pleased, but that displeasure was mostly about resource allocation (and some lingering bad feelings about the Bernard pick at No. 89 overall just one year ago) than it was about the player himself. Williams is tremendously athletic, he has the speed to stick with tight ends and running backs — and even some wideouts — but he lacks the size to fend off blocks at the professional level. If the defensive line can’t keep him clean, it definitely makes me nervous given that the team has two “small” linebackers. And yes, it feels very strange to call two guys who outweigh me by plenty “small,” but such is life in the NFL.

Williams and his ability to acclimate to the pro level quickly will be one of the big storylines of the offseason for me, and what the Bills choose to do at linebacker is going to be one of the more important decisions they make come September. In any case, I anticipate Williams playing a big role this coming season.