Draft Target: Sylvester Williams
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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.