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49ers 90-in-90: Appreciating the value of K’Waun Williams

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is CB K’Waun Willliams

Los Angeles Rams v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Heading into training camp last year, I thought D.J. Reed had an opportunity to beat out K’Waun Williams for the 49ers slot cornerback position. It wasn’t that Williams did anything bad; it was more of upgrading at the position. Williams rotated early on with D.J. Reed but eventually showed Robert Saleh that he was the best man for the job. Would that translate to the regular season? Did it ever.

Williams led the 49ers in forced fumbles with four and was second on the team in interceptions with two. PFF tracks slot coverage and Williams was second in passer rating allowed and had thee fourth-highest grade for all slot cornerbacks. Williams was also tied for eighth in the NFL in “stops,” which are tackles that constitute as a ‘loss’ for the offense.

Two of those forced fumbles came in the playoffs. Heading into a contract year, if Williams plays anywhere near as good in 2020 as he did in 2019, he’s in for a big payday next offseason.

Basic info

Age: 28 (29 on July 12)

Experience: Five accrued seasons

Height: 5’9

Weight: 183 lbs

Cap Status

Williams is entering the final season of his contract. The 49ers picked up Williams’ 2020 option on March 5. After last season, that was a no-brainer. Williams’s cap number in 2020 is $3.1 million.

Why he might regress in 2020

If Williams is any better, he’ll put himself in a position to earn a significant deal next March. Williams’ regressing isn’t an indictment on him as a player considering how well he played in 2019. Cornerback statistics vary more than any other position from year-to-year. The ball might bounce another way, or the receiver makes a play he didn’t make in the same situation a year ago. Let’s say that happens ten times in a season. Williams may go from the fourth-best nickel CB to the eighth-best, statistically. That’s a scenario where he would ‘regress.’ Also, six forced fumbles in one season are incredible.

Why he might improve in 2020

Two years ago, Williams allowed five yards after the catch. That was an impossible number to sustain. That number climbed to 286 in 2019, but 36% of that came on two plays. I’d expect Williams to get closer to 100 yards in 2020.

While Williams may not match his forced fumble total from 2019, he should exceed the number of interceptions and pass breakups from last year. That number was two, with zero pass breakups. One of those came against the Browns after a ricochet. With the 49ers defense being as fast as they are at all three levels with a dominant front, Williams should luck into better ball production this season. This may sound like a hot take, but Williams was the best run defender in my opinion on the team last year. He knifed his way through defenses and around blockers in a way very few do in the NFL. If he can add ball production, the 49ers won’t have much of a choice to pay Williams next year.