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Draft Preview: Chris Williams

I thought I'd depart from wide receiver briefly and talk about Chris Williams. Williams is a left tackle for Vanderbilt of the SEC. Good conference, bad team. In 2007, Vanderbilt posted the 87th best offense in college football. An offense built on a star wide receiver, Earl Bennett, a star left tackle, Williams, and three starting quarterbacks, Chris Nickson, Mackenzie Adams and Richard Kovalcheck. I mention all this because before we discuss Williams in too much depth, I want to establish that Vanderbilt is a bad, bad team. With a poor offense that was clobbered by each and every one of its high-class SEC rivals.

Courtesy, the money numbers for Williams are:

Started all twelve contests at left tackle, receiving the top blocking grade for consistency (85.67%) of any down lineman in the SEC, as he produced 102 knockdowns/key blocks, including twelve that resulted in touchdowns while allowing only one quarterback sack and one pressure on 836 offensive snaps...Was one of the major reasons that the Commodores averaged 326.6 yards per game in total offense, leading an offensive line that allowed only seventeen sacks for losses totaling 109 yards. Developed into the Commodores' top offensive lineman and one of the premier tackles in the Southeastern Conference...

That's impressive, right? I don't know nor trust "blocking consistency" as a rating, but one sack, one pressure? Good stuff. I rate pass blocking as about twice as important as run blocking for an offensive line and even moreso for a left tackle. Therefore, if we could take this stat at face value, assume that it effectively argued that Williams was a superlative pass blocker without knowing anything about his run blocking, or even knowing it was just adequate, I could consider him a first round-worthy left tackle.

Except, it's a garbage stat. Here's why. Vanderbilt only suffered 17 sacks all season, 16 by its primary quarterbacks: Nickson (3), Adams (12) and Kovalcheck (1). I walked back through the play by play of 8 games*, the others did not have play by play available. In those contests Vanderbilt suffered 9 sacks, again, a superficially impressive figure in light of the strength of their competition. Unfortunately, Adams and Nickson are option quarterbacks. The two's combined pass/run ratio was 163:145. While only suffering 9 sacks, they also endured 22 tackles for a loss. What delineates a sack from a tackle for a loss? The scorekeeper decides the quarterback wasn't trying to pass the ball, was trying to run with it. Nickson and Adams did that roughly any time there was pressure, a play didn't develop immediately, they felt fool-heroic or when not throwing Favre-ian picks whilst escaping pressure. If Williams were blocking for a real quarterback, a pocket quarterback, one who braves pressure looking for an open man, his sacks allowed and pressures allowed would be higher. Likely much higher.

I watched Williams play, and he's good, but I'm not wild about him. He's an agile mirror-slide tackle not unlike Sean Locklear. For the most part, he's good at shielding the outer edge against the speed rush, disengaging spent blocks and finding free rushers. He spends an alarming amount of time in his own backfield. Williams doesn't get much push in the run game, is regularly walked back in pass pro and just doesn't look very strong as a blocker. He's always containing his matchup, never dominating, rarely outright winning. I was especially concerned about his reliance on the crouch, rather than a customary three-point presnap pose, and the way Alabama's 3-4 end, Bobby Greenwood, outmuscled him. In the modern NFL, it is a debilitating weakness for a left tackle to not be able to handle a 3-4 DE. For a Seahawks club that shares a conference with two 3-4 defenses, it's outright unacceptable.

*Auburn, Eastern Michigan, Florida, Georgia, Miami (OH), Mississippi, Tennessee and Wake Forest