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