Growing up in Australia, Jesse Williams was a rugby and basketball star before taking up football at age 15. Williams—originally recruited by Hawaii—went to Western Arizona Community College before transferring to Alabama.
At 6-3, 323 pounds, Williams is a big defensive tackle with strength to match. It’s very possible that he’s the strongest player in this defensive tackle-heavy class, reportedly bench pressing over 600 pounds. For the most part, that strength translates to the field.
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In the running game, Williams rarely gives up ground at the point-of-attack. He doesn’t have the athleticism to chase ball-carriers down the line, but he can be effective in short-yardage situations. Williams is also relatively quick for a big man when he’s moving forward. His lateral agility is sub-par, but he’s faster off of the snap than some other nose tackles.
Williams won’t give teams much as a pass-rusher. He can occasionally drive his blocker into the backfield, but he doesn’t have the quickness to consistently win inside. In his entire time at Alabama, Williams recorded only three pass breakups. Part of that may be due to the fact that Williams has trouble generating separation from defenders with his short 32-inch arms.
NFL Comparison: Dontari Poe
Like Chiefs nose tackle Dontari Poe, Williams is a large, powerful player capable of eating up blockers. Neither tackle provides much pass-rush, although Williams is slightly faster off of the ball.
Williams has recently risen up boards to the point that many are expecting him to go in the back of the first round. I think the defensive tackle class is overrated, but there’s no reason Williams should get selected higher than players like Sylvester Williams and even Kawann Short, in my view. Because he’s so limited in what he can do, I’d provide Williams with a third-round grade.
Fit In Dallas
Williams has experience playing both the zero and five-technique positions, neither of which Dallas needs. It’s possible that Williams could play the one-technique—the defensive tackle lined up nearly heads-up over the center—in Monte Kiffin’s scheme, but the Cowboys are probably looking for a more athletic, play-making interior defensive lineman.
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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.