We're ensconced in the doldrums of the offseason and it's a Friday so doing a little story-aggregation never hurt anybody, did it? Good, because Rob Rang continued his 'Finding The Fits' series this week and broke down Seattle's draft class, and had one very interesting thing to say about one Jesse Williams. Rang, in my opinion, is fairly even-keeled and isn't prone to much exaggeration, so his comment that Williams was "arguably the most fearsome defender in college football the past two seasons" really stood out to me.
"Nicknamed "Tha Monstar" at Alabama in part due to his heavily tattooed and massive frame (6-foot-4, 323 pounds), Williams ranked as one of the stouter run defenders in the 2013 draft and was widely viewed as a second-round value.
Instead, the former All-SEC defender slipped into Day 3 due in large part to medical concerns. Many scouts feel that the fifth round is the appropriate place to roll the dice on medical and character concerns. Seattle didn't waste much time once the fifth frame began, trading picks No. 165 (fifth round) and No. 199 (sixth) to the Detroit Lions to select Williams with the fourth pick of the round."
Now, I'll be honest - it's a little concerning that 32 teams allowed Williams to fall to the fifth round (and while it's been rumored that the Seahawks had a 2nd round grade on him, they did pass him over several times before trading up to get him), but Williams may just end up being the best pick the Seahawks made this year. I was very excited about the thought of Williams in College Navy prior to the draft and was frankly afraid that the Niners would take him with their first round pick.
It's too bad DT Jesse Williams won't be there at 56 for Seattle. He's gonna be a beast— Danny Kelly (@FieldGulls) March 13, 2013
Look at how good I am at the Draft.
Let me say that again - I WAS AFRAID THE NINERS WOULD TAKE HIM WITH THEIR FIRST PICK. Afraid. To know now that the Hawks got him in the fifth is a pretty cool feeling, though it's mixed with a certain reticence to get too excited, considering his draft-day fall.
Nonetheless, Williams is the same guy that everyone had pegged as a 2nd rounder and if he does end up healthy, he provides a physicality and toughness (badassness, if you will) to the defensive line in the same way Red Bryant helped change the Hawks' defensive identity back in 2010 and 2011.
As Rob Rang put it, "Perhaps the most understated reason for Seattle's dominating defense last season, however, was simpler -- the Seahawks were simply tougher and more aggressive than most opponents." I love this. Even if Williams is only a rotational player (most defensive linemen are, really), his brute strength and nasty demeanor should fit in nicely.
Anyway. We won't know much about what Williams is or isn't until the preseason. OTAs & Training Camp provide very little insight when it comes to offensive line and defensive lines because they're not hitting each other and they're not in full pads. So, we wait. While we're waiting, here's some reading - what I wrote about Williams prior to the Draft, followed by what Ben Harbaugh wrote back in February. Re-read all this, if you're bored.
Jesse Williams, Alabama
6'4, 323; 32" arms, 9 3/8" hands, 4.90-4.94 40-yard dash, 30 reps on bench. 4.78 short shuttle, 7.69 3-cone.
Williams is another guy whose stock seems to fluctuate anywhere from the late first round all the way into the second or third rounds, depending on which source you're reading. I just can't get a real feel for how high he'll go. My guess is that it'll be higher than some think, despite tape that is, frankly, sometimes a little boring to watch. For me, it's about potential. I know, it always is with defensive tackles, but it seems especially true with Williams.
In metrics, he's 191cm tall, 145 kg. The Australian, nicknamed "the Monstar," started playing football late and coming from Down Under, had to start his college career in the JUCO ranks. After transferring to Alabama, he played 5-technique defensive end in 2011 and then moved to nose tackle in 2012, faring well at both spots.
His former coach, Nick Saban, framed it pretty well:
"That's what people look for, guys that have size but are athletic and have initial quickness and some power and can run and finish on the quarterback and run ball-carriers down. He played really well for us and he's going to continue to get better because he has more upside ... He doesn't have the same background of growing up as a football player like a lot of players we have in our program."
You're always looking for the guy whose best football is ahead of him. My hunch is that Williams may be one of those guys.
He's known for being absurdly strong, and his ability to anchor against double teams while keeping his eyes in the backfield is what makes him so attractive to teams running both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes.
Williams has quickness for his size, and plays mean -- again, a trait you love to see in a defensive lineman. He finished his senior year with 37 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, and two sacks. His junior year, spent mostly at DE, he had 24 tackles with 4.0 for a loss.
It's sometimes hard to put into words something you're seeing on film, but my colleague Ben Harbaugh, while convincing me on Williams' potential, said it well when he posited:
"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."
You can watch his tape from 2011, at defensive end, and 2012, at nose tackle, below, both courtesy of DraftBreakdown.
Also, here's what our own Ben Harbaugh wrote about Williams back in February, positing that the Australian should be Seattle's first round pick. Williams' knee is likely the reason he fell to the early 5th. Here's what Harbaugh said:
"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 afterNate 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."
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Xs & Os: Breaking down schematics & strategy
The Numbers Game: Analysis of statistics & the salary cap
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