Alabama fielded one of the best and most talented defenses in recent memory this college football season. Each level of the defense had some sort of NFL talent and that translated into a dominant run by the team that culminated in a National Title appearance. The defense's best pure pass rusher is senior linebacker Tim Williams. Although Williams played more as a rotational piece during his career, he disrupted offenses whenever he stepped foot on the field. Despite not being a full time defender, Williams collected 19.5 sacks, 28.5 tackles, and a pair of forced fumbles. That is incredible production for his snap share and an exciting peak into what he could be in the NFL.
At 6-4, 252 pounds, Williams is a bit lighter than most defensive ends to come into the NFL. For comparison, Yannick Ngakoue weighed in at 252 at last year's combine, which put him in the 13th percentile for defensive end weight and Ngakoue was also two inches shorter than Williams is listed, meaning Williams is even skinnier. It is even possible that Williams' numbers are a bit generous and he could be even smaller than listed, which would raise a red flag.
Unfortunately the red flags do not end there.
Williams had a run in with the law during the season where he was arrested for carrying an unlicensed handgun. While this is definitely not the worst thing in the world, it is a notable lapse in judgement. What is more concerning are the recent rumors that Tim Williams has a substance abuse problem akin to Randy Gregory's. Gregory's addiction has been a serious problem for him and has gotten him in trouble with the league enough times to basically bury his career. If the rumors are true, there will be significant work to be done by NFL teams not only to see where Williams is at during the draft process, but also providing proper care for him when he is in the league. Addiction is no joke, and more important than football is that Williams gets the help he needs.
In terms of more football-related things, Williams is also an older prospect and will turn 24 during his rookie year, suggesting there is not a ton of room for him to physically improve. So it is safe to say that with Williams, what you see is what you get.
Luckily, that may not be a bad thing.
Often the worry with smaller pass rushers is how much power they can play with. Here Tim Williams immediately converts speed to power, bench pressing the tackle and immediately closing on the quarterback. Williams' ability to use his speed at will is so impressive. He accelerates immediately and maintains his speed through contact to make plays against the run and pass.
What is great for Williams' projection is the variety of ways Alabama used him. They lined him up on both sides of the formation, stood him up, put his hand in the ground, dropped him into coverage and used him on stunts, twists and delayed rushes. His athletic ability makes him a movable chess piece for defenses, but honestly he is at his best when he is just playing on the line and gunning for the ball.
This is a pretty simple speed rush from Williams and a common tool in his belt for disruption. He is just too fast off the line for the tackle and he dips under the block to get the sack. He is not just a speed rusher, however, as he has nuance to his game that allows him to use an array of pass rushing moves to disengage.
Williams rushes up field, but once the tackle commits to defending the edge, Williams counters inside for the sack. Once again, not only does Williams do a great job of using a move to get off the block, it is impressive how seamlessly he accelerates after changing direction, a testament to his athletic ability.
Another concern I have with Williams has to do with his overall conditioning. His being a rotational player despite being so talented may suggest that he can only handle a certain level of snaps and that certainly shows up against teams that really pushed tempo with Alabama. The Texas A&M game was a good example of Williams looking a bit worn down and disinterested at times. However, he turned it on towards the end of the game.
While this sack is a good example of his ability, it is also an impressive feat of stamina. With 16 minutes left in the game against a high tempo team like the Aggies, Williams fighting through contact and chasing down the quarterback for the sack shows what he can do if he wants to.
For Williams, his defense does not end at just pass rushing, he is also an excellent run defender.
It looks like Williams was stunting inside on this play, but still the athletic ability to immediately knife through the gap and the awareness to bring down the ball carrier is impressive. It is fair to say that this play could be a bit more a product of scheming and that it is just another example of Williams' athletic ability and finesse. However, he is also able to defend the run with physicality.
Williams is a lighter player, so seeing him anchor on the edge and hold his block to eventually make the run stop is incredible.
This is an even better play because Williams stacks, sheds and moves down the line to the ball carrier. this shows not only great physicality and technique, but also excellent awareness.
The truth is with Williams is everything he needs to do to be a successful NFL player is already on the tape. There is very little projection with him. What is going to be so important is seeing what his conditioning is like at the NFL level and hoping he can stay trouble free.
There are way too many parallels between Tim Williams and Bruce Irvin not to make the comparison. Like Williams, Bruce Irvin was an older prospect. Both players are smaller speed rushers who were used in a variety of ways in college, were incredibly productive and also, unfortunately, had some character questions to answer during the draft process. Irvin was able to overcome off field questions to go top 20 in the 2012 draft and has had a very solid career to this point.
Irvin was used a lot as an off ball linebacker who dropped into coverage and was asked to read and react a lot more than people may have anticipated while he was in college. This would actually be a very good role for Tim Williams in the NFL. His smaller stature and speed would fit him in at an outside linebacker spot in a 4-3 pretty nicely and teams can use his speed to blitz or put him on the line in pass rushing situations. It is also logical to put Williams on the edge as a stand up linebacker in defenses that ran more three man fronts.
Williams is a versatile player and there is no doubt he can be affective in various usages. The biggest question comes down to character. For the Eagles, he would be excellent in that Bruce Irvin role but could also be a full time defensive end who would excel when Jim Schwartz deploys a wide nine look on defense. However, with the character questions and age of Williams, while I think his on field talent warrants a first round pick, the team will need to do their homework before making that investment.