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Chris Williamson could give Giants depth, flexibility in defensive backfield

Rookie has “corner to safety” adaptability

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Outback Bowl - Minnesota v Auburn
Chris Williamson
Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Think about Chris Williamson and for many people the first thing that comes to mind could well be “isn’t he that guy who played Pop Warner football against Giants’ wide receiver Darius Slayton when they were kids?”

That would be correct. The Giants, though, did not draft Williamson in Round 7, 247th overall, just to be Slayton’s training camp buddy. They drafted him hoping he could help them on special teams and eventually find a role in their secondary.

Let’s take a closer look at the rookie from Minnesota.

The basics

Height: 6-foot
Weight: 205
Age: 23
Position: Defensive back
Experience: Rookie
Contract: Unsigned

How he got here

When he spoke to New York media shortly after being drafted by the Giants, Williamson explained his route to the NFL:

Chris Williamson was a good high school wide receiver, a three-star recruit who could have likely have gone on to be a decent collegiate player at that position.

There was, though, a voice in his ear telling him there was a better way. Williamson began training with Ray Buchanon, a 12-year NFL veteran cornerback, an an eighth-grader. He had cross trained with Buchanon at cornerback, and Buchanon spent years encouraging him to switch sides of the ball.

Williamson finally gave in to Buchanon’s urging as a high school senior, trying out the position.

“The move from wide receiver to defensive back honestly came from Ray Buchanon. I met him in the summer of eighth grade when I was training. Me and him have had an extremely close relationship up until this day. He still mentors me and I train with him every time I’m home. I was always playing receiver and I was a six-foot receiver. You can find a lot of six-foot receivers, but I was kind of a bigger defensive back. The one nugget that Ray always put in my head was you’re an average size receiver, but you’re a big defensive back that can move. There’s not too many guys who are big and can move that get paid at the next level,” Williamson said during a Wednesday videoconference. “He was always throwing that nugget in my head. My senior year of high school was the first year I had played defensive back. I had always been training with him for defensive back, but I never truly played it in a high school game. I definitely give the credit for me making that move to Ray Buchanon.”

That led Williamson to Florida, where he played for two seasons but thanks to injuries and a horde of talent found himself without a great opportunity. He transferred to Minnesota for his final two seasons, starting nine games in 2019.

2020 outlook

In a year when the Giants, with Joe Judge taking over as head coach, are placing an increased emphasis on positional versatility, it should come as no surprise that they see Williamson as a player who might be able to contribute in several ways.

“This is a guy who’s going to have some combination corner to safety. We call it the ‘star’ position, that nickel position as well,” Judge said when the Giants drafted Williamson. “He’ll bring some position flexibility in the defensive backfield. He’s got a good size and speed combination. We look for him to compete at multiple positions this year.”

Williamson expects to be asked to do a multitude of things.

“The one thing a lot of teams talked to me about is my versatility. I have the ability to play multiple positions in the back end. Even with the Giants, they kind of talked about me doing the same thing of being able to do those multiple positions. But every team I talked to kind of had that same idea for me. I’d be a guy who’d kind of be like a Swiss Army Knife and can do multiple things on the back end.”

In his 2020 Draft guide, Dane Brugler of The Athletic said:

Williamson, who is mentored by former NFL corner Ray Buchanan, challenges routes and plays physical early in the down to disrupt the offensive timing. He also shows his aggressive nature in run support, although he tends to be reckless as a tackler (double-digit missed tackles in 2019). He is easily fooled by fakes and his eyes are often in the wrong place, making him late to read route breaks. Overall, Williamson is highly confident with the play personality of a hybrid nickel defender, but his undisciplined tendencies lead to chunk plays for the offense.

Williamson likely is a player who will see mostly special teams work as a rookie, unless injury or illness works its way through the defensive backfield and forces him onto the field.