John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
A small school beast that can play any position on the Defensive Line. What's not to like?
Editor's Note: Another excellent guest write-up, this time from Sir Sci.
A question going into next season is who will start at defensive tackle for the 2013-2014 Indianapolis Colts? While many of us may hope that Josh Chapman is the answer, this upcoming season will constitute his first NFL snaps.
Apart from Chapman, the Colts have depth with Antonio Johnson, recently tendered Martin Tevaseu, and Brandon McKinney (who was injured last season). While Johnson and Tevaseu played admirably last season, it would be disappointing to see either of them start if Chapman ends up being less than advertised. The Colts are faced with an unusual conundrum, because the depth at the position makes it unlikely that the Colts pursue a NT at the very top of the draft (like some mock drafts I've seen assert), but still leaves it open for adding another player who could potentially solidify the line.
My answer to the Colts' NT problem is Missouri Southern State's Brandon Williams. Williams displays talent and strength beyond what you would expect from most defensive linemen from a Div II school. Apart from his talent, which I'll get to in a bit, the reason I think Williams fits the Colts' need is because of his versatility. While he projects as a NT in the NFL, when asked about what schemes he sees himself playing in he replied:
I can play in either scheme, a 3-4 or 4-3 because in college I played the whole D line and then, and when we went to our 3-3 stuff, I was the outside 5-tech as well as over the center. I played in any and every position, so I am comfortable playing in any scheme.
So if horseshoe fans have their wildest dreams fulfilled and Chapman ends up being the beast that he could be, Williams would have little problem competing for playing time either as the backup NT or at possibly at other defensive line positions. Unlike most small school prospects, I believe that Williams's versatility makes him a low risk prospect (well, as low risk as a prospect can be) who will certainly make a contribution somewhere on the line.
The big question, though, is if he's actually good. First, the raw information. At MSSU he broke the school record for career sacks with 27 of them, with 8.5 of them coming in his senior season, when he also had 68 tackles (16.5 for loss). At the combine he didn't dazzle in most drills, but he displayed his strength when it mattered, tying with Margus Hunt (SMU) for the most bench presses with 38 reps, beating out the likes of fellow Missourian Sheldon Richardson (Mizzou). It's also important to note that Williams is a three time All-American. That is notable no matter what level you're playing on, but he is only the second Div II football player to ever achieve that feat.
I asked a friend of mine from Joplin, MO who knows his coach at MSSU, who was an assistant with the Buffalo Bills. Apparently Brandon reminds the coach of Cortez Kennedy (Seahawks). This is some of what my friend had to say about Williams:
Plays with good power. Shows agility and a good motor for a guy his size. Displays good short-area quickness. Plays with good pad level, often gets under his opponents pads and drives them back. Locks out and disengages off of blocks well. When run goes away, does a good job of getting flat down the line of scrimmage to make the play. Does a good job taking on and splitting double teams.
Did not play against elite competition at MSSU. Does not possess the elite explosive first step you would like to see. Needs work on using his hands to create leverage.
Looking at other tape and this compilation of him at the Senior Bowl, it's easy to see many of his strengths. On many occasions you can see him get by a blocker with ease. On the occasions he is double teamed he manages to push back both of his men or at least disengage from one to take the other on one-on-one.
What is the feasibility of the Colts drafting Williams? At the beginning of the offseason he was being projected largely as a possible fourth round pick or a steal at later rounds. After a great showing at the Senior Bowl he is now being projected mostly as a mid-third rounder, although I've seen some projections as high as the late second round. While I doubt the Colts would (or should) move up to get him, if he's available in the third round I would not be surprised to see him as the pick.
Presents a low center of gravity and strong upper body to push consistently push man-up blockers into the backfield. Gets hands on his man fast, extends his arm to get leverage and can hold his ground. Uses his hands to swim or rip past blockers into the backfield. Also wins gaps by attacking a shoulder or out-quicking his man with a first step. Moves down the line adeptly while engaged to flow with plays.
Doesn't make a lot of plays outside the box because of average effort and closing speed. Inconsistent at finding the ball, lowers his head at times trying to win gaps, allowing himself to get ridden out of plays. Slow to spin off blocks, and double-teams can move him.
Strengths: Broad-shouldered and bulked up, especially in his upper body. Possesses the upper-body strength to shove opponents into the backfield and disrupt plays before they even have a chance to begin. Has enough short area quickness to slice through gaps. Possesses longer arms (32 3/4) than expected given his stout frame, which he uses well to keep offensive linemen off of him. Strong, heavy hands. Experienced playing on the nose, defensive tackle and out wide as a five-technique defensive end and has the length and awareness to be similarly versatile in the NFL.
Weaknesses: Possesses a disproportionately top-heavy build and a thinner than ideal lower body, which makes him less effective as a run-stuffing presence than he might appear "on the hoof." While active for his size, is not a quick-twitch athlete capable of providing a consistent pass rush in the NFL.
Compares To: Antonio Garay, NG, San Diego Chargers -- It was Garay's struggles with injuries that pushed him down draft boards rather than level of competition questions, but like the former Boston College standout, Williams' wide body and strength could make him a quality run-stuffer at the next level.
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