+Good quickness for his size
+Solid stamina for a nose tackle
+Really penetrates easily
+Uses solid fundamentals
-Gets into the backfield a lot, but can’t make tackles once he’s there
-Doesn’t make many arm tackles
Alabama nose tackle Jesse Williams is a tough guy to figure out. He gets into the backfield almost at will, but does shockingly little once he’s there. He still has the potential to be solid, but, at this point, the critics are right.
Williams has solid measurables. He has decent height at 6’3, adequate bulk for a nose tackle at 323lbs, and good speed with a 4.94 40 yard dash, according to NFLDraftScout.com. However, he has very short arms at 32 inches, and did fewer bench reps than you would expect (30) at the NFL combine, which is very surprising once you also factor in his lack of length. With short arms, you don’t have to lift the bar as far up as other players.
Williams has below average stats. In 2012, he had 37 tackles, 2.5 TFL’s, and 1 sack. The TFL’s definitely worry me. He was mostly a backup in 2011, but still notched 4 TFL’s. Still, the lack of statistical production is cause for concern.
Williams doesn’t do much against the pass, but that doesn’t really matter. What a lot of people don’t realize is that nose tackles are usually subbed out on passing downs not only because they are mediocre against the pass, but, given their size, nose tackles not named Johnathan Hankins don’t have the stamina to be an every down player. Williams sees the field on about 70% of Alabama’s plays, a pretty normal number for a nose tackle. Against the pass, he offers good short area quickness for his size, though it hardly seems to phase opposing centers, and he does a decent job of using his hands, but he doesn’t show elite strength and he isn’t very good in pursuit. He flashes the ability to drop back in coverage on a zone blitz, and isn’t terrible at it for a guy his size, but still doesn’t possess a ton of strength nor does he show the ability to get offensive linemen off balance. He also has poor instincts against screens.
Williams is adequate against the run. He can penetrate with ease. He uses his hands well, gets good leverage, and has good lower body strength, often driving offensive linemen off the ball, and he has solid balance. He has very good quickness off the ball for his size and knows how to get into the backfield. The frustrating thing is that, although he can penetrate with ease, he never does anything in the backfield once he’s there. For one, he is a blind penetrator. A blind penetrator is my term for a guy who gets into the backfield at all costs on every play, but, he might not even know if it’s a pass play or a run play until he’s there, and they’re constantly fooled by screens. He’ll get into the backfield, and then he’ll find the ball. The other issue is that he has incredible short arms, and struggles to wrap up. He’s quick off the ball but not quick in pursuit, really struggling in the open field. He’s not a good open field tackler and doesn’t react quickly. He pretty much can’t make a tackle unless you run right into him. It’s quite frustrating. His other problem is that his arms are so short that he isn’t great at making tackles in traffic. It’s hard to make arm tackles if you have short arms, and he rarely makes tackles while being blocked. He also isn’t very good at disengaging from blocks, and struggles to get his arms into good position to make arm tackles. Really, his only value in this area is that he is so good at penetrating that he will draw double teams, but the lack of plays he actually makes really limits his value. If he touches you, he’ll usually bring you down, but he rarely touches anyone, which means he isn’t actually a great player, although the sight of him in the backfield makes him seem dominant. He also doesn’t have great instincts, and he’s prone to cut blocks.
In the end, Williams just isn’t a great player. He has solid lower body strength and can really penetrate, but he doesn’t make many plays for all the penetration he creates, which really limits his value as a player. Given his short arms and slow reactions, it’s tough to imagine him improving here in the NFL. He could be at least decent if he improved his instincts, but the prospects aren’t very bright right now.
NFL Comparison: There aren’t many good ones, but I suppose Domata Peko with short arms
Grade: 80 (worthy of a late 2nd, early 3rd round pick)
Projection: 86 (will be a mid, maybe early 2nd round pick)