Draft Prospect Watch: Sylvester Williams (North Carolina)

Fans don’t want athletes to be good role models; they just want them to interact with fans and the media sincerely.  Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true (most generalizations aren’t).  But it’s close.  Dennis Rodman may be an awful person behind closed doors — and, depending on your appreciation for hair dye, body piercings, and hard fouls in basketball, kind of unappealing in public, too.  But everyone laughs when he delivers Kim Jong-un’s mail to President Obama (except, apparently, the First Basketball Fan himself).

Which leads me to my most recent dive into Youtube to check out tape of this year’s crop of NFL prospects.  I heard Sylvester Williams speak in the NFL Network’s “Draft Tracker” podcast.  In the interview room, he was a revelation: mature, confident, but also humble.  Williams spoke openly about several consequential decisions he has taken in life — including leaving a job on a factory line to go to college and return to football — and about the upcoming Draft.  Not only was Williams a nice guy; he was frank with his interviewers.  It was great to listen to.  A team knows what kind of person they are drafting in Sylvester Williams.

The film doesn’t get quite the same A+ grade, though.  There’s a lot to like, between his positive, grounded attitude and high-motor game, but Williams is no can’t-miss prospect.

I really liked what I saw against the run.  He gets into his blocker(s) with a quick first step and establishes position, from which it’s awfully tough to move him.  He seems to play within the defensive scheme, decisively establishing position on one side or the other or playing his man straight up with conviction.  He also consistently shows the recognition to spin off a defender and make a play on a ballcarrier that otherwise might scoot past him into a hole left by the man next to him.  He exercises some discipline when the play goes away, and usually tries to hustle after the play downfield.

I also saw Williams get dominated against decent offensive linemen, particularly in the passing game.  He seems to have short arms (read: relatively short, not as judged against mortals), and doesn’t use his hands very effectively to get past linemen to the quarterback.  If his opponent can stall Williams’ momentum, he has a tendency to push his man back and halt himself even more, leaving him completely out of the play with his man in good position.  His bull rush, when he commits to it, can be effective, though.

I saw one site evaluate Williams as a nose tackle prospect.  He’s not there yet, as he tips the scales at just over 300 pounds.  But if he adds additional bulk to his long frame, a conversion to nose guard for a 3-4 team would transform his athleticism, quick first step, and motor into rare commodities for his position.  Either way, he will help a team in its defensive line rotation.  Overall, there’s probably value at the beginning of the 3rd round for a team taking Williams.

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