UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams played just one season of high school football before enrolling in Coffeyville Junior College. He transferred to North Carolina for his junior and senior seasons, racking up 96 tackles and 8.5 sacks in two years.
Williams is a big, powerful defensive tackle who nonetheless can move with speed. He’s extremely quick off of the ball—consistently the first person off of the snap at UNC—despite his 6’3’’, 313-pound frame. Like Purdue’s Kawann Short—someone I profiled yesterday—Williams is one of the few defensive tackles in this draft that I see being scheme versatile. He’s strong enough to hold up at the point, but he’s fast enough to penetrate as a one-gap defensive tackle. He was used as the latter sort of defensive tackle at UNC.
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As a pass rusher, Williams parlays his quickness and strength into an excellent bull rush. When he gets a jump on the ball, he can quickly drive interior linemen into the backfield. He combines his bull rush with an outstanding swim move—probably the best in this draft class. Williams also has great play recognition; I saw about a half-dozen screens thrown against him and he wasn’t fooled by one.
As a run defender, Williams makes plays by penetrating. He has the ability to hold up at the point, disengage from blockers, and make tackles, but he sometimes doesn’t properly extend his arms to get off of blocks. He typically tries to shoot by blockers with quickness as opposed to holding them off with his strength. Because of that, he can get pushed out of the hole, although he rarely gets blown backwards.
NFL Comparison: Marcell Dareus
Bill defensive tackle Marcell Dareus is someone I liked coming out of college and a player that resembles Williams. Both have versatility to play with power and quickness, fitting well in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Dareus was a more refined player with a better motor, but the nature of their games is comparable.
Williams figures to go anywhere from the late-first round to the mid-second. In my opinion, he’s a first-round talent that would normally get selected there if it weren’t for a strong defensive tackle class.
Fit In Dallas
Williams would make a great fit in Dallas no matter what the ‘Boys do with Jay Ratliff. What makes Williams so valuable as a 4-3 tackle in Monte Kiffin’s scheme is that he can play either the one-technique or the three-technique, giving the team flexibility with other defenders.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.