Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
6-foot-3, 244 pounds
Key stat: Williams collected 10.5 sacks in 2015 (in 197 snaps) and nine sacks in 2016 (in 428 snaps) on a loaded Bama defense.
The skinny: Earning playing time on Nick Saban’s stacked unit — where former five-star recruit Da’Shawn Hand was stuck on the third team in 2015 and second team in 2016 — is difficult, and Williams had to prove he was more than just a one-trick pony as a pass rusher. That was his assigned role in 2015, and as good as Williams was he briefly considered entering the draft last year. He took on more responsibility this past season, even though Williams started only two games, and rewarded the team with strong play — mostly in the middle part of the 2016 season.
Williams might have had a larger role on a less-talented defense than the one that featured four draft picks in 2016, another seven likely to be drafted this year and could see another half-dozen or more taken in the 2018 class.
Best-suited destination: Williams is ideally suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker who pins his ears back and attacks quarterbacks. He also could fit as a subpackage rusher in a 4-3 scheme from the weak side. But teams such as the Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Rams, Green Bay Packers, New York Jets or Pittsburgh Steelers feel like solid fits. Williams could have a Yannick Ngakoue-like impact as a rookie, starring as a pass-rush ace, but might never have the upside or impact of Whitney Mercilus, who has developed into a fine, all-around defender.
Upside: Electric pass rusher with the ability to close. Williams times up snaps and blasts off the line like he’s shot out of a crossbow. He wins with his initial quickness, good hands and nice pursuit. Williams works angles well and can frustrate offensive tackles, tight ends and chipping running backs with his pass-rush gifts. He has a nice counter move, too, racing upfield and cutting back underneath against overaggressive or poorly set blockers. Also flashes a violent, disruptive streak on occasion. That ability can’t be taught. Coaches and scouts believe he still has untapped potential as a QB hunter if he refines his technique, continues to build strength, adds to his bag of pass-rush tricks and improves his football awareness.
Downside: For all of his quickness on tape, Williams’ scouting combine testing numbers were slightly disappointing. He also hasn’t shown he can be a three-down defender in college, wearing down as last season went on. Williams was not a warhorse at Alabama and might not become one in the NFL. Over the final five games last season, he was credited with only two half sacks, a handful of pressures and no more than two solo tackles in any of them. Was nearly invisible in the national title game vs. Clemson. Cannot be counted on as a Day 1 NFL run defender until further notice. Multiple failed drugs tests at Alabama, plus a handgun charge against him, have raised NFL antennae to investigate his character more closely.
Scouting hot take: “You can get him off his game by running power and double-teaming or cracking back on him. We also tried to screen in his direction, knowing how he likes to get upfield first.” — SEC assistant coach
Player comp: Dee Ford, who has increased his snap counts with the Chiefs (from 122 to 479 to 799 over his three pro seasons and gradually has added dimensions to his game).
Expected draft range: Round 2, although he could sneak into the back end of Round 1
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