I'm sure our very own Tarheel Paul would be much more of an expert on UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, but here is my take on the talented defensive lineman. Williams is a prospect that has an interesting combination of size, power and athleticism. While there may be more high-profile defensive tackles in this year's draft, Williams is one of the better prospects available.
Williams has an interesting football background. After only playing high school football for one season, he then enrolled at Coffeyville Junior College. Williams was simply too good of a talent to be playing at the JUCO level, and Butch Davis and the North Carolina staff recruited him to come play for the Tarheels. He only played for two seasons at UNC, but his play during 2011 and 2012 have pushed him into first round consideration.
Here is my detailed scouting report on Williams.
Positives: The first thing that stands out about Williams is his size. Standing in at 6-2 and weighing 313 pounds, Williams has perfect size to play the defensive tackle position. He's very stout and possesses a thick build, but he isn't too tall to the point where he couldn't generate good leverage.
Williams has one of the best first steps in all of college football. When he times the snap, Williams can use his quick burst to fly into the offensive lineman and disrupt the play. That type of athleticism makes Williams such an intriguing prospect. It's rare to see a man of his size with such a good first step, so NFL scouts are going to be interested by that ability. When Williams is allowed to go and attack the gaps, he can be a major problem for the offense.
Williams also possesses very good strength and power. He has the power to drive lineman back and anchor along the defensive line. I believe that he would rather use his athleticism to beat offensive lineman, but once he begins to use his raw strength more then he will become an even better defensive tackle.
The Dallas Cowboys have always been fans of versatility and Williams is a highly versatile defensive tackle. Williams has the size and strength to play nose tackle, but he also has the quickness and athleticism to line up at the other techniques along the line. I can see him thriving in either the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, but in our new system he would probably be best at playing the three-technique.
Williams has tremendous upside and is still learning how to play the defensive tackle position. He didn't play too much high school football, and he only played for two seasons at UNC. Some may take that as Williams being a raw prospect, but I see the type of talent Williams has. He's a quick learner and has adapted very well. With better coaching and more experience, it's possible that Williams will continue to grow into a more complete player.
Negatives: I can't say that I have watched every game that Williams has played at UNC, but from what I have seen there seems to be some consistency issues. Most of these issues probably stem from a lack of technique. Good athletes in college football will often rely on their athletic ability. Once they begin to learn proper technique, then they become more consistent. With more experience and NFL coaching, he will learn how to overcome his consistency issues.
Williams can generate good leverage, but he does need to learn how to get lower. Better leverage will allow him to not get driven backwards. Williams really needs to work on applying the bull rush more. If he can learn to effectively use that move consistently, then he will have a nice variety of moves in his arsenal.
There are times where Williams can become too aggressive and find himself out of the play. When he attacks and doesn't read the play, then his speed can play against him. While he is a very good athlete for a man of his size, Williams doesn't move down the line very well. He's at his best when he can go north and south.
Holding the edge and flexibility also seem to be an issue for him. Williams looks like he is more reliant on using his quickness and athleticism. Once he begins to incorporate more power to his game, Williams will become more balanced.
Conclusion: Williams is clearly a first-round talent and should probably be drafted somewhere after the 20th pick. He has all of the tools to become a great NFL player, but there are some issues he needs to work out. There will be an adjustment period for him in the NFL, but Williams should thrive in a scheme that allows him to attack and shoot the gaps. If he accepts the coaching and learns better technique, he could be a great value for a team drafting towards the bottom of the first round.
The Cowboys could move out of the 18th pick and trade down. It's something we've discussed extensively on BTB, and some of us really want to acquire an extra pick. If the Cowboys do find a way to move down, then Williams would be a great option for them. It's possible that he could fall out of the first round, but I believe that is very unlikely. Even if he does fall that far, he won't fall to far into the second round.
Sylvester Williams vs Virginia Tech (2012) (via Aaron Aloysius)