Draft Profile: DT – Jesse Williams
DT Jesse Williams out of Alabama is a player the 49ers could target at No. 31. With Justin Smith getting older and Ricky Jean-Francois and Isaac Sopoaga free agents, Williams is a perfect player to take over the defensive line for years to come. Click the tabs to see the profile from CBS Sports and NFL.com
Under head coach Nick Saban, Alabama typically has built its program with highly regarded high school recruits. In the case of Williams, the Crimson Tide went the junior college route.
Williams, who grew up playing rugby and basketball in Brisbane, Australia, only took up football at the age of 15. Once he joined the sport, however, it became obvious that his combination of size, power and athleticism could result in big things.
Coaches from the University of Hawaii quickly recognized his talent when they were in Australia performing at a clinic and they got Williams, then 16 years-old, to commit to their program. It was soon discovered that Williams was missing an English and math class. Rather than spend another year in the classroom so that he could play at Hawaii, Williams elected to go to Western Arizona Community College. There, he quickly proved himself to be a man amongst boys, posting 76 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and six sacks over two seasons (18 games) and quickly earning recognition as one of the elite JUCO prospects in the country.
He eventually chose Alabama over LSU, Oklahoma State, Southern California, Arkansas, Oregon State, Mississippi and Tennessee.
In his first season with the Tide in 2011, Williams started all 13 games as a five-technique defensive end, posting 24 tackles, including four tackles for loss and half a sack. Due to his agility, Williams was moved inside to defensive tackle on passing downs.
He transitioned to nose guard in 2012, putting together a second-team All-SEC season. Williams anchored the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation playing the zero-technique position he took over during spring practice.
He has even seen some snaps on offense in goal-line situations as a lead fullback and with his rugby background, he hopes to get his hands on the ball. At 6-3, 320, he has the muscle and agile feet to line up in any defensive scheme.
STRENGTHS: Has a naturally wide frame with relatively short limbs, giving him the low center of gravity conducive to holding up at the point of attack.
Possesses unbelievable weight-room strength (600 pound bench press) that translates well onto the football field due to his use of leverage and surprisingly good technique considering the fact that he’s a relative neophyte who only took up the game at age 15 and has played just four seasons of football in the United States.
Has improved his use of hands over his two seasons at Alabama and has developed into a cognitive defender capable of reading the action, shedding the block with heavy, active hands and making the tackle in the hole.
Has the length to play outside as a five-technique defensive end, a role in which he initially played during his junior season with the Tide before sliding inside to the nose as a senior. Good phone-booth quickness and plays hard, competing to the whistle.
Also served as Alabama’s short-yardage fullback in 2012, a testament to his power and aggression. An ascending talent with passion and work ethic to improve.
WEAKNESSES: Bit of a one-trick pony as Williams does not possess the quickness or the agility to collapse the pocket as a pass rusher. Must do a better job of protecting his knees as he is susceptible to cut blocks. Too often raises his pad level at the snap, negating some of his power and making him all the more vulnerable to cuts, as he possesses only moderate flexibility.
Has to do a better job of getting his hands up in passing lanes as he rarely gets home as a pass rusher (just three passes broken up in 25 career starts at Alabama).
Plays with good effort but lacks lateral agility and struggles to knock down ballcarriers with any room to maneuver.
COMPARES TO: Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots — Like the Patriots’ run-stuffing nose guard, Williams isn’t going to pressure the quarterback often but his size and strength will make him a force in the middle.
Overview: Williams’ family in Brisbane, Australia was so proud of his accomplishments and Alabama’s BCS championship that eight members of the clan (including his mother and father) were tattooed with the school’s logo and Jesse’s jersey number (54). That isn’t a big surprise to anyone seeing the vast amount of ink all over Williams’ body, which could be seen as an indication of the dedication and toughness he shows on the field on an every-down basis -– giving him a chance at a long NFL career.
He originally signed with Hawaii after playing for two club teams in Australia during his high school days (while also playing basketball and rugby). But he instead played for two seasons at Arizona Western Junior College, accumulating 13 tackles for loss and six sacks. He enrolled at Alabama in January 2011 so he could participate in spring practices -– a move that allowed him to start all 13 games as a five-technique defensive end. He was credited with 24 tackles, four for loss, on the season. With the departure of Josh Chapman to the NFL, Williams moved inside to handle nose tackle duties and started 13-of-14 games after sitting out the Western Kentucky game with concussion like symptoms. The Aussie showed more upfield ability than his predecessor, making 37 total tackles, 2.5 of which went for a loss including two half sacks. Williams added a blocked kick and continued to line up as a lead blocker in the Crimson Tide’s goal line package.
STRENGTHS Brute nose tackle (though he plays some five-technique) with a very good motor. Solid two-gap player who keeps his eyes in the backfield to find the ball. Plays with leverage, gets under the pads of his man to hold the line or push him into the backfield. Has enough quickness and power off the snap to pop off his blocker and grab backs heading outside or coming through the middle. Uses quick hands to swipe aside lunging blockers to penetrate into the backfield. Stays upright against cut blocks and gives second effort to get up when on the ground. Gets low with power in short-yardage situations. Also hustles to the sideline to chase scrambling quarterbacks and stretch plays when fresh. Pushes the pocket a bit as a pass rusher, and will work past lesser blockers’ shoulders into the backfield. Cleans up piles, sending linebackers flying.
WEAKNESSES Not an exceptional athlete, relies on hustle and strength to make plays. Lacks the quickness and agility to be a regular factor in pass rush or corral quicker ballcarriers in space. Thick in the middle and a bit thinner in the legs; plays top-heavy, ends up on the ground too often. Gets caught up on blocks at times inside, lacking hand and foot quickness to disengage to make the play.
NFL COMPARISON Sione Pouha
BOTTOM LINE This Australia native came through the junior college ranks before starting all 13 games for the 2011 BCS champions at five-technique and another 13 games at nose tackle in 2012. Williams uses his size, consistent motor and supreme toughness to drain his opponents at the point of attack. His best NFL position is likely at nose tackle, but Williams has enough athleticism to play multiple spots for a 3-4 team at the next level.