Draft Target: Jesse Williams

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Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams has become one of the more divisive prospects in this class that doesn’t have any known drug test fails, arrests, or fake girlfriends.  Many draftniks consider Williams to be a top 20 talent while others view him as an average talent, such as NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock who ranks Williams at #97 on his big board.

I’m more in the middle of these two sets of opinions, with Williams currently #64 on our VT Big Board, and Williams certainly possesses some traits that should be desirable to the Vikings front office.

Williams is a mammoth of a man at 6′ 3″ and 323 pounds and displays incredible strength, posting 30 bench press reps at the Combine and also reportedly capable of benching 600 pounds.  He uses his brute strength on the field to manhandle opposing blockers, play two gaps at a time, and fairly consistently pushes the pocket in a disruptive manner.  With some NFL coaching helping to clean up his fundamentals, he may end up having one of the most feared bull rushes in the NFL.  He has the versatility to play multiple positions in just about any defensive scheme and has experience to prove it.

Despite his versatility, my main concern with Williams is that he seems very one dimensional and will be strictly a two-down player.  He lacks the speed, range, and pass rushing arsenal to be much more than that.  He wasn’t even an every-down player in college, and seemed to get very quiet for Alabama as games wore on, which suggests that conditioning could be a significant issue especially since motivation and hustle do not seem to be the problem.

Pat Williams is someone the Vikings have yet to adequately replace, and a lot of that has to do with just how unique of a player Pat was, and I don’t see Williams being of a similar ilk.  He could eat up space and double teams on running downs, and his strength could cause him to make the occasional splash play, but he would certainly be part of a rotation as more of a role player.  That role, however, is one that is very important to the Vikings defense and one he will surely succeed at playing.

The Australian-born Williams started out by playing for a junior college in Arizona before deciding to jump to Alabama in 2011.  He then started all 13 games as a five-technique defensive end and notched 24 total tackles, four of which were for a loss.

Last season he moved to the full-time starting position at nose tackle where he started all but one game, having to sit one out because of concussion symptoms, which of course is a concern in this modern-day era of the NFL.  He was more productive in this role, however, and managed 37 tackles, 2.5 for a loss, two half sacks, a blocked kick, and numerous reps as the lead blocker in Alabama’s goalline plays.

I see Williams as a run stuffing rotational player that is both physically limited and in possession of untapped potential at the same time.  He still has room to improve on the things he is proficient at, as his football experience isn’t as extensive as American-born prospects, and the Vikings could certainly stand to benefit from him falling to them in the second or third rounds.