Panthers 2011 Draft Pick Profile: OL Zack Williams

via thumbnails.truveo.com

With the 203rd pick of the 2011 NFL draft the Panthers selected OL Zack Williams from Washington St. University. The 6'3" 309lb Williams projects as a guard in the NFL who can also back-up at center if needed in a pinch. Williams was moved from guard to center for his senior year for which he apparently struggled at first. He caught a lot of flack from WSU fans for low to downright bad snaps that he never really corrected according to some WSU fans. Before you get too concerned know that 90% of those snaps were in the shotgun formation, something that would not be the norm for the Panthers. I'll have more on that later in the profile.

Strengths

Williams opened some eyes at the scouting combine when he flashed nice athleticism in the OL drills. He has thick legs and carries his 309 lbs very well. He's strong as evidenced by his 30 reps on the bench during his Pro Day. He rand a 5.18 at the combine, pretty good for a guard. 

Here's the only detailed scouting report I could find that summarizes his strengths:

 Williams may have worked his way up from the later rounds of the draft following a solid performance at the NFL combine. He was ninth among offensive linemen in the three-cone drill (7.54 seconds), tied for ninth in the 20-yard shuttle (4.62 seconds) and 12th in the vertical leap (30 inches). Williams, a junior college transfer, started 19 games for Washington State over the last two seasons and was a participant in the East-West Shrine game. He has the size to compete on Sundays but some argue he doesn't have the athletic ability to start. Still, Williams gets good drive off the ball, doesn't quit on plays and competes with a high level of aggressiveness. He could be a solid NFL backup but will need to improve his blitz recognition, run and pass blocking, and ability to stay in front of quicker defensive tackle.

Let's also remember that Ron Rivera sited Williams nasty demeanor on the field as one the key reasons they drafted him. I think the fact he can play guard and center is why he was selected before T Lee Ziemba.

More on Zack Williams...after the jump...

Weaknesses

As stated previously Williams went through a bout of bad snaps after switching to center in 2010. He on one hand is said to be fairly athletic yet on the other he's evaluated as not athletic enough  to start? I'm not sure which of those to believe so I'm inclined to believe more of what I saw on tape . I'm sure he will need to work on his blitz pick-ups and getting out in front on pulling plays. With only 19 starts at Div I he's not vastly experienced but has enough.

Value of the Pick

From what I can tell the Panthers picked Williams right around where he was predicted to be selected. Some popular scouting sites such as Walter Football don't even have Williams in their list of prospects. So as was the trend for this draft the Panthers might have reached a bit for a guy they obviously liked.

Starting Potential

As stated previously the report on Williams potential to be a starter is mixed at best. Though he placed in the top 10 in many of the combine drills and has a nice build for a guard it's his aggressiveness that may get him on the field sooner than later. Even the best case scenario puts his starting potential several seasons out short of massive injuries after the season starts. I think his potential though is better than 50/50 in the next three seasons.

Fit in the Depth Chart

Williams best case scenario is making the roster at one of the four back-up offensive line spots. The fact he could play two positions helps him. Expect to see Williams at center a good bit in the preseason to see if he can fill that role. If he can then he might even get a jersey later in the 2011 season. More than likely though if he makes the roster he is inactive most the season unless he ends up the lone back-up at center.

NFL Combine video link

Comments from WSU fans courtesy of Coug Center, the SBN blog dedicated to Wash St athletics. This first one from CC lead blogger Brian Floyd debunks the injured hand theory and explains the move from guard to center:

Alright, let's do this.

Williams caught quite a bit of flack for his problems with the snap. With the team operating out of the shotgun about 90 percent of the time, clearly it was an issue. Typically it was too low, forcing Jeff Tuel to retrieve a rolling snap or look down to find the ball — which is obviously a problem as it takes his eyes off the reads and handicaps his performance.

I don’t know whether the broken hand report is true. I can tell you I’ve spoken to him often and been around him quite a bit, both before and after games, and never noticed a cast or him favoring his hand. I’m also not sure his problems snapping to the shotgun will be relevant; NFL teams won’t be running the spread, the amount of snaps to a shotgun formation are significantly lower and, in fact, he may not be a center at the NFL level.

Williams is surprisingly athletic, as evidenced by his Combine numbers. He has deceptive speed that can work in short bursts and has a fair amount of agility. To me, it screams guard. He was playing center at WSU out of necessity; Kenny Alfred graduated, WSU needed a center, Williams was quite capable. But in the NFL, I could see him being a guard and being solid at that spot.

Williams was healthy in 2010 and didn’t show any ill-effects from the injury. Bottom line: He’s a good kid that could be a solid backup on the interior offensive line. He may be able to handle backup center duties, but I’d expect him to see time at guard more often than not.

by Brian Floyd on May 10, 2011 3:12 PM 

 

I like this comment too, which echoes what Rivera said about Williams:

on-field, he has a little bit of a good/healthy nasty streak.

Definitely a guy that will stick up for his QB and teammates in the scrum. Plays through the whistle too.

"I used to play sports. Then I realized you can buy trophies. Now I'm good at everything." - Demetri Martin.

by LeaveItToWeaver on May 10, 2011 4:30 PM EDT 

But the real test is would he stick up for Jimmy Clausen? I kid, I kid (He won't have to) Here' sone last one that's similar:

The snap thing was more or less fixed after a few games in the new shotgun offense.

And even then, they were just low, not necessarily bad (I don’t remember Tuel having to chase one down that often, or even at all). He wasn’t gonna take any crap from anyone either, and he was always there protecting his QB, picking up more than a few personal fouls over the course of the year. He wasn’t punching people, just standing up for his guy.

Attractive, Intelligent, Short Attention Span, Timbers Fan Reader

by Coug999 on May 10, 2011 5:41 PM EDT .

A big thanks to the guys over at Coug Center for their feedback

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