As it has been through the last few years, the Alabama Crimson Tide football team is putting a lot of potential and sure-fire first-round prospects out on the market. In 2012, there were four Alabama players selected in the first round, and eight overall in the draft. This year, we could see another four taken in the first round, and if defensive tackle Jesse Williams has anything to say about it, he's going to be one of them.
The 6-foot-4, 323-pound Williams was a moveable chess piece for Nick Saban, but found his real role as a game-changing nose tackle in 2012 after moving from five-tech defensive end. You'll also see him as a goal-line fullback, and at Alabama's Pro Day on Wednesday, Williams flashed every bit of the athleticism that shows up on tape -- and is highly unusual for a man used to crashing in straight over a center.
At the Alabama campus, Williams posted 40-yard dash times in the 4.84/4.92 range after missing the 40 at the combine due to a knee injury. Perhaps more importantly, he timed at 7.69 seconds in the three-cone drill, which would have ranked higher than some of the lighter defensive linemen at the scouting combine last month.
"I feel more comfortable being here because I played here and we practiced out here every day," Williams said after his Pro Day performance. "It is always good to come back here and show everyone what I've got."
What Williams has got is a load of athletic potential, though he's still putting the finishing touches together. He grew up in Australia, playing rugby and basketball, and didn't start playing football until he was 15. After two years at Western Arizona Community College, Williams joined the Tide in time for the 2011 season, and really came alive in 2012. He projects ideally as the pointman inside in any 3-4 defense, but because of his athleticism, he's got the ability to be an every-down player, moving to one-tech or three-tech tackle or even end on passing downs. Ranked at #35 on the Shutdown 50 Big Board, Williams could easily find himself slipping into the first round under the right circumstances.
For guard Chance Warmack and cornerback Dee Milliner, there are no first-round doubts -- both players will most likely be gone at the end of the first 10 picks, and perhaps the top 5. Warmack has a lot of experts believing that he's the best overall player in this draft class, and Milliner is rated as the best pass defender. Warmack, who ranks second on the Big Board, went through his position drills with his usual aggressiveness. He went at it with offensive tackle D.J. Fluker -- another likely first-rounder -- with blocking pads, and both players performed with high effort.
"I ain't scared of nobody," Fluker said after the workout. "Work day, baby. That's how we do it. It's the Bama way."
Milliner, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, stood on his numbers from a combine that couldn't have gone much better. Injury was more of a concern for running back Eddie Lacy, who was unable to participate in drills at the Pro Day due to a lingering hamstring injury that also prevented him from going all-out at the combine. Lacy has an outside shot at becoming the third straight 'Bama running back to be taken in the first round (following Mark Ingram in 2011 and Trent Richardson in 2012), but the injury has no doubt affected his overall status.
"I'm not concerned about it at all," he said. "NFL coaches like you because of what you do in games and what you do in big stadiums. This is just something that you want to receive glowing evaluations, but at the end of the day somebody takes you."
And as usual these days, a bunch of Alabama players will be taken in a big hurry.
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