USC defensive end Leonard Williams indisputably tops the charts for most valuable defensive linemen heading into the NFL draft, and with so much athleticism and power packed into a 6-foot-5, 300-pound frame, it’s easy to see why. Given his size and strength, Williams can sustain a blow and remain on his feet, but is also nimble with swift footwork to recover after being jolted on a play. Many analysts and his official NFL draft prospect overview list his physical tools as still raw and in need of refinement, but, if anything, this only suggests that Williams has untapped potential to develop into an even more skilled player in the NFL. “You can’t over-think this one. It doesn’t matter how raw he is because he’s got freakish qualities that are rare for men his size,” an NFC Director of Scouting told the NFL.
Not to be limited to his physical skillset, Williams has also made a positive impact on scouts and film experts, who are impressed with his articulation and analysis of complex plays and his specific role within them. “There are a lot of guys who are talented, athletic-wise, but it takes being in the film room and being on the practice field going over it all the time,” Williams told The MMQB’s Andy Benoit.
Williams’ combination of talent, power, and a high football IQ earn him a spot at the top of the draft—but which team will claim him? Williams’ social media accounts are flooded with fans clamoring for him to fall to the Oakland Raiders as the fourth overall pick, but the armada of scouts from the Tennessee Titans who showed up to USC’s pro day in early March suggests a different outcome. Williams also told CFB 24/7 that The Titans, who have the second overall pick in the 2015 draft, are the only team that’s scheduled a private workout with him thus far.
The Titans are in need of a quarterback, however, and so may opt for FSU’s Jameis Winston—though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may select Winston with the no. 1 pick of the draft—or Oregon quarterback and Heisman winner Marcus Mariota, but Williams said, “If they pick a quarterback over me, they better know I’ll take him down later.” Williams may have been joking at the time, but earlier in the 2014 season WSU’s quarterback Connor Halliday left the field—and effectively ended his college career—with a broken leg after a clean hit from Williams. Evidently, his blend of brains and brawn make him a lethal asset to any NFL team. The 2015 NFL Draft stretches from April 30th to May 2nd.