Two sacks in two years.
That's how many quarterback takedowns Vanderbilt's Chris Williams
allowed in the 24 games he played at left tackle in 2006 and 2007. There are
many reasons he's considered the best lineman in the history of his school,
but that's a pretty good place to start. After redshirting in 2003, playing
on the scout team in 2004 and alternating between tackle and guard in 2005,
Williams found his niche with the full-time switch to the left tackle position
Participating in the SEC wars, Williams' technique has developed
to the point that he's become an almost impenetrable pass blocker. NFLDraftScout.com
reports that his consistency blocking grade of 85.67 percent was the SEC's best.
Williams' third-team All-American mention after the 2007 season,
and first-team conference nod, were augmented by a great week at the Senior
Bowl. He was one of the most notable performers throughout the practices, and
he enjoyed a solid performance in the game. "I didn’t surprise myself,
I knew I could play well," Williams said at the 2008 Scouting Combine.
"I talked to my offensive line coach before I left and he just said go
do what he taught me, go do what I do well. I just went down there and had fun
and played well."
Though his college used to be unheralded from an NFL recruiting
perspective, the recent ascent of current Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler really
put the Commodores on the map. Does he see the difference? I’m sure he
helped a lot," he said. "To be able to throw a name like Jay Cutler
around probably helps a lot in recruiting. It can be like, ‘Jay Cutler
went here, a lightly recruited guy, come in and be able to get drafted, what,
12th overall, basically anybody can do it, I guess."
And while teammates Earl Bennett, Jonathan Goff and Curtis Gatewood
are trying to make their mark, there's no question that most of the focus in
on this 6'6", 315-pound mountain of a man. It's not only his technique,
but also his versatility that sticks with scouts. Like many of the current tackle
class, Williams can move to guard if need be, though the consensus seems to
be that his athleticism would be slightly wasted inside.
"Yeah, I play anywhere," he said about his college
career, and how different opportunities presented themselves. "I think
it helps to be able to fill as many roster spots as you can. Teams typically
travel (with) about seven offensive linemen, so if you can plug in different
places, you’re got a lot more value to the team, especially if you’re
not a starter."
It's really at left tackle that he'll shine, and the nation
got a good look at his prospects when he arrived in Mobile to prepare for the
Senior Bowl. He played both tackle spots and at left guard, showed a bit of
a learning curve with more unfamiliar positions at first, but displayed his
intelligence and determination when he was able to quickly recover after losing
What seems to be the only debit against Williams is the notion
that he's more technique and pass-blocking, and his mean streak -- and ability
to run-block and take on bull-rushes -- may not be developed enough. Williams,
as proud as he is of his ability to perform at a level that has drawn comparisons
to D'Brickashaw Ferguson, believes that the nastier side of his game hasn't
been discussed enough.
"Offensive line is a tough position, it’s not always about
talent," he said. "It’s about can you play through pain, can
you play though injuries, can you play every snap. So it’s not a position
where people rotate a lot. I haven’t had anyone ask me about it, but it’s
obvious you need it.
"I play hard, I think I am a balanced player. I’m
probably a little better at pass blocking than run blocking, but I’m balanced,
I think I can do anything in any system."
Williams may not be getting the same number of warm fuzzies
that other potential first-round tackles are from analysts -- he seems to be
the respected but forgotten member of this great group of offensive linemen
-- but he may also be among the best pure left tackle prospects because of his
hard work and pure technique. If he can fill in the few blanks, it's quite possible
that the teams who will watch Chris Williams drop to the second half of the
first round will later regret not making the move.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET,
a staff writer for Football
Outsiders, and he writes NFL previews for the New
York Sun. Feel free to e-mail Doug here.