2015 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Leonard Williams

  • Explosive
  • Strong
  • Adept at shedding blocks
  • Tough at the point of attack
  • Can use hands and feet at the same time
  • Quick feet
  • Can beat tackles and guards in the pass rush
  • Good run-defender
  • Ideal length for a 3-4 end
  • Closes well for a heavy end
  • Has speed around the corner
  • Can play with good leverage
  • Uses bull rush to push the pocket
  • Versatile
  • Perfect fit as a 3-4 end
  • Can play 4-3 end and tackle
  • Experienced 3-year starter
  • Upside
  • Toughness; plays banged up

  • Weaknesses:
  • Motor?
  • Takes plays off?
  • Should refine and add to his pass-rushing moves
  • Can have quiet stretches
  • Gets in trouble when he stands up too high

  • Summary: Williams was an impact player for USC from his freshman season on. He was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2012 off of a fabulous debut for the Trojans. Williams totaled 64 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, eight sacks, four passes batted and an interception that season. USC’s defense was led by Monte Kiffin that year, so the freshman gained some experience in an NFL defense.

    Williams notched 74 tackles with 13.5 tackles for a loss, a forced fumble and five sacks in 2013. Even though his sack numbers were down, he rushed the passer well and saw extra blocking attention.

    2014 was the junior’s best season. He recorded 80 tackles, seven sacks, 8.5 tackles for a loss, one interception, three forced fumbles and three passes batted. Williams faced double-teams on a consistent basis and played with an injured ankle. While he wasn’t 100 percent, he gutted it out and found a way to make some big plays to help his team pull off the upset versus Stanford. Williams seemed to be protecting himself and took his foot off the pedal in a blowout of Notre Dame, but he finished the year in impressive fashion against Nebraska.

    With his combination of speed and strength, Williams looks like a first-day NFL starter. He is very strong to shed blocks and is fast off the snap. Williams consistently blows by tackles or guards on the pass rush. He is well suited for left defensive end as he gives right tackles a lot of problems. Williams is generally a tough mismatch against all offensive linemen. He is too strong for most left tackles and too fast for right tackles or interior linemen. Off the snap, Williams has a fast burst to fire his gap and achieve penetration into the backfield.

    In the ground game, Williams can burst into the backfield to blow up runs and can hold his ground at the point of attack. However, there are areas that Williams can improve. He gets in trouble when he stands up too high, which allows offensive linemen to get under his pads and push him back when they run downhill at him. Williams also had some quiet games where he seemed to disappear in stretches. That could cause teams to question his motor and wonder about him taking plays off. Williams also should refine and add to his pass-rushing moves for NFL offensive linemen. It would be good to see him add a rip move and a club move, as those could be a mismatch with Williams’ strength against lighter left tackles.

    Those are only minor concerns though, and Williams is worthy of being drafted in the top five of the 2015 NFL Draft. He is a special defensive line prospect who has Pro Bowl potential for the next level. Williams has experience lining up in a variety of places as he can play defensive end and tackle.

    Williams would fit a 3-4 or 4-3 defense in the NFL. He would be an excellent five-technique for the former since he has strength and length to set the edge while also being able to rush the passer. Williams could play three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 or be a power left end who moves inside to tackle in passing situations. Really, Williams can be lined up anywhere on the defensive line.

    Williams is a safe pick with a high floor and upside to develop at the next level. There should be a lot of teams that are coveting him on draft day.

    Player Comparison: Richard Seymour. There are a similarities between Seymour’s game and Williams. Like Seymour, Williams is strong, quick and athletic. Seymour was an excellent defender in the Patriots’ 3-4 defense during the glory years for New England in the 2000s. Seymour was the sixth-overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, and Williams could go in that range as well.

    NFL Matches: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, Chicago, Atlanta

    If the Buccaneers were to acquire a veteran quarterback or decid they didn’t want to go with either Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston, Williams could be of interest. Lovie Smith will see Williams’ freshman tape and the production that Williams had in a Tampa-2 system while playing for Smith’s mentor Monte Kiffin. The Bucs need to improve their defensive line, so adding Williams with Gerald McCoy could form a devastating tandem for Tampa Bay.

    Many project the Titans to take Williams with the second-overall pick. Tennessee could use more help on the defensive line and in the pass rush. In Dick LeBeau’s 3-4 defense, Williams could fit as a five-technique.

    The Jaguars could give serious consideration to Williams. Jacksonville needs a defensive franchise player, which Williams could be for Gus Bradley. Bradley and defensive line coach Todd Wash have a coaching history with Kiffin as well. Williams would be a good fit in the Jaguars’ mix of the Tampa 2 and the Seahawks’ defense.

    A landing spot that makes a lot of sense for Williams is in Oakland. The Raiders need to improve their defensive line, and Williams could fit a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He would be a good player to pair with Khalil Mack rushing on the other side. Sources have told WalterFootball.com that Williams has signaled Oakland that he would like to play for the Raiders.

    The Bears and Falcons could end Williams fall if he were to slip out of the top five. Both teams could deem Williams too good to pass up. In Chicago, he could replace Jared Allen, while in Atlanta, he would give the Falcons a pass-rush presence they’ve missed since John Abraham was let go.


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