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Evan Williams' 'prove-it year' pays off with fourth-round selection by Packers

Transfer to Oregon from Fresno State works out for Green Bay’s second safety choice in draft

S Evan Williams
S Evan Williams

GREEN BAY – Safety Evan Williams was in pretty good shape to enter the NFL after four years at Fresno State.

He'd earned first- and second-team All-Mountain West Conference honors there, started 32 games, intercepted four passes, and attracted plenty of attention from scouts.

But when his 2022 season was interrupted by a knee injury that forced him to miss four games, he didn't want that to be his last audition for the pros.

So he took on an additional challenge, transferring to Oregon for his final college season, and it paid off. Williams (5-11, 200) was named second-team All-Pac-12 in 13 starts, and he wound up a fourth-round draft pick of the Packers, the No. 111 overall selection.

"I wanted my last year to be a real prove-it year," Williams said. "I just figured I wanted to go against the best competition I could and really be in an unfamiliar spot, because I feel like that stimulates growth.

"It was one of the best decisions I ever made."

The Packers certainly liked what they saw, trading up 15 spots in the fourth round to take Williams and surrendering a sixth-round pick to the Jets in the swap.

Green Bay's national scout, Sam Seale, who has spent the bulk of a long scouting career on the West Coast, said Williams was squarely on his radar at Fresno State. He then proved he could make a smooth transition to a new program and system, which should bode well as he now moves up to the NFL.

"It took him a while to get used to Oregon, but once he got it down like the second or third game of the year, I thought he took off and looked like the player he was at Fresno," Seale said.

"He's smart, he's instinctive, he's a good kid and he makes tackles. He's always around the ball."

He also was around the quarterback a lot his final year at Oregon, playing close to the line of scrimmage and getting called on to blitz. He racked up 4½ sacks, an impressive number for a defensive back and tied for the second-most among all DBs in the FBS.

In his pre-draft meetings with the Packers – at the Senior Bowl, combine and via Zoom with multiple coaches – Williams suggested new defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley liked his blitzing abilities and how they fit some of his pressure packages.

It gave Williams the idea the Packers were high on him, and now he's joining fellow safety draft pick, Georgia's Javon Bullard from the second round, in Green Bay.

The two safeties were Senior Bowl standouts, voted the best at their positions on their respective teams. Williams called Bullard "my guy" and "physical as hell," and he's looking forward to being teammates with him now.

He considers himself a player who can "cause havoc" with his "tenacity" and "motor."

Williams admitted to being a bit speechless upon getting the call from the Packers very early on Saturday, perhaps expecting to have to wait longer to be chosen.

But he's a typical Packers draft pick who displays versatility in terms of positional alignment and skills, and he played his share of special teams in college, too, which is probably where he'll have a chance to make the biggest impact as a rookie.

"He'll fit into our locker room because he's a good guy," Seale said. "We won't have to worry about him."


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