To say that former Texas cornerback Aaron Williams fell out of the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft Thursday evening is a bit simplistic. After all, most projections had Williams going late on the first day, if at all, with the Pittsburgh Steelers the most common mock destination for the Austin-area product. And the chances are high that Williams won't last past the first half of round two, which begins Friday evening.
There was some buzz on Twitter and elsewhere around the interwebs following the first round when the Steelers selected Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward that Williams made a mistake by entering the draft early since he wasn't picked in the first round. Throughout the process, Williams has been projected in the late first or early second round -- not being picked Thursday wasn't that big of a surprise, so why should it retroactively make early entry a bad decision?
He's still ready for the NFL and the difference between late first round and early second round money shouldn't alter the thought process for a player who suffered a concussion last year and would have risked further injury by returning, as well as a possible rookie salary scale in the NFL in 2012.
For what upside? Teams would want to see better open-field tackling, overall technique, and some more playmaking from Williams, but if he plays well and improves, how many opportunities at interceptions can he really guarantee starting with at least one unproven cornerback on the other side of the field? An improvement in technique could result in quarterbacks not even looking his direction, something that happened at times when he was playing well.
Williams probably won't have to wait long to learn his destination Thursday evening, with ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's round two mock draft predicting the Denver Broncos select Williams with the 36th overall pick. Todd McShay agrees. And the earth still seems to be rotating on its normal axis, which is good.
SBNation's own draft expert Brian Galliford has his own round two mock up and has Williams landing with the Cowboys at number 40 overall, where he could help out at either safety or cornerback for a team that has struggled to find consistent secondary play, particularly at safety, for years.
The worst-case scenario for Williams seems to be falling to the 49ers with the 45th pick, as San Francisco needs a cornerback. If things go Aaron Rodgers bad, the Steelers always select near the end of the round and did not address their need at the position in the first round with the Heyward pick.
Two other Longhorns are widely projected as day two picks -- defensive end/outside linebacker Sam Acho and cornerback Curtis Brown. Kiper has the athletic Brown going to Detroit with the 44th pick, where he could end up competing with former Longhorn Nathan Vasher for playing time. Acho, projected as a third-rounder in most mock drafts, seems likely to land with a team needing an outside linebacker, with the Jets, Steelers, and Ravens all relatively strong possibilities in the third round.