The New Orleans Saints are potentially in the market for a defensive lineman as the 2013 NFL draft approaches thanks to Rob Ryan’s switch to a 3-4 scheme.
It is not set in stone how the depth chart will play out, but right now it appears Will Smith and Cameron Jordan will play the ends, with Akiem Hicks and Brodrick Bunkley taking turns at the tackle position.
If that’s the case, the Saints could look to add more talent in the trenches in the first round.
North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams could be the man.
Williams had a decorated career while at North Carolina. It also helps that he is versatile enough to play both nose tackle and defensive end in the Saints’ 3-4 scheme. Given the fact the above players mentioned do not have any experience in a 3-4, Williams could easily enter the 2013 season as a starter if drafted.
There are arguably much bigger needs for the Saints in the first round. The defensive backfield is an over-paid mess, there is an unknown commodity in the form of pass-rushers and Drew Brees is missing a left tackle to protect him with Jermon Bushrod gone.
That being said, if the Saints are intent on going with the defensive line in the first round (or it’s simply how their board plays out), the team could do much worse than Williams.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at his scouting profile.
Pros: As mentioned, Williams is a versatile player at 6’3″ and 313 pounds who is athletic enough to play any position on the line. Want proof? He registered a 4.99 40-yard dash—a jaw-dropping number for a man of his size.
Williams has a deadly bull-rush that can drive offensive linemen back on their heels. He combines this with an elite burst off the snap of the ball to keep the opposition guessing. It’s also encouraging that he has only played football for five years—he’s improved each year, and his ceiling is unknown.
Cons: Williams has two main issues—consistency and awareness. For now, Williams has issues with play-action, screen passes and simply tracking the ball through a crowd. It’s not a major issue, but one that has to improve over time or it will severely limit his ability to have a long career.
The other issue is actually a bit more concerning. Williams has not always been the most consistent player. He’s had hit motor questioned at times, which is something the Saints better be fully aware of if they make him the pick.
Pro Comparison: Geno Atkins, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
Geno Atkins is a versatile All-Pro defensive tackle who could play any position on a 3-4 front, but mans the tackle position in Cincinnati’s 4-3. Last season alone he notched 12.5 sacks and 53 tackles.
Williams compares to Atkins in size, but more importantly in speed and quickness to get to the quarterback. The only drastic difference between Atkins and Williams is one has an elite motor.
If the Saints can get the most out of Williams after making him the pick, they could have a player similar to one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL.