Every year, ESPN+ ranks 25 NFL players who have flown under the radar, but have the ability to become big-name superstars. This season, Philadelphia Eagles defensive lineman Milton Williams ranks No. 17.
UNDER-THE-RADAR YOUNG PLAYERS
The 2022 season marks the 16th anniversary of the list created by ESPN+ and every year, the same criteria to rank these prospective NFL players remains the same.
- Players must be drafted in the third round or later, or signed to a team as an undrafted free agent.
- They must have entered the NFL in the previous three seasons. This year’s list is from 2019-2021.
- Players must have fewer than 500 career offensive or defensive snaps, except running backs (who can have 300).
- They have not signed a contract extension yet.
- To qualify as a “young” player, they must be 26 years old or younger (as of September 1, 2022).
Though the list has had their share of missed marks, it’s featured players like George Kittle, Cooper Kupp, J.C. Jackson, and Mark Andrews. Last season, it named Patriots’ running back Damien Harris who went from 691 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2020 to 929 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2021. Also on the list was Bengals’ linebacker Logan Wilson who had 67 more combined tackles than the previous season, and started in Super Bowl LVI.
THE POTENTIAL RISE OF MILTON WILLIAMS
This season, landing at No. 17 is Eagles’ Milton Williams.
Williams was a third-round draft pick (No. 73 overall) in 2021 out of Louisiana Tech. He played three seasons, finishing with 108 tackles and ten sacks before foregoing his senior year.
As a draft prospect, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. called Williams his favorite defensive tackle.
Kiper Jr. stated, “Williams plays his butt off, and he has some positional versatility. At 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, he could be a 3-technique tackle in a 4-3 or an end in 3-4. He’s active and disruptive — he had ten sacks over the past two seasons. I think he could put up decent sack numbers if he does play as a 3-technique. I would want him on my team if I was a general manager.”
For those watching the draft that year, senior football adviser Tom Donahoe wasn’t excited about Roseman’s pick. But, defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon was, and knew Williams would eventually fit perfectly into his scheme.
In his first professional season, Williams played in all 17 games for the Eagles, only starting in two. He recorded 30 combined tackles, two sacks, two pass deflections, and six quarterback hits.
This season, however, the Eagles’ defensive line is stacked, so how does Williams fit in? The ends will be bookmarked with Pro Bowlers Fletcher Cox and Javon Hargrave. With the newest addition of Jordan Davis as a nose tackle, Williams will slide the radar for opposing tackles who will be focusing on Haasan Reddick coming off the edge.
Milton Williams is also absurdly fast for his size. During his Pro Day, he ran a 4.67 in the 40-yard dash and a sub-7-second three-cone drill.
The Eagles may have a lot of guys to work with, but despite the packed line, each player will hold a specific role, including Williams.