Leonard Williams, the junior defensive lineman for the USC Trojans, enters the 2015 NFL Draft as one of the most talented all-around players regardless of position. He is a highly-decorated three year starter for the Trojans who made 9 starts during his freshman season, 13 in 2013, and every contest in 2014. He was selected to virtually every single All-American team in both 2013 and 2014, and was named 1st Team All-Pac 12 the last two years. During his time at USC, he registered 209 tackles, 35.5 TFL, and 19 sacks. Physically, Williams is a tall, long and evenly distributed player. At 6’5″ and every bit of 300 lbs, Williams carries his weight perfectly. He’s not a fat guy, but he is a “big person” who is able to move with the kind of short area quickness of a guy much smaller than him. He knows how to use his weight; he explodes off the LOS with a powerful pop. His hands are like cement blocks; when he uncoils his punch, he jolts and stuns the offensive lineman and gives himself a major advantage when attempting to penetrate and disrupt the offense’s play design. Athletically, Williams has the skill set of a lighter/leaner defensive end in the body of a thick, physical defensive tackle. He’s a very coordinated guy and rarely looks as if he’s laboring in his movements. Williams is impressive in pursuit, as he displays the ability to run smaller/quicker running backs down from behind . He has a high motor and rarely gives up even when the play is run away from him. He always seems to find his way back into the action. When run at, Williams is as good as it gets. Offensive linemen simply cannot move him around. He’s outstanding with his hands. His initial punch is as strong as I’ve seen in recent years and as a result, the opposing linemen are always in recovery mode which allows him to shed with relative ease. Williams plays with very good pad level and when combined with his top-tier initial quickness and apparent football IQ, he is almost always in the right place at the right time. Williams has a chance to be a viable pass rusher on the next level as well, as he has been underrated in that department throughout his college career. Williams ability to collapse the pocket from the inside will generate a lot of sacks in the NFL, even if they’re not recorded on his stat sheet. I have no doubt that his motor and overall intensity will result in a fair share of his own QB sacks, as he will win as a power rusher first with some quickness and agility to complement his strength.
BOTTOM LINE: Leonard Williams is one of the premier players in the 2015 NFL Draft class who will start and contribute right away as a rookie. Williams has the natural combination of strength, power and athletic ability to suggest a very long and successful career as an interior defensive lineman in the NFL along the lines of Richard Seymour. He has the physical traits and ability to play in a 4-3 or 3-4, and he has the kind of diverse talent to line up and succeed as a DT or DE. He is a top-10 talent.
GRADE: 8.8 (Top 10)
Submitted by Bryan Perez (@FirstRoundGrade)