Sunday, January 25, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #5 - Leonard Williams, DT, USC

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football.  By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better.  It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.)
Leonard Williams, DE, USC - 6'5, 300 - Age 20
Defensive end Leonard Williams #94 of the USC Trojans sits on the sidelines during the college football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on October 11, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
There are players that come along that get you very excited to know you are looking at a guy who people will most likely talk about for the next decade.  There are no guarantees, but once in a while a prospect arrives and has almost nothing to complain about.  Welcome to that guy in this draft.  There may be someone who we examine that will be on his level, but I highly doubt there is anyone who will exceed his level of excellence in the 2015 draft.  I watched the Nebraska, California, and Stanford games to review his work.
Williams is just 20 years old.  He played at USC (very well) as a true freshman, and now, just 3 seasons into his college career he has turned pro and shot to the top of everyone's board.  He was a "Top 5" guy in the spring, the summer, the fall, and now the winter.  He is as versatile as they come and that is why it doesn't seem that he is scheme dependent.
What I liked: In short, just about everything.  He is versatile in every aspect, meaning he can beat you with cat-like quickness that is uncommon for a player of that size or he can beat you with strength.  He can beat you inside or outside.  He can play DT, NT, RDE, or LDE.  He can play the 5-technique in a 3-4 or the inside.  He can even stand up as a OLB on the outside if you wish, although that doesn't seem to be as natural.  The point is, you don't have to worry about how he fits.  His hands are quick and powerful, he swims right past his man in a blur, and the best attribute may be his ability to contort and squeeze through tight areas to split gaps wide open.  He gets off blocks, but he also holds them up with 1-arm until the ball carrier gets close, then pushes the OL away to make the stop.  His motor is great and he is as disruptive as they come.  You constantly see offenses scheme their entire day around him so as not to mess with him if possible.  In short, he is the best up front at what he does since Ndamukong Suh was at Nebraska.  In fact, if you needed a clone, there you go.  He plays the run very well and he has really impressive pass rush for a 300-pound hulk.  I could go on about him for quite a while.
What I did not like:  In short, almost nothing.  If there is anything that gives you brief pause, it is that he seemed to always be dealing with a nagging issue or injury.  It never appeared overly serious, but he had to gut through a shoulder and ankle issue in both 2013 and 2014.  Otherwise, he is a plug-and-play difference maker.
Summary: Every year, those of us who study prospects see plenty of players we think could go either way and end up making us look silly.  But, there are a few you are willing to guarantee their stardom moving forward, so much so that you realize he won't fall to your spot in the draft - which means now you just hope he goes somewhere in the league where he won't destroy your team very often.  In other words, Washington at #5 would not be a preferred destination for Mr Williams.  I am pretty sure he is going to be a force in the trenches for a long, long time.  And he is 20!

No comments: