For those fantasy leagues that use defensive linemen as a part of an IDP package, the 2015 NFL Draft will be an exciting time. The only significant defender that will be a defensive lineman no matter what is the ultra-talented, Leonard Williams. The former USC playmaker can line up at defensive end or defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme or anchor either defensive end spot in a 3-4 formation. After hearing about what an amazing talent he was, I watched seven of his games against Fresno State, California, Nebraska, Arizona State, Utah, Notre Dame, and Arizona to decide for myself. Here is what I found:
DE/DT Leonard Williams, USC 6’ 5” 302 lbs.
Cons: Despite being a fantastic, athletic man, Williams is still raw and needs to improve his technique, especially getting too high out of his stance while chasing down whoever has the pigskin. He really needs to get better at the psychology of setting up moves in the first quarter that will free him up to make plays in the fourth. There were a few times that emotions ran high with him and he got penalized on back to back plays. The defender needs to keep in mind the phrase “the game is chess, not checkers.” Once he gets the long game down, Williams will be downright scary.
Pros: The defender fits any scheme and can play against the run or pass equally well. Williams explodes off the snap with a good first step, getting good initial penetration, and flows down the line of scrimmage quickly through the trash in his way with cat-like balance. He has great, powerful hands that he uses to punch while dispatching of blockers quickly or just simply swats them away. It doesn’t matter whether he fires out of a four or three-point stance as he just springs right into the heart of the play.
When teams decide to run his way, Williams anchors and gets low with enough leverage to take on double teams, freeing up a linebacker to make the play. The defender has amazing balance, quickness, and anticipation to flow to the ball or cause a huge disruption on the way there. He is relentless once the ball carrier is in his sights, never giving up on the play chasing twenty or thirty yards downfield if necessary. I love the way Williams likes to punish his prey by smashing into them while throwing his weight around and then making the ball carrier crumble beneath him.
Williams changes directions almost effortlessly while using combinations of spins, swims, clubs, and bull rushes to attack the quarterback. It doesn’t matter if he gets lined up in front of a guard or tackle, the defender will find a way through or around them. If he can’t reach the signal caller, the defender gets his hands up and tries to time his jumps to knock down the pass. Don’t underestimate his athleticism though because Williams can tip the ball to himself and is a threat to score too. He can play effectively hurt and is always looking for a way to separate the offense from the ball.
Overall thoughts: While he is no JJ Watt, Williams is an extremely talented defensive weapon. If he finds himself on a team like Tennessee or Jacksonville, he will make their entire defense stronger. I would be trying to grab him on any roster that uses defensive linemen.
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