The perfect "LEO" prospect for the Seattle defense in terms of physical makeup, is a guy who's under 255 lbs, runs a sub-4.6 40-yard dash, and can get off the ball with an explosive first step. They don't necessarily have to be refined technically, as the Bruce Irvin pick and the trade for Chris Clemons have indicated, and they aren't required to have a ton of power to their game. Rather, you're looking for a guy who's physically built a little bit bigger than a traditional outside linebacker, but has the get-off, instincts and acumen of a traditional 4-3 weak-side defensive end. Sounds simple, right?
I've heard some fans ask if the Seahawks' lack of depth at this position is simply a sign that they are content just keeping - or perhaps only have room for - two of these types on their roster (Irvin and Clemons). Absolutely not. You can never have enough rushers, particularly when pass rush is your biggest weakness. The real issue is that these guys are hard to find.
Most guys over 250 lbs run in the 4.7 and 4.9 range, but the majority of sub-4.6 guys are under 240 lbs, or have little to no experience rushing the QB from a 3-point stance and have spent more time in a traditional OLB role than growing their skill-set as a pass-rusher.
There's no doubt that the Seahawks have tried to find more of this guy. Ricky Foley was brought in from Canada to have a shot. Dexter Davis fit the mold in 2010 when the Seahawks used a 7th round pick on him. Jameson Konz was drafted that same year in the same round, and the ‘Hawks tried to convert him to the same position. Cordarro Law appeared to be a potential fit as a UDFA last year, but lacked the speed and flexibility to make it work. Hard to find.
So, I've spent some time looking through this year's draft crop to see if I could identify a guy or two who fit this particular set of criteria, and here's one that really jumps out at me:
0602 233 4.52
Bridgeport Central High School
Positives: Explosive athlete with natural edge-rush ability. Extremely quick get-off to go with flexibility that makes him a consistent threat to round the edge on every play. Big-time closing burst in space. Exhibits an impressive lateral quickness when countering back to the inside from the edge. May have the best pure get-off of anyone edge rusher in this year's class. Relentless motor to the whistle. Exhibits acceleration to track down the stretch play from the backside. Consistently creates space with good arm extension and impressive punch to his opponent's chestplate. Makes good use of flexibility to generate low leverage at the edge. Possesses elite straight-line speed for an ‘end, and is "plus" in this area among linebackers.
Negatives: Is under-sized for a traditional 3-point edge rusher, but hasn't shown a lot in terms of lining up as a traditional linebacker either. Lacks power necessary to consistently generate any kind of bull-rush and is a pure speed rusher who has to rely heavily on his get-off to make the edge. Flashes a secondary move from time to time, but needs to continue to develop a repertoire if he's going to consistently contribute pressure at the next level. Doesn't exhibit a high level of awareness or instincts as a run defender and may be a one-trick pony. Rarely drops back into coverage, so is tough to grade in space.
Compares To: Dexter Davis, OLB/DE, Seattle Seahawks - Like Davis did at Arizona State, Williams has put up some intriguing sack numbers at the college level (11.5 in '12) despite lacking the size and strength that scouts want to see in an every-down rusher at the next level. Williams gets off the ball much better than Davis did though, and should warrant a higher pick than the 7th round selection that the Seahawks used on Davis back in '10. Interest should be strong from a 3-4 team willing to bank on the chance that Williams can be just as effective rushing from a 2-point stance, as he's been with his hand in the ground. A legitimate double-digit sack threat in the right system, who's upside could be more like Bruce Irvin, year one.
Seattle Fit: Williams could be a great rotational rush-end piece in nickel situations, and could give the Seahawks some options in terms of moving guys like Clemons or Irvin around up front, or even standing one of them up if they want to overload a side with a bunch of speed. He could also come in and compete for a more significant role immediately depending upon how well Clemons rebounds from the knee injury.
Williams is a bit lighter than is ideal for the position, but his athleticism and frame indicate that he could afford to pack on some more poundage without losing any speed or quickness, so there's a developmental/upside element here as well.
Williams is also a bit more refined than say, Irvin, in that he flashes a counter-move more frequently, and is more active with his hands. Look for a team like Jacksonville to potentially go after Williams as well, and as mentioned above, he'll definitely intrigue some 3-4 teams, perhaps as early as the 3rd round.
You can find more of Derek's analysis at his Seahawks-centric draft, free agency, & pro player personnel site called "ScoutTheSeahawks." Head over and bookmark it - he maintains a really great free agent tracker in addition to his Draft focus that is much more in-depth than most places because of his background doing deep scouting of NFL Draft prospects.