2017 NFL draft prospect countdown, No. 21: Tim Williams, DE, Alabama
Williams lived behind the opposition’s line at Alabama. In 2015, he recorded 11.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks; in 2016, he had 16.0 and 9.0 in those categories, respectively. The latter performance helped propel him to second-team All-SEC and All-America honors. Williams’s 20 career sacks rank him top 20 in the SEC since 2005, tied with Justin Houston (Georgia), Derrick Harvey (Florida) and Dee Ford (Auburn). Williams recorded at least a half-sack in 19 of the 23 games he played over the past two seasons, and he had a pair of 2.0-sack games: the 2015 SEC championship vs. Florida and an October win over Texas A&M last season.
Strengths: Williams is a flash at the snap—he’s into his second and third steps, attempting to turn the corner on an offensive tackle, seemingly before anyone has the time to blink. That’s what one expects from a prospective premier edge rusher.
Part of what makes Williams (6' 3", 244 lbs.) special is that he actually may be better peeling back inside than bending the edge. His speed helps him set up offensive tackles to their outside shoulders so that Williams can shoot his hands and push back inside when there’s an opening. He has enough speed-to-power conversion to then bounce off guards and bowl through running backs.
“I have a lot of moves as a pass rusher,” Williams said. “I’m not a bull rush guy. I’m not a finesse guy. Some tackles don’t know what I’m going to do when I get up there.”
Alabama gave Williams the chance to rush from both two-point and three-point stances, out of three- and four-man fronts. Because of his burst (as well as his rather lanky frame), he is most effective the further he moved outside the tackles. And he looks as natural as a defender can coming from that two-point stance.
Again, though, there is the element of Williams taking his game inside. When he stunts, he can get into the pocket before interior linemen have a chance to react. Even when they’re there, they have to contend with how well he uses his hands to stay loose.
The motor constantly runs. Williams makes a ton of plays in the backfield, but he also chases down QBs from the backside, well after the initial surge has ended.
There is at least a decent base from which to ask Williams to play a little in coverage. While he didn’t test all that well at the combine, he doesn’t appear out of place when he has to drop.
Weaknesses: First, the red flag. When asked at the combine if he had failed any drug tests in the past, Williams responded, “Oh, yeah. I have failed some. I’m a young player. I made decisions that I grew from. It’s all about being a man, owning up to your situations, owning up to your mistakes. ... I know I’ve got something to prove. I’m obviously behind the 8-ball so I’m here to prove not only to myself but to every organization that if they take me, they’re going to get the best player here.”
Give him plus marks for honesty, but that off-field issue threatens to drive Williams down come draft weekend.
The on-field question is if he can be more than a sub-package pass rusher. Alabama barely used him against the run in 2015, and while he can drive blockers back when he has a little momentum, he’s not necessarily built to help set an edge.
As mentioned above, the combine also wasn’t a great exhibition for him. His 4.68-second 40 time was plenty respectable for an edge rusher, but he was way down the list among his peers in the three-cone (7.36) and short shuttle (4.57). Those drills help measure agility and quickness, so they could be held against Williams down the road.
Player comp: Bruce Irvin