Jesse Williams is good at what he does. It’s what he doesn’t do that limited his stock.
It’s emerged that he suffered a fall in the draft due to medical concerns. Some teams apparently didn’t include him on their board. The Seahawks believed he was worth a shot in round five — they traded up for the first time in the Carroll/Schneider era to make sure they got both Williams and Tharold Simon.
I’m not sure the fall from possible first or second round pick to round five was purely down to the medical situation. Personally, I thought he was a solid second round pick who could fall into round three. Others had him rated higher than that, perhaps a little too high.
He’s pretty one-dimensional. He’s a run stopper. You put on the tape and he’s tough to move. He anchored the Alabama run defense from the nose after switching from end. He’s all upper body power. In a 1v1 situation he really excels at holding his ground and limiting the inside run. Time and time again Alabama could rely on Williams to do his job.
But when you actually sit down to study his tape, he doesn’t do a great deal other than excel in a 1v1 situation versus the run. He gets stuck on blocks far too much which really limits his ability to get into the backfield. There are times where he shows very good footwork and hands to get away from a block, force the runner to change direction and dive into traffic. These are few and far between though. He’s occasionally disruptive but never really a difference maker. He is not a pass rusher. Not yet, anyway.
We’re not talking about a fantastic athlete here — and I don’t think Williams would necessarily mind anyone saying that. He’s a worker, a grafter. He’s more perspiration than inspiration. Just an honest, salt of the earth defensive tackle who will turn up every week and put in a shift. He has a clear mean streak and an edge to his game. Teams won’t fancy running his way. They’ll probably have to do a bit of game planning, maybe double team him from time to time. But unfortunately they’re unlikely to be too concerned about his ability to crash the pocket.
Don’t get me wrong, there are substantial positives to having a guy like this on your team. I maintain that in short yardage and goal-line situations, I want Williams on the field. It’s going to be very difficult to run inside with Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Jesse Williams lining up next to each other. Seattle’s run defense seemed to get gradually weaker as the year went on and Williams’ addition helps in a big way.
But…. he isn’t going to rush the passer. And alongside the injury issues, that’s probably why he lasted until round five. I’m guessing teams weighed up the situation. He’s one-dimensional with medical concerns over his knee. That dropped his stock. Seattle might actually be the best fit for him. They’re a team that could use some depth and strength inside, but can live with the situation if he never plays a down. He’s versatile enough to play the one, three or five technique. His attitude and personality fits like a glove.
What we might see is Jordan Hill start in base, Michael Bennett used at the three on third down and in passing situations and Williams coming in to spell Hill and play some short yardage and goal-line. That would be a nice mix. Different fits for different scenarios.
For Williams to start full-time in Seattle he’ll probably need to see Hill struggle to create pressure. If it comes down to who is better versus the run with neither being great against the pass, Williams wins that battle. But I suspect the Seahawks believe Hill can be effective getting into the backfield (while being acceptable versus the run) adding a dimension to the defensive line that they lacked last year.
This was a solid pick in round five but I do understand why he fell — and I don’t think it was just the knee. To some teams the upside potential wasn’t really worth taking the chance. To Seattle, it clearly was. Even if Williams only ever offers light relief for the starters and solid run support, it’ll still be a good move. If he struggles to have an impact or the injuries play up, it really was no big gamble for this team. Working alongside Hill and Bennett this year, the Seahawks should be able to find a combination that works.