It's a redemption year for cornerback K'Waun Williams, and the 5-foot-9, 183-pound corner is ready to make a name for himself in the San Francisco 49ers secondary.
Williams was the first of the Kyle Shanahan-John Lynch signings this offseason and has been a standout performer throughout the first week of training camp. But solidifying his name on the 49ers 53-man roster won't be easy. Williams is very familiar with those odds.
Williams wasn’t highly regarded out of the University of Pittsburgh and went undrafted in 2014. After not receiving any immediate offers from NFL teams, Williams eventually went on to sign with the Cleveland Browns where he was reunited with his college defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley.
Williams found himself at the bottom of the Browns depth chart behind two drafted cornerbacks. He still did his best to make an impression through OTAs and training camp.
“Every guy wants to get drafted,” Williams said. “When it didn’t happen, I didn’t get down on myself. I knew there was still an opportunity. As long as I get one shot to prove what I have to prove."
Williams worked his way into the lineup and held a role in Cleveland's defense from 2014-15. The cornerback posted 76 tackles, 10 passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 26 games with the Browns. In 2014 Williams made a play on the ball on 4.3% of cover snaps, the best rate among NFL corners. He was also just one of eight corners to allow fewer than 1.0 yards per cover snap in slot coverage (.94) per Pro Football Focus.
But that opportunity was short lived. Williams missed the entire 2016 season due to an ankle injury and was released by the Browns following his three-year stint. With a clean bill of health and a second reunion with Coach Hafley, Williams looks to regain the role he once held in Cleveland.
Williams is a prime candidate to be the 49ers starting nickel corner. His top competition will be second-year defensive back Will Redmond.
“There’s always a competition. Nothing is given. Everything is earned,” Williams added. “I was undrafted. I made it off tryouts. So, I always have that chip on my shoulder.”