Thursday, February 28, 2008

Solving Our Problems: Madieu Williams

[Solving Our Problems is an ongoing series here at the Ragnarok where I evaluate the Vikings' options going into the offseason. I started by looking at the quarterback options, examining Derek Anderson, Donovan McNabb and possible backups for Tarvaris Jackson. I've tried to figure out who the QB is going to throw to, starting with free agent Bernard Berrian and Donte Stallworth, but I'm going to take a detour and take a look at a safety the Vikings might sign, Madieu Williams]

The Star Tribune had an article today about the Vikings' possible targets in free agency, and it's a positive one, because the Vikings are going to go after top talent. According to the article, the Vikings top three targets are wide receiver Bernard Berrian, defensive end Justin Smith and safety Madieu Williams. I covered why the Vikings should try and sign Berrian earlier, and Grant's Tomb took a look at the possibilities in the free agent market at defensive end, which I agree with, because I don't think the Vikings are going to spend big money on a pass rusher, because the talent isn't there. Aside from Smith, who struggled in his free agency year, there really aren't any game changing talents. That, combined with the fact that the draft has some quality talent at the position, makes me think that the Purple will spend their $30 million to fill other gaps, mainly wide receiver and safety. And, with Dwight Smith signing with the Lions, the Purple have to find a player to pair with Darren Sharper, and Madieu Williams is their top target.

Williams has spent his four years playing for the Bengals, but you shouldn't let that scare you. He's a talented safety, and is known off the field for his charity work (you thought I was going to say "legal troubles", didn't you? Well, he's not that kind of Bengal). And unlike Smith, his talents lie in coverage, not run support. As Football Prospectus 2007 put it, "Williams in particular is excellent in coverage and can help cover the deficiencies of the corners."

The information in the following table was taken from Football Prospectus 2007, so the stats are from 2006. I don't have access to the stats from last season yet. However, based on what I've read about Williams, he played about as well in 2007 as he did in 2006. And based on watching Smith, I think he preformed about as well this year as he did last year. So I believe that the information below is still relevant in comparing the two.

The first two statistics deal with the safeties ability to stop the run. RuYd shows where the player normally tackled a runner past the line of scrimmage and RuStp deals with the percentage of run plays in which the player was involved in stopping. The second two statistics deal with stopping the pass. Suc% is the percentage of plays targeting a player on which the offense did not have a successful play. "This means not only incomplete passes and interceptions but also short completions that do not meet our baselines for success (45 percent of needed yards on 1st down, 60 percent on 2nd down, 100 percent on 3rd or 4th down)". PD is passes defensed, which is a counting stat that includes any time a player knocked down a pass or intercepted it. Where the player ranks out of all NFL defensive backs in the first three statistics is also included.








Madieu Williams








Dwight Smith








As you can see, Williams is nowhere near the run stopper that Smith is and Smith is nowhere near as good at coverage as Williams is, except when he comes to intercepting passes, as Smith has averaged 3.25 picks over the last four years, while Williams has averaged only 2.25 picks over the same time period. One extra interception a year isn't that big a loss, however, when you consider that Williams was almost 25% more successful at stopping plays targeting him.

While replacing Smith with Williams would likely hurt the Vikings' run defense, adding a safety with Williams' coverage ability would be a huge gain for the Vikings' pass defense. Williams and Sharper (his Suc% was also 69%) would likely make up the best pair of coverage safeties in the NFL, which would more than offset whatever damage it would do to the Vikings' run defense. And, the Vikings' can afford losing some of their ability at stopping the run if it means improving their mediocre pass defense, especially at a position that isn't as vital to run defense. Signing Williams would accomplish that, and in today's NFL, being able to stop the pass is of vital importance.

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