Jesse Williams grew up in Australia playing basketball and Rugby. He didn't step onto the football field until the age of 15. After an academic miscue which would've cost him his freshman year playing for Hawaii, Williams went to the JUCO ranks to play for Arizona Western. He racked up 13 tackles for loss and six sacks in two seasons before transferring to Alabama.
Williams played the 5-tech position in 2011 as Alabama rolled to a National Championship victory over LSU. He was moved to defensive tackle (mostly NT) in his final collegiate season as Alabama notched it's second consecutive title over Notre Dame. His stat line over those two years was a modest 61 tackles, 6.5 for loss, and one sack. He would also line up as a short yardage lead blocker for the Tide.
Jesse Williams has some intriguing physical attributes at 6-4 320 lbs. He can reportedly bench press 600 lbs and unlike other workout warriors, that strength really shows on the field. Williams has the most natural block-shedding power I've seen on a college defensive line since Ndamukong Suh. He pairs a massive upper body with a slight lower half. He moves well for his size with quick feet and decent lateral quickness. Short limbs and a thick torso give him some natural leverage.
Williams shows a nice bust off the line. He doesn't explode but he moves quickly out of his stance to shock linemen backward with gorilla strength. Unfortunately, he'll then allow his pad level to rise and won't sustain leverage as the play progresses. His hand use remains inconsistent but it's improved over the past two seasons. When fresh he can synchronize quick hands, quick feet, and brutal power to completely overwhelm offensive linemen. He also does an excellent job getting low and driving forward in short yardage situations.
Williams doesn't just occupy blockers against the run, he actively destroys it. He almost always wins the initial push at the point of attack. Then he can shuck blockers aside as they lean forward to regain position. Williams will often disengage so quickly that running backs must alter their course purely to avoid him. I think this is part of the reason why his stat line looks so meager. His lack of experience shows at times when he misdiagnosis plays. On the other hand he keeps his head up and quickly identifies the ball on runs headed his direction.
Offenses regularly double team him and he anchors well against them. His lack of lower body strength can hurt him though if he starts moving the wrong direction - not much ability to re-anchor. It also hurts his initial ability to anchor as he tires in the second half. If Williams can gain some lower body strength, use his hands more consistently, and do a better job diagnosing the play then he could become one of the league's most dominant run defenders. He's already outstanding in this respect.
Williams didn't bring much by way of pass rush in college. He occasionally walks his man backward but lacks the leg drive and pad level to sustain it or do so consistently. He has a total lack of flexibility to work past blockers and is easily evaded when he does break free. The swim and bull rush are the only moves currently in his arsenal. On the plus side he pursues well outside the pocket and has the lateral quickness to jump to adjacent gaps on stunts. He's good about getting his hands up but didn't have much success doing so - only three pass deflections in 25 starts.
Most scouts tout Williams as a pure run stuffer. I see more upside as a pass rusher than most. With more leg drive and better pad level he could consistently collapse the pocket with nothing more than a bull rush. Combine that with how well he sheds and he could cause serious problems. He'll never land many sacks but he has the potential to disrupt at a high level. A deep rotation would help keep him fresh.
Williams plays with a palpable intensity. His motor never stops and he always seems to enter the scrum with bad intentions. While technically still raw, the improvement he showed during his two year Alabama career gives credit to the hope that his best football lies ahead. No major injuries but Williams got nicked up a lot in college. Off the field Williams comes across as even-keeled and positive.
In the race for who to predict to the Hawks at 25, which is constantly running inside my head this time of year, Jesse Williams is winning by a fair margin.
Williams is a clean fit for the 5-technique position which we employ with Red Bryant. Bryant may even be Williams' best NFL comparison, as our own RagingAlot points out here in Mathew Fairburn's scouting report on Williams. Like Bryant, Williams possesses explosive strength and surprising quickness yet struggles with pad level and lower body strength. Over the past three seasons, the Seahawks have basically asked Bryant to play as a mobile run smasher. The 4-3 under we run with Bryant leaves the strong side vulnerable to runs while featuring the 3-technique and Leo as pass rushers. The 5-tech must move around and overcome numbers with power to defend the run. Jesse Williams fits that role like a glove.
Unlike Bryant, Williams can more readily rotate inside. His body-type allows for more natural leverage than Bryant and his pad level can still be coached up. If needed, Williams will man the 1-tech with authority. He'll require a rotation but he can certainly get the job done. At 3-technique he needs to develop his pass rush but I think he has real potential there. He can man it in a pinch as is. This front office appreciates nastiness and power. Williams brings that in droves wherever he lines up.
Pete Carroll has shown a definite commitment to the 'unbalanced line with Leo' scheme by signing Bryant to a five year deal, Chris Clemons to the three year deal, drafting Bruce Irvin, and bringing back Dan Quinn as the defensive coordinator. Alan Branch is a free agent and it could be difficult to retain him as Bryant's back-up if we're looking to upgrade the starting 3-tech spot through free agency. After two years playing 3-tech, it's easy to forget how essential the Branch signing felt in the wake of Kentwan Balmer failing to fill in for Bryant in the latter half of 2010. The previously excellent rushing defense suffered badly. Bryant was beastly in 2011 but nagging injuries took a toll on his play in 2012. Bryant will be 29 in April.
Improving the interior pass rush this off-season is obviously imperative. However I suspect that finding a back-up and hopefully a future successor for Big Red will rank as similarly essential in the eyes of Pete Carroll and Dan Quinn. Drafting a Jesse Williams would cement the future success of the 5-tech position and also infuse potential and depth at 3-tech and 1-tech.
I was still on the fence about Williams as an option at 25 until Danny reminded us what Schneider said about Carpenter, "We had Carpenter rated so highly (second tackle after Nate Solder) purely just based on his toughness and his versatility." This is a deep class of defensive linemen but I'm pretty certain Seahawks will rate Williams a lot higher than most have him.
James Carpenter - Alabama, power, toughness, versatility, 25th pick.
Jesse Williams - well, you get the idea.
Still not convinced? Imagine how this pick would taste. There you go. Chew it up. How is it? Bit of a head scratcher? Kinda like it but not quite sure? Well, that's how Seahawk first round picks have tasted these past two drafts.
Below you'll see Williams playing defensive end in 2011 against LSU and Arkansas in the first first video. The second video shows his 2012 play against Texas A&M and LSU. The 2012 LSU game is pretty impressive.