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Report: Cowboys Looking At Defensive Tackle Sylvester Williams In The First Round

The Cowboys have had their eye on a defensive tackle in previous drafts, and their switch to a 4-3 defense may prompt them to go after Sylvester Williams on Thursday.


Late last night Tony Pauline of reported that the Cowboys may be looking at DT Sylvester Williams as their potential first-round pick.

Right now insiders believe Sylvester Williams/DT/North Carolina looks like the pick for the Dallas Cowboys in round one. This assumes Kenny Vaccaro does not slide to the 18th pick of the draft as the Cowboys are very high on the Texas safety. Right now I’m told Vaccaro could end up with the New Orleans Saints, who own the 15th selection.

Had the Cowboys not moved up to pick Morris Claiborne last year, they are on record stating that DT Michael Brockers would have been their pick, so it makes sense that they remain interested in taking an interior defensive lineman high.

At 6'3" and weighing 323 pounds, Williams has perfect size to play the defensive tackle position for the Cowboys, and he offers some intriguing athleticism as well. Williams may have one of the best first steps in all of college football and he plays with good strength and power. And his numbers bear that out.

Williams has an explosion index of 65 (Bench press reps + vertical jump + broad jump), ranking him among the top in this year's DT class, and his speed score (40-time adjusted for weight) is the third best among all DTs.

Williams only played for two seasons at UNC, which means he is still learning how to play and has a lot of upside. In his two seasons at UNC, Williams played in 25 games and recorded 8.5 sacks, 20.5 TFLs and an astonishing 96 tackles. His college production ratio of 1.16 is the third highest in this year's DT draft class, narrowly beating Star Lotulelei (1.02), Sheldon Richardson (1.02) and Sharrif Floyd (1.00).

In his February scouting report of Williams, Archie Barberio wrote that "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 been a late riser on most draft boards, ranking as low as a late third rounder on the CBS big Board during the Combine, but he has steadily moved up draft boards since.

This Sports Science video helps explain why:

In the video, Williams demonstrates his explosiveness by posting a 10-yard split that was faster than the average result of this year's running back class and impresses with other measurables that see him draw favorable comparisons to Michael Brockers (14th overall pick) and Nick Fairley (13th overall pick).

In a scenario where both guards and the top three defensive tackles are gone, Williams could make a lot of sense for the Cowboys' top pick. He still isn’t being mentioned in the same sentence as the top three DTs Lotulelei, Floyd and Richardson, but based on his production and combine numbers, he probably should be.

In Monte Kiffin's first media appearance as the Cowboys new defensive coordinator, he was asked about the status of the Cowboys personnel and said he thought the Cowboys are ahead of where Tampa Bay was when he joined the team in 1996.

"We’re not the 1996 Buccaneers in any sense."

"We have some outside ‘backers that played in the 3-4 that have a chance to put their hand down; I think we have a chance to have a nose tackle or defensive tackle or two tackles inside – and it isn’t just about the three technique, but you’d better have a darned good one."

"Because when you go third down and you have a ‘green’ call on third downs, you don’t have two undertackles, you have two defensive tackles lined up on two guards and two guys lined up on two offensive tackles – and those four guys better get after it!"

"So we need an undertackle."

Terminology can become a bit confusing along the defensive line, what with 3-techniques, nose tackles, 1-techniques, undertackles and defensive tackles all over the place. But as Kiffin indicates, all of that goes out the window on passing downs. At that point, you have four pass rushers. End of discussion.

Kiffin is pretty clear that he needs an undertackle (or 3-technique) that can consistently rush the passer, the position Warren Sapp played so effectively for Tampa Bay. The question Kiffin and the Cowboys need to answer is this:

Is Sylvester Williams the future 3-technique for the Cowboys?

Hat tip to scottmaui for the fanshot.

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