When it comes to the SEC’s biggest 2017 NFL Draft steal, think potential over proven pop, room to rise over a bona fide star.
Think former Alabama linebacker Tim Williams, taken No. 78 overall by the Baltimore Ravens.
“When he arrives in Baltimore, he doesn’t have to play 800, 900 snaps in 2017,” said Gordon McGuinness, lead SEC writer for Pro Football Focus. “They can have him play 300 snaps literally just as a designated pass-rusher, basically. And I think that’s what he’s very good at. I think, Year 1, he’ll contribute as a pass-rusher regardless.
“But with the environment in Baltimore, if they can make sure that he keeps his head on straight and [he] keeps going in the right direction, I think he can potentially have a pretty big impact there going forward in terms of being a full-time player, because he has shown the flashes that he can be.”
The pre-NFL draft frenzy is a time for mock mania and praising future stars destined to become first-round gems. The weeks after the Roger Goodell gabfest? That’s a period when digging for diamonds in the rough becomes all the rage, when each general manager from Miami to Seattle dreams of a surprise gold rush.
Each team wants bang for its buck.
Each year, there are players who were taken in the middle-to-late rounds who prove they needed no bear hug from the commissioner to star on Sundays.
Williams could become one of those success stories following his 2017 NFL Draft slide. After totaling 57 tackles with 20 sacks at Alabama, he represents possible big-time value for Baltimore, a presence who could make a splash with the right polish. The former Crimson Tide defender is rough around the edges, with concerns that he never played more than 428 snaps in a single season in college. There also are worries about how he finished last fall, when he had 3 or fewer quarterback pressures in four of Alabama’s final five games.
Still, there’s a chance Williams shines with the appropriate care.
“He’s good enough against the run,” McGuinness said. “The concerns are just that you don’t know what you’re going to get from him in terms of how much you’re going to get from him on the field. You don’t know if he’s going to play 600-700 snaps, because we just haven’t seen it so far in college.
“I think the fact that Tim Williams slipped as far as the third round, I think means that he has quite a bit to prove, because on a pass-rushing production level, he’s good enough to be a first-round draft pick. We had a first-round grade on him, a late first but admittedly still a first-round grade. So he definitely has the potential to be significantly better than where he went in the draft. And I think he has probably landed in the best position where he can showcase that.”
Think the Ravens know a thing or two about cooking up a devilish defense?
The same franchise that made Ed Reed and Ray Lewis household names offers a favorable setting for Williams. The former Alabama player would be wise to become Terrell Suggs’ shadow and snatch trade secrets from the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker.
“If he can learn and take the initiative and take the leap from the guys around him who have been in the league a lot longer,” McGuinness said of Williams, “then his ceiling has to be a top pass-rusher in the NFL, a top edge defender.”
A topflight opportunity, a topflight chance to prove his worth.
In time, Williams could become the SEC’s largest steal of the 2017 NFL Draft.
“The talent and the flashes are absolutely there,” McGuinness said. “It’s just a case of him being able to put that together on a bigger sample size.”