Thursday, March 5, 2015
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sylvester williams

Here we are less than 48 hours away from the greatest stretch of three days throughout the entire offseason and I can’t sleep. Obviously, I’m referring to the 2013 NFL Draft which takes place this Thursday evening. And unfortunately, the absence of sleep isn’t due to excitement regarding our two first round picks… It’s due to a nasty case of bronchitis and a sinus infection that leaves me coughing throughout the night. So, bear with me as I walk you through my third and final mock draft of the offseason and attempt to explain some of the decisions I’ve made (of which are bound to make at least a few Vikings fans squirm).

First, yes, I still do have Geno Smith going in the top 5. In fact, I have two quarterbacks being taken in the top 10. Here’s why and I’ve said it before: People can say anything they want about the lack of talent and a true franchise QB in this year’s draft but the truth is that teams over and over again have showed us that, on draft day, they are more than willing to reach on a quarterback that they think even has a remote chance of righting the ship (regardless of how delusional that thought may be).

Geno Smith to the Eagles isn’t that crazy. Their is a new head coach there who is going to be looking for someone that can run his new, fast-pace offense. Michael Vick is past his prime and has become a turnover machine. The Eagles selecting Smith and having the two face off in camp seems to make sense to me (and a few other people).

The next quarterback I have being taken (by the Buffalo Bills) also makes sense. The obvious connection with Nassib and coach Doug Marone is there from their time together at Syracuse. But, more than that, the Bills need to create competition at the quarterback position and it’s not a guarantee their guy (assumedly Nassib) will be there when they select in the second round. It’s possible, yes. But, unless they can somehow trade down, would not be surprised at all with this pick.

Alright, let’s get on to the important part, shall we? Our selections.

[Note:  Want to see a list of every player featured in our “Draft Target” segment?  Click here to visit the Offseason Tracker where there will be a list of all these players.  Check back often as there are plenty more to come!]

It is no secret that the Vikings could use some help at defensive tackle.  Kevin Williams seems to be slumping and, at age 32, one can’t help but wonder if it is all downhill from here.  Letroy Guion and Christian Ballard have yet to establish themselves as reliable starters, and Fred Evans is nothing more than a suitable stopgap.

The Vikings could likely get by for another season with this group, but the popular theory is that they will use the NFL Draft to try and get a jump start on upgrading.  Todd McShay of ESPN recently mocked North Carolina tackle Sylvester Williams to the Vikings, a suddenly trendy pick, so I figured now was as good of a time as any to profile Williams for you all.

At 6′ 3″ and 313 pounds, Williams was impressive at the NFL Scouting Combine, including a 5.03 forty time and 27 reps on the bench press, confirming what we already knew:  Williams is the perfect combination of speed and strength that teams look for in a defensive tackle.

Williams is a prospect that comes with a story, having personal troubles during his high school years, but managed to catch on with a small school before making himself known under the bright lights at North Carolina.  He is known as a raw and emotional player, for better and worse, that plays with a nastiness that sometimes spills over into the realm of undisciplined.

He is known for his swim move, which gets him into the backfield on a fairly regular basis, but it is also a worry that you seldom see him use any other moves to bet beyond his blocker.  He plays with an enormous amount of strength and a reach that casts a wide net for taking down running backs or making plays on the ball.  His strength and burst could allow him to play either tackle position for the Vikings, and maybe even defensive end on running downs, but he should probably be assigned learning the three-technique from day one as his primary responsibility.

Williams has been knocked for inconsistencies, especially against more elite blockers, and it is certainly a concern to see any player disappear for long stretches.  Both his work ethic and conditioning has been alluded to as a possible worry by a number of experts and draftniks, but I have yet to hear anything solid to suggest this is really concern.  Hopefully someone from the Vikings had the presence of mind to do some digging on this matter when former North Carolina defensive lineman Tydreke Powell spent some time with the Vikings in 2012.

What I really love about Williams, and I think is being overlooked, is the fact that he improved in 2012 despite the fact that star lineman Quinton Coples left for the NFL.  One would think that Coples leaving would have an adverse impact on Williams, but he nearly tripled his stats for tackles for a loss and sacks from 2011 to 2012.  Williams is still growing and improving as a football player, and the fact that he could become even better and more refined is going to be very intriguing to front offices around the league.

In a normal year there might be more buzz surrounding Williams, but this is a very deep class at defensive end, and there are certainly a handful of tackles the Vikings will have higher on their board than Williams.  Picking at #23, however, puts them in a position to consider the scenario in which Williams is the best defensive tackle available to them when they are on the clock.

I’m not certain he will even be one of their top 23 ranked players in this draft, but that doesn’t discount the idea that he would be an attractive option, especially given that they could conceivably allow him a season or two to learn and grow behind their current veterans at the position.  I think that the Vikings will have to trade back from #23, or Williams will have to fall to their second round pick, if McShay’s prediction is to come true but it certainly isn’t impossible to envision them making this selection at some point.

 

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