Fifth Round: 137th Pick
One of the biggest and strongest interior linemen in this year's draft, Jesse Williams has been an anchor for Nick Saban's Crimson Tide defense for the last two years. There is extensive film of him playing both nose tackle and defensive end in Alabama's 3-4, and he has experience with one and two gap techniques. He isn't the athlete or pass rusher Marcel Dareus was coming out, but he is much quicker, lighter on his feet, and more explosive than Terrance Cody, who is currently with the Ravens.
+ Elite combo of upper body strength, hand use, and technique
+ Impressive first step and change-of-direction ability
- Not developed as a pass rusher
- Thin lower body
Tools ( + )
Jesse Williams’ profile started growing last summer, when he released the above picture of him bench pressing 600 pounds. His combination of length and upper body strength, his quick and heavy hands, and his impressive athleticism have made him one of the most important players on the Crimson Tide defense over the last two years.
While he isn’t quite the athlete Marcel Dareus was coming out, he is a much more fluid and explosive defensive line prospect than Terrence Cody was. His measurements will not be official until after the combine, but Alabama has him listed at 6’4", 320 pounds.
Williams is a two-year starter with no known character issues.
Williams played nose tackle as a senior and defensive end as a junior in Alabama’s 3-4 defense and has experience playing both one-gap and two-gap techniques. He also played fullback in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
Williams’ main contributions as a pass-rusher comes in overpowering his man and collapsing the quarterback’s inside space. He does not have a set of moves to rely on and instead tries to get under his man and bull rush him. He does have success as a pass-rusher due to his ability to disengage with strength and his surprising closing burst.
He flashes an impressive first step off the snap and displays the lateral agility to run twist stunts (and could probably handle dropping into short zones in coverage). Since he’s not a natural penetrator against the pass, Williams makes an effort to get his hands up into the throwing lane when he sees the quarterback releasing the ball. He also displays great awareness of when he’s being screened.
Williams is a very effective two-gapper with tremendous upper-body strength. His length and strength give him the ability to anchor against the run. He will not be moved by single blocks, and he holds his ground against double teams by dropping to a knee.
His size is major weapon; he fires off low and resets the line of scrimmage. He is not just a massive lop, however, and shows the burst to make plays in the backfield and down the line of scrimmage.
Like most defensive linemen, he starts playing tall off the snap and chicken-fighting with the offensive linemen when he gets tired.
Williams is a very good tackler in a phone booth, where he can use his size to overwhelm the ball-carrier. However, he can be prone to missing tackles in space or when he's out of control when coming into the backfield, where his top-heavy frame can get the best of him.
Change of Direction
Williams has impressively light feet and balance for a top-heavy athlete of his size. He is not linear and doesn’t need to gather himself to change directions, showing balance and flexibility.
He also makes a lot of plays down the line after disengaging, showing his impressive closing burst. Williams also shows great awareness as to how he’s being blocked—he “ice picks” or spins against pressure when his flow is taking him away from the ball, and he consistently sniffs out screens.
Strong, powerful hands. Williams jolts offensive linemen on initial contact. He consistently gets inside hand placement on his man and is incredibly effective at using his length and strength to keep lineman off his body. He has even shown the ability to disengage with one arm.
Future Role/Scheme Versatility
An ideal “War Daddy” for 3-4 teams, Williams could play either the defensive end or nose tackle spots in both one-gap and two-gap systems. He might not ever have impressive sack or pressure totals, but he can be an anchor and the most important player on a defensive front, similar to DE/NT swingmen Vince Wilfork and Haloti Ngata.
Draft Projection: Mid-to-late first round