When Jesse Williams is selected in this April’s draft, he’ll be only the second non-punter, Australian-born athlete in NFL history. It’s rare to see a football prospect from Australia, but Williams has defied the odds and has the look of a high quality defender in the pros.
He’s built like a tree. His lower body is thinner than his upper, which expands as it goes up and features trunks for arms. One could argue the upper body is constructed with only muscle because he’s inhumanely strong, once claiming to bench press 600 pounds at Alabama’s weight room. He’s also nimble on his feet despite being six-foot-three and 323 pounds.
At Alabama, Williams was a defensive end in 2011 while used in Nick Saban and Kirby Smart’s hybrid defense. He played a variety of techniques that ranged from the five technique to the shaded two. Then in 2012, he moved to nose tackle to replace Josh Chapman, who moved to the NFL.
Williams was equally impressive at the nose tackle position, putting to use his great strength and unexpected quick hands. He also showed that he could manhandle singular blocks and hold his own against double team blocks by offensive linemen. The former was done with his natural talent and the latter via technique, such as dropping to one knee and splitting the double team with his near shoulder. It’s a tough technique to master, which he has yet to do but he shows potential, as seen against Tennessee last season.
He was lined up as a shaded two-technique — across the inside shoulder of the right guard — in Alabama’s “even” front. This meant that there was no defensive linemen covering the center. Because the Crimson Tide were in this front, it freed the center to be a cleanup blocker, which implies that he could help out a teammate block. And because it was a run, the center was instructed to help the right guard prior to climbing to the second level to block the play-side linebacker.
When the center and right guard teamed up for the block after the snap, Williams engaged with the two and gave his inside shoulder while dropping his weight. This enabled him to hold his ground and ensure that the two blockers couldn’t establish a new line of scrimmage.
Once the center was threatened downhill by the inside linebacker, he peeled off of Williams and went to block at the second level. Now facing a single block, Williams stood up and engaged with the right guard again. He locked out his arms, bent his knees, and slid to the outside, forcing the ball-carrier into the middle of the defense.
Williams also shows potential as a two-gap run defender, which is another trait that will tempt teams — the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and New York Jets to name a few – to draft him at the back end of the first round or early in the second round. The Jets, in particular, would be a fit because of the way they two-gap with their nose tackles; they have them read the ball-carrier’s flow and slide with him whichever direction he goes, which Williams can do as he showed here (6:13 mark).
Whichever team drafts Williams, they’ll have a defensive lineman who has incredible strength and nimbleness, and is versatile.