One of the newest members of the Cleveland Browns doesn’t even know what jersey number he’ll wear yet, but he has a bold prediction for how his rookie season will end.
Cleveland is going to win the Super Bowl, says former LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, the Browns’ second-round draft pick.
“I know one thing — that the Browns are going to the Super Bowl this year. That’s a fact,” he said on a conference call with reporters (via ESPN) after Cleveland on Friday made him with the 46th overall selection in this year’s NFL draft.
Williams isn’t the only one with high expectations for the Browns this season, after stellar rookie campaigns by quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, as well as aggressive offseason roster moves, including the additions of offensive weapons Kareem Hunt and Odell Beckham Jr.
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All that has the oddsmakers liking the Browns, although maybe not quite as much as Williams. Bookmaker Bovada gives Cleveland 12-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl, behind the New England Patriots (7-1), Kansas City Chiefs (7-1), Los Angeles Rams (9-1) and New Orleans Saints (9-1) and tied with the Chicago Bears.
Williams is a polished man-to-man defender with top-flight speed who could line up opposite Denzel Ward, a Pro Bowl cornerback and the Browns’ top draft choice in 2018.
Williams had a premonition on that front, too.
“Oh, my God,” he said. “Me and Denzel, we are going to tear up the league. You can go man on the outside all day, and we will lock down those receivers. Denzel is a Pro Bowl corner, came in his rookie year and did what he needed to do. I know he’s going to prep me up and get me ready to do the same thing. Possibly we can be the two Pro Bowl corners in the league playing for the same team.”
Coming into the draft, multiple analysts ranked Williams as the top cornerback available, but he dropped to the second round after his run defense was questioned by draft evaluators.
Greedy Williams played off as if he was shocked at the question: Was the LSU defender the best cornerback available in the NFL draft?
“What?” Williams said twice with a smile. “I played two years at LSU with eight picks. Cornerbacks I’m competing with that’s up there with me have got seven… So, stats don’t lie. Like I said, I’m the best. They know I’m the best.”
The stats most likely were not random — Williams’ recitation of his own eight career interceptions and the guess-who-it-might-be example of seven.
Seven interceptions just so happens to be the career total for Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, the player who was chosen over Williams for the Jim Thorpe Award for nation’s top corner in December.
They’re the two cornerbacks most have projected being taken off the board first, and the order fluctuates depending on the outlet.
But Friday afternoon, following LSU’s pro day at the Tigers’ indoor practice facility, Williams felt there was no debate at all between him, Baker or any other corner.
“I don’t pay attention to it,” said Williams, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound Shreveport native. “I know I’m the best. It’s statistically proven.”
In 2017, Williams led the Southeastern Conference with six interceptions — the first LSU player to lead the league since Craig Steltz in 2007 — and his 4.37-second 40-yard dash tied for ninth among all athletes at the NFL combine, and it was more than a tenth of a second faster than Baker’s 4.52.
Despite the blistering time, Williams still had a few questions to answer for NFL scouts, since he didn’t do any other drills at the combine.
Williams said he “wanted to be comfortable here at LSU” to “pick up where I left off,” and he completed the broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches), vertical jump (36 inches) and bench press (eight reps of 225 pounds) on Friday morning before a mass of scouts that represented all 32 NFL teams.
Williams’ broad jump would’ve ranked 21st among defensive backs in the combine; his vertical, 16th; his bench press repetitions, second to last.
But Williams still has to answer questions about his tackling, which was brought up often during his talks with NFL teams.
“My response to them is I’m not afraid to tackle,” said Williams, who recorded 33 tackles as a redshirt sophomore in 2018, before sitting out the Fiesta Bowl and foregoing his redshirt junior year to enter the NFL draft. “I just never have really been in a position to make a big tackle. I’m always in man-to-man. They understood where I was coming from. … Like I told the scout, ‘Put me in a Cover 2 and let that tight end run in that zone, and I’ll show you what I can do.’ “
Saints college scouting director Jeff Ireland didn’t need much convincing.
“He’s a good player,” Ireland said. “He’s been consistent this year in just about any game tape you throw on. He can really read the route. He’s long and certainly a good athlete.”
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said NFL coaches and scouts have asked him about Williams’ ability to tackle, and Orgeron said Williams only played two years at LSU and has room for growth.
“I do believe he needs to improve on tackling,” Orgeron said, “and I believe it’ll be no problem, and I believe he’ll be a great pro.”
Orgeron mostly mingled with NFL personnel, chatting and answering questions while 12 of his former players worked out on the field.
Orgeron said some asked about tight end Foster Moreau, some about Williams. When inside linebacker Devin White, a projected top-five pick, began working out, Orgeron said White “controlled the whole crowd.”
Coaches approached Orgeron and told him White reminded them of Patrick Willis, a former All-Pro linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers whom Orgeron had coached at Ole Miss.
“They’re both great character men,” Orgeron said. “Both very fast, tough and physical. Obviously, Patrick was an All-Pro. And I do believe that Devin’s going to do that and more.”
White, LSU’s first Butkus Award winner for nation’s top linebacker, had already ran a position-leading 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, so he didn’t do anything other than position drills at pro day.
“Nobody needed to see no more speed,” White said. “I got speed on tape. I got speed at the combine.”
White said that six NFL teams visited with him ahead of pro day, and he said that he’ll be flying out to interview with several more teams in the weeks leading to the NFL draft on April 25.
White is aware of his place in history, and he has spoken several times about his desire to be the greatest by all measures. An LSU linebacker hasn’t been picked higher than No. 10 overall, which was where the Phoenix Cardinals selected Eric Hill in 1989.
But he said he’s told his agent not to tell him about the calls his agent receives from NFL teams leading up to the draft, because White said teams can change their minds come draft day and he wants “to go in with no expectations, but expecting for the best.”
Even so, White did talk business. He said he recently signed a sponsorship deal with Nike, although he didn’t disclose the deal’s amount, and he spoke about draft day as a player who knew how much he was worth.
“Teams know that ‘We’ve got to jump on this guy if we really want him,'” White said. “Because if not, you’ve got to wait five years until free agency to pick me up again. The price is going to go up. I’m gonna be looking for $100 million then.”
In the conversations White has had with NFL teams, he’s said they’ve asked him to prepare for being a leader among tenured professionals, which will be a lot different than mixing it up with teenagers and players who can’t yet legally drink.
“‘You’re going to come in and there’s gonna be a guy that’s been here for eight years, got a whole family,'” White said teams have told him. “‘You can’t look up to him. You’ve gotta lead him. You’re the middle linebacker.’ So, I’ve gotta take that mentality, like, ‘Man, I’m coming here to take your job. I’m coming in here to lead your defense, lead your team, because I’m a linebacker.'”
Is there any question that LSU’s permanent team captain can do that?
“He has that confidence about himself,” said Orgeron, who said he will be attending the draft in Nashville, Tennessee, along with White and Williams. “I do believe that when he goes to the NFL, he’s going to know his drills, he’s going to be confident that he can do it.”