The Michigan State Spartans saw two players drafted in the 2020 NFL draft with cornerback Josiah Scott going in the fourth round (No. 137 overall) to the Jacksonville Jaguars (Duuuval!) and defensive end Kenny Willekes (somehow) going in the seventh round (No. 225 overall). Several other Spartans were signed to NFL teams as undrafted free agents.
One such UDFA signee was defensive tackle, and Michigan State fan favorite, Raequan Williams. Williams signed with the Philadelphia Eagles immediately following the Draft and enters into a crowded defensive line rotation in the City of Brotherly Love.
What are Williams’ chances of making the active roster and what might his role be with the Eagles? We spoke to Brandon Lee Gowton, Eagles reporter and managing editor-in-chief of SB Nation’s Bleeding Green Nation — the quintessential website for all things Philadelphia Eagles.
Check out our chat below
1. (Assuming we play football this season) What chances would you give Williams of making the 53-man roster and why?
Brandon: Eight percent chance. The Eagles are just so loaded at defensive tackle. Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, and Malik Jackson are three of the top-nine highest paid players at their position. Hassan Ridgeway is the favorite for the fourth defensive tackle job after showing some promise last season. Williams is likely battling for a fifth spot in the rotation at best. He could be a good bet for the practice squad, though. The Eagles did have a draftable grade on him, per BGN Radio’s Jimmy Kempski.
2. How does Williams fit Philadelphia’s defensive scheme and if he does make the team, what would you expect Williams’ role to be on the Eagles as a rookie (rotational player, eventual starter, special teams contributor, etc.)? Or do you see him on the practice squad instead?
Brandon: The Eagles highly value defensive tackles who can generate interior disruption (see: their big investments in Cox, Hargrave, and Jackson). But they do have room for some tackles who project more as run-stuffers. I envision Williams starting out on the practice squad. He might eventually develop into a fourth option in the defensive tackle rotation down the road. If the Eagles get decimated by defensive tackle injuries for the third season in a row, Williams could make the 53-man roster sooner than expected.
3. As you’ve mentioned, Williams joins a talented defensive line group that includes Derek Barnett, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Malik Jackson. With players like Cox, Graham and Jackson all aging, what does Williams need to do specifically to standout as a potential long-term replacement for the Eagles?
Brandon: Showing some pass rush juice would be nice. A strong preseason (assuming there is one) could convince the Eagles to not risk exposing him to waivers and instead stash him at the bottom of the roster. In any case, he really just needs to bide his time and hone his craft until he might be of more use to the team later in the future.
4. Were you surprised the Eagles were able to land Williams as an undrafted free agent, and did you initially like the signing?
Brandon: Williams was on my radar heading into the draft because the Eagles met with him at the Shrine Bowl in addition to holding a FaceTime meeting with him. They were clearly doing some homework on him. I thought he might be a late Day Three pick so getting him as a UDFA signing is solid. Doesn’t hurt for the Eagles to add some more competition for the fourth (and fifth?) defensive tackle spots.
5. The Eagles didn’t draft a defensive tackle (they did take defensive end Casey Toohill in the seventh round) and Williams was the only UDFA signed at this position. Do you think this bodes well for Williams and appears that the staff thinks highly of him, or will the veterans in front of him to still be too difficult to beat out for a roster spot?
Brandon: I tend to think the veterans will be tough to beat out, especially given the shortened offseason. Still, the Eagles might like Williams enough as a developmental guy. The Eagles could potentially move on from Jackson next year and Ridgeway will be a free agent so there could be an opening for Williams to step up in 2021.
6. Anything else we should know about Williams landing in Philly?
Brandon: (Defensive coordinator) Jim Schwartz likes to heavily rotate his defensive linemen so Williams could be in line for some snaps if he finds a way to crack the rotation.
Check out my crossover piece on Bleeding Green Nation.