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Did a strong pro day do enough to move Jesse Williams back into the Panthers' range?
Throughout the predraft process there have been three names at the defensive tackle position, and at this point you should be able to recite them ad naseum -- Star Lotulelei, Shariff Floyd, and Sheldon Richardson. However, Jesse Williams of Alabama is looking to insert himself in this trio, and a surprising pro day had put him back to the forefront.
What do you make of a 325-pound nose tackle with excellent film, a history of solid SEC competition, and now displaying almost-equal athleticism to Dontari Poe, last year's 11th overall pick? The truth is, Williams is the same player he was on film during the college season, and the same guy who was regarded as a top-15 pick immediately following the college season. As it tends to happen, the analysis, and over-analysis of prospects reached a fevered pitch, sending him tumbling down draft board for no solid reason. The player once being mocked to Carolina at #14, all of a sudden was available for the San Francisco 49ers at #30, or falling to the top of the 2nd round.
Is the impressive workout enough to push him back into the conversation at #14? Probably not, but the tape will be. What's evident from his time at Alabama is that Williams knows how to hold a block, and routinely practiced against an offensive line boasting three potential early-round draft picks. If you need a space-eating, double-team commanding nose tackle, and can't find a way to get Lotulelei -- there's nobody better in this draft.
The criticism against Williams is legitimate: Is he a three down player? His ability to clog rushing lanes is well established, but without a repertoire of pass rush moves, it remains to be seen whether he can be an impact. player. Williams is an effort/power rusher with very little finesse -- to this end he's similar to former Panthers' defensive tackle Kris Jenkins.
What Jenkins was able to do upon entering the NFL was establish speed out of his stance, often too much for slower, flat-footed centers and guards. Watching Williams play it's hard to argue he has the same raw speed. However, he's stronger than Jenkins. The stories of 600-pound bench presses aren't fiction, and if he can hone this speed he'll be dangerous at the next level. If you're interested in seeing his 40 yard dash from Wednesday, you can see it here.
At this time there's no indication the Panthers will bring him in for a workout, but if they don't at least take a look it's foolish. While he may not deserve the 14th pick outright, in a possible trade-down scenario the organization should have their bases covered -- especially at a need position like nose tackle.