Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams has had a fascinating journey to his current status as a potential first-round pick. He was born and raised in Australia, and grew up playing rugby. He only started playing football at the age of 15, but he took to it like a natural. He originally committed to the University of Hawaii, but eventually ended up at Western Arizona Community College due to insufficient credits. He was a dominant junior college prospect, drawing offers from Oregon State, Oklahoma State, USC, Mississippi, LSU, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama.
He ended up at Alabama for his junior and senior years, where he started at five-technique defensive end, zero-technique defensive tackle, and fullback in short-yardage situations. Over his two years at Alabama, he racked up 61 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, three passes broken up, seven quarterback hurries, and a blocked kick. He wasn’t the most directly productive player, but his game isn’t about accumulating statistics. He’s a gap plugger who relies on power and leverage to occupy blockers and free his teammates to make plays.
| Ht || Wt || Class || Ranking || Projection |
| 6'4" || 325 || Senior || 16th || Late First-Mid Second |
Frame: He possesses the prototypical 3-4 nose tackle frame. Even though he’s a little taller than most (B.J. Raji is 6’2”, Casey Hampton is 6’1”, Vince Wilfork is 6’2”, etc.), Williams is more short-limbed than all of the above. Length is often an asset for defensive linemen, but in Williams’ case, his relatively short arms and legs help him maintain a low center of gravity, which means he rarely loses the leverage battle at the point of attack.
Power/Leverage: The stout Australian is unbelievably powerful. He’s reportedly benched 600 pounds on numerous occasions, and it often shows up on the field. He’s a fierce mauler who doesn’t give up ground easily. His frame and play style is similar to Stephen Paea, who went in the second round to the Chicago Bears two years ago. Williams managed “only” 30 reps of 225 pounds at the combine, compared to Paea’s record 49 reps, but that speaks more to endurance than power.
Versatility: Williams spent his first year at Alabama playing five-tech, where he was more responsible for rushing the passer. In his senior year, he almost exclusively lined up as a zero-tech nose tackle, often occupying double teams and holding strong at the point of attack. He also served as the Crimson Tide’s short-yardage fullback, and he has the marginal quickness to succeed in the same role at the next level, much like the 49ers have used Will Tukuafu and Isaac Sopoaga in the past.
Quickness: While he is fairly quick in a phone booth, Williams doesn’t have the agility and nimble footwork to be an effective, consistent pass rusher in the NFL. He can hold his ground against double teams, but quicker NFL backs will be able to evade him in the open field. He’s a classic space-eater, so his value will be limited.
Experience: He only has four seasons of college football under his belt, with two at the FBS level. He’s more polished than one might expect, but he still has a lot to learn.
Because he doesn’t project as an effective pass rusher or dynamic run stuffer, talk of him in the top-15 picks is probably a little ambitious. His skill set translates well to the NFL and he should play significant snaps as a rookie, but his ceiling is probably similar to Wilfork's, who was taken 21st overall, and he’ll probably never be quite that dynamic of a player. He compares a little more favorably to Paea, who went 53rd overall.
Since the talent in this draft flattens out between the 20th and 60th-ranked players, he could go as high as Pittsburgh at 17th overall, if there’s a run on defensive tackles and they decide to find Casey Hampton’s replacement. Or he could fall to the mid-second round like Paea. His floor is probably Seattle’s 56th pick.