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Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina
Height: 6-3. Weight: 320.
Projected 40 Time: 5.19.
Projected Round (2013): 1-2

Overview


Even with the firing of head coach Butch Davis nearly two years ago, the defensive line talent (Davis' specialty) continues to flow out of Chapel Hill.

 


Davis and his staff recruited Williams out of Coffeyville Junior College, where he starred despite playing just one season of high school football. In his sophomore season at the JUCO, level Williams recorded 52 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and five blocked kicks. He immediately established himself as a standout once at UNC, starting all 13 games for the Heels and recording similar numbers despite the jump in competition (54 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks).


 


With opponents often shifting their protections to defend him in 2012, Williams' overall tackle numbers dipped to "just" 42 stops. Utilizing his unique combination of cat-like quickness and a lethal swim move, Williams emerged as one of the more dangerous big-play interior defenders in the country as a senior, however, earning First Team All-ACC honors from both coaches and the media with a career high 13.5 tackles for loss and six sacks.


 


Stout enough to control the action on the nose and quick enough to intrigue teams as a penetrating three-technique defensive tackle, Williams boasts clear first-round talent. But with consistency a concern, teams could be hesitant to gamble considering the depth at the position in the 2013 draft.

 

Analysis


STRENGTHS: Possesses a naturally large, thick build. Possesses a very quick first step and a lethal swim move (both arms, if necessary) to slip past interior linemen. Varies his burst off the snap, lulling his opponent into relaxing and can make the explosive tackle behind the line of scrimmage before the ball-carrier has had time to make his first cut.

 


Good strength for the bull rush. Has the strength to rip his arms free to disengage and shows a quick, closing burst. Very good strength for the drag-down tackle as ballcarriers attempt to run by him. Versatile. Asked to line up on the nose, defensive tackle and even out wide, showing the ability to hold up to double-teams. Improving awareness versus screens, draws. Good pursuit to the edge. Has only played football for five years and appears to be an ascending player.


 


WEAKNESSES: Struggles with consistency. Can make the flashy play and then disappear for long stretches. Relies on his swim move to slip past the defender but has only average flexibility, which forces him to turn his back to "get skinny." When doing so, Williams often loses sight of the ball, actually helping his opponent create easy lanes, at times.


 


Lack of ideal flexibility and awareness is also evident against cut-blocks, as he is often knocked to the ground and has only average quickness in getting back up to get himself back into the play. While he shows good pursuit to the edge, Williams loses steam quickly and doesn't give much effort downfield.


 


COMPARES TO: Gerard Warren, DT, New England Patriots -- Like the 12-year veteran of the NFL trenches, Williams possesses precisely the combination of size, power, and burst to dominate the middle. The question for scouts will be if he has the work ethic to dominate consistently.

 

Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina


University of North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams has overcome adversity to become one of the premiere talents in the nation. After bouncing in and out of high school, Williams found his way in junior college before making a name for himself with the Tar Heels.

Williams is an well-built prospect that does well to gain penetration into the backfield. Technique is a bit inconsistent, yet he moves very well laterally and can take away running lanes. Not a huge player that can consistently handle double teams. At his best in one-on-one situations where he can rip, swim, and adjust his feet to make a play on the ball.


Can get a bit reckless, frustrated, and out of control in his pursuit when trying to gain ground. Tries to stay on assignment but sometimes gets caught pushing into the backfield when he needs to protect his lane. Williams has a good motor but stamina is a concern late in games. He will need to learn how to bring consistent effort from start to finish.


Williams currently projects as a late first to early second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

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Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist

 

 

When considering raw athleticism and size, SMU Mustangs defensive lineman Margus Hunt may have the highest potential in the 2013 draft class. Hunt is a huge prospect with limited football experience that should hear his named called in the first two days of the draft.

Hunt was born in Estonia and will be 26 years old at the start of next season. He has only been playing football since his freshman year in 2009 and has a decorated background in track and field (shot put and discus).

Lots of hype entering senior year and struggled at times with defenses really keying on him. Needs to get better against the run by staying low with his pad level. Can be driven off the ball. When pass-rushing, he does a great job of hitting the gaps by contorting his body through tight spaces. Will regularly get into the backfield although he is not a strong finisher when given an opportunity to bring down the ball-carrier.

Elite talent at blocking kicks with his huge wingspan and height. Tremendous speed for a player his size (4.7 40-yard dash). At his best when he focus his pursuit downhill, extend his arms to take on blockers and disrupt the backfield.

Hunt projects as a second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

 

Overview

 

 

The NFL loves upside, and few prospects possess more of it than Hunt, a gold medal-winning track and field athlete and native of Estonia who has only been playing football since 2009.

 

Possessing an extraordinary combination of size and explosiveness, Hunt became the first junior athlete to ever win both the shot put and discus gold medals the same year, accomplishing both feats at the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing. He moved to Dallas to train with SMU's world-renowned track and field coach Dave Wollman just in time to see the university drop the program. Rather than move again, Hunt elected to try football.

 

The game didn't initially come easy to Hunt. Despite playing in 13 games in 2009, he recorded just eight total tackles. He nearly doubled the SMU record, however, by blocking an eye-popping seven kicks in his first season, coming within one of tying the NCAA single-season record. Hunt blocked three more kicks in 2010 and saw his production jump in every other category, as well, notching 45 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his second year of playing.

 

Though Hunt's stops behind the line of scrimmage would rise as a junior (7.5, including 3.0 sacks) and senior (11.5 including 8.0 sacks), Hunt's ascent hasn't been as consistent as scouts might have envisioned after his first two years. The 45 overall tackles he posted as a sophomore remain his single-season career high.

 

Characterized by CBS' Bruce Feldman as the biggest athletic "freak" in college football, Hunt possesses the extraordinary upside to warrant early consideration. After four years in the game, however, he remains a better athlete than football player, and ranks as one of the bigger boom-or-bust prospects of the 2013 draft.

 

 

Analysis

 

 

STRENGTHS: Certainly looks the part. Possesses a long, tapered build with room for additional muscle mass. Boasts a surprisingly quick first step and gains ground efficiently due to his long strides. Closes quickly on the ballcarrier due and can provide a thump on arrival.

 

Naturally powerful defender who can simply bull-rush his opponent deep into the pocket. Big, strong and reasonably active hands to fight through blockers' attempts at grasping a hold of him. Good hand-eye coordination and times his leaps well to aid in his kick-blocking prowess. Has emerged as a player the offense must account for on virtually every snap and yet remains a better athlete than football player, which speaks to his exciting upside.

 

WEAKNESSES: Highly inconsistent. Has a tendency to make a splashy play and then disappear for long periods of the game. Struggles with pad level and can get blown off the ball against the run because he loses the leverage battle.

 

Like a lot of taller defensive ends, Hunt is stiff in his upper body and he struggles to re-direct when attempting to break down and tackle agile ball-carriers. Can be eluded and has a tendency to lunge at ball-carriers as a result, leading to some ugly whiffs.

 

Doesn't get his hands into passing windows as much as he should considering his height and kick-blocking prowess. Has only seven passes defended in 53 games. Inconsistent effort in downfield pursuit.

 

COMPARES TO: Corey Wootton, DE, Chicago Bears -- Wootton was a productive player at Northwestern who slid on draft day due to injury concerns. Optimistic talent evaluators preached patience as Wootton had shown the length, power and surprising speed to be successful once he acclimated to the NFL and healed sufficiently. While the concern with Hunt lies with his relative inexperience and inconsistency, the team that gambles on Hunt could be similarly rewarded with a future standout.

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Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

Overview


Under head coach Nick Saban, Alabama typically has built its program with highly regarded high school recruits. In the case of Williams, the Crimson Tide went the junior college route.

 


Williams, who grew up playing rugby and basketball in Brisbane, Australia, only took up football at the age of 15. Once he joined the sport, however, it became obvious that his combination of size, power and athleticism could result in big things.


 


Coaches from the University of Hawaii quickly recognized his talent when they were in Australia performing at a clinic and they got Williams, then 16 years-old, to commit to their program. It was soon discovered that Williams was missing an English and math class. Rather than spend another year in the classroom so that he could play at Hawaii, Williams elected to go to Western Arizona Community College. There, he quickly proved himself to be a man amongst boys, posting 76 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and six sacks over two seasons (18 games) and quickly earning recognition as one of the elite JUCO prospects in the country.


 


He eventually chose Alabama over LSU, Oklahoma State, Southern California, Arkansas, Oregon State, Mississippi and Tennessee.


 


In his first season with the Tide in 2011, Williams started all 13 games as a five-technique defensive end, posting 24 tackles, including four tackles for loss and half a sack. Due to his agility, Williams was moved inside to defensive tackle on passing downs.


 


He transitioned to nose guard in 2012, putting together a second-team All-SEC season. Williams anchored the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation playing the zero-technique position he took over during spring practice.


 


He has even seen some snaps on offense in goal-line situations as a lead fullback and with his rugby background, he hopes to get his hands on the ball. At 6-3, 320, he has the muscle and agile feet to line up in any defensive scheme.

 

 

Analysis


STRENGTHS: Has a naturally wide frame with relatively short limbs, giving him the low center of gravity conducive to holding up at the point of attack.

 


Possesses unbelievable weight-room strength (600 pound bench press) that translates well onto the football field due to his use of leverage and surprisingly good technique considering the fact that he's a relative neophyte who only took up the game at age 15 and has played just four seasons of football in the United States.


 


Has improved his use of hands over his two seasons at Alabama and has developed into a cognitive defender capable of reading the action, shedding the block with heavy, active hands and making the tackle in the hole.


 


Has the length to play outside as a five-technique defensive end, a role in which he initially played during his junior season with the Tide before sliding inside to the nose as a senior. Good phone-booth quickness and plays hard, competing to the whistle.


 


Also served as Alabama's short-yardage fullback in 2012, a testament to his power and aggression. An ascending talent with passion and work ethic to improve.


 


WEAKNESSES: Bit of a one-trick pony as Williams does not possess the quickness or the agility to collapse the pocket as a pass rusher. Must do a better job of protecting his knees as he is susceptible to cut blocks. Too often raises his pad level at the snap, negating some of his power and making him all the more vulnerable to cuts, as he possesses only moderate flexibility.


 


Has to do a better job of getting his hands up in passing lanes as he rarely gets home as a pass rusher (just three passes broken up in 25 career starts at Alabama).


 


Plays with good effort but lacks lateral agility and struggles to knock down ballcarriers with any room to maneuver.


 


COMPARES TO: Vince Wilfork, New England Patriots -- Like the Patriots' run-stuffing nose guard, Williams isn't going to pressure the quarterback often but his size and strength will make him a force in the middle.

 

 

 

University of Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams is a very thick prospect with a well-balanced game. He does not have many glaring weaknesses and can contribute both against the run and pass.

Williams is quick in short spaces and really gets after the action. Finds himself in the mix and fights for position until the whistle. Not physically dominant, but he can impose his will on guys if he can get good hand placement. Williams is an average athlete and may not ever grow into anything more than a rotational player. Needs to bring high energy late in games and usually starts far better than he finishes. He'll need to add muscle to his lower half. Strong upper body can overpower defenders with the proper leverage. Must lose baby fat and add more muscle to really push blockers into the backfield.


Good snap anticipation. Still new to the game of football after growing up in Australia. Decent ceiling as he continues to learn the finer techniques. Very good tackler when someone gets in his zone. Really explodes into the ball-carrier and can punish opponents if he has any forward momentum.


Williams projects as a second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.


 

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William Gholston, DE, Michigan State

 

 

William Gholston put together a solid collegiate career while at Michigan State. Terrific height and bulk to be a traditional end at the next level.

Gholston is a power-rusher with raw, underdeveloped talent. Lateral agility is lacking, but moves quickly downhill. Long frame can eat up ground quickly. Can collapse the pocket and gets up well to swat at passing lanes. Relies on wearing down his blocker and brings good intensity throughout the game.

Strong tackler and can bring down ball-carriers hard. Well-balanced game, but unlikely to ever be a dominant pass-rusher in the NFL. Could transition to a 3-4 end later in his career given his huge length. Potential in short zone coverages, but currently very stiff in his lower half and footwork.

Cousins with former New York Jets OLB Vernon Gholston. Plays hot with high energy. Maintains good gap integrity and stays on assignment reliably. Defensive leader with the Spartans and led one of the Big Ten's best defenses the last two seasons.

Gholston projects as a third round prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Overview

 

 

Blue chip high school recruits out of the state of Michigan usually end up in Ann Arbor or another big-time program like USC (Nick Perry) or Alabama (Mark Ingram). But the much-heralded Gholston, a five-star recruit who had offers from just about every program in the nation, landed in East Lansing and slowly but surely came into his own as one of the top defensive linemen in the Big Ten.

 

He spent his true freshman season as a backup defensive end/linebacker, but a shoulder injury ended his season prematurely. Gholston returned as a starting sophomore defensive end in 2011 and set several career-bests with 70 tackles, 16.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks and one forced fumble, earning Second Team All-Big Ten honors.

 

However, his 2011 season wasn't without some controversy, as Gholston was suspended for Michigan State's last second Hail Mary win over Wisconsin because of a few dirty plays against rival Michigan a week earlier (punching left tackle Tyler Lewan and twisting quarterback Denard Robinson's helmet). With the full support of the coaching staff and zero off-field incidents, it would be unfair to label Gholston as a bad character prospect, but his football focus and on-field demeanor is a question mark that the NFL won't ignore.

 

Scouts also can't ignore the solid numbers Gholston put up in 2012: 59 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss to go along with 10 passes defensed and a forced fumble. His decision to leave school a year early may have been prompted by the recent birth of his first child.

 

If Gholston's name is familiar in NFL circles, it's because his cousin is former Ohio State star Vernon Gholston, who was a bust as a first-round pick by the Jets and is currently out of the league.

 

Similar to Jerel Worthy in 2011, Gholston isn't the "elite" defensive lineman that some believe, but he does have pass rush ability and has yet to reach his ceiling.

 

 

Analysis

 

 

STRENGTHS: At 6-7 and 280-pounds, he has the size, length and physical skills to maul blockers coupled with the athleticism to play in space and beat linemen with quickness.

 

WEAKNESSES: Plays too stiff and needs to develop a better array of pass rush moves, too often relying on his natural tools and not technique. Lackluster first two seasons was followed by a solid, but not outstanding, junior season, failing to quell some questions about his work ethic and motor.

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Devin Taylor, DE/OLB, South Carolina

Overview


Understandable if you couldn't take your eyes off Jadeveon Clowney when watching the Gamecocks defensive line play, but opposite the sophomore sensation was Taylor who had a productive career himself. After redshirting in 2008, he saw time as the starter each of the last four years, finishing his South Carolina career with 45 career starts. Unfortunately his statistics declined each season from his sophomore year (7.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss) to his junior season (6 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss) and then his senior year in 2012 (3 sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss).

 


Taylor is going to be an interesting grade for NFL clubs due to the fact that he offers a unique combination of size and overall athleticism. Unfortunately, due to his high-cut frame, he's also stiff, struggling with the flexibility necessary to turn the corner efficiently when he does cross the line. His terrific speed allows him to chase down ball-carriers and make flashy plays but too often Taylor is eluded in short spaces.

 

 

Analysis


Strengths: Tall and long with freakishly long wingspan (87"). Long-striding athlete. Very good straight-line speed for his size with good chase skills. Experience standing up and dropping in coverage as well as in a 3-point stance at defensive end.

 


Nice job holding the edge against the run and keeps his eyes elevated. Usually plays smart with good recognition skills, displaying very good discipline. Doesn't quit and will make plays downfield or away from the line of scrimmage. Get his hands up to deflect passes (18 career passes defended including a pair of interceptions). Good experience as a four-year SEC starter.


 


Weaknesses: Not a quick-twitch athlete and little snap explosion, especially with his hand on the ground. Tight hips, ankles and lacks natural fluidity to burst to the play, struggling to smoothly redirect. Lean-muscled and will get pushed around, lacking natural power on his frame.


 


Lacks a feisty temperament and would like to see more of a sense of urgency from him. Good length but needs to generate more power from his upper body. Lacks ideal bulk and might be tapped out in terms of growth potential. Too lethargic at times and doesn't always finish. Declining production the past few years is a red flag.

 

 

 

Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina


Taylor came out of almost nowhere for a huge sophomore season at South Carolina in 2010. The hulking defensive end redshirted in 2008, backed up a host of talented Gamecock defenders in 2009, then broke onto the scene one year later. Taylor had seven sacks (second on the team) and made a team-leading 13 tackles for loss. He was named a First Team All-SEC performer by the Associated Press and was named to the All-SEC Second Team by the conference's coaches. Taylor has been seeing a lot more attention from offensive linemen this season and his stats are down as a junior -- three tackles for loss and two sacks through seven games (although he does lead the team with five quarterback hurries).

NFL scouts are not so much worried about the numbers (because they know what Taylor can do) and they love his upside. The Beaufort, SC native stands at 6'6'' and weighs in at 260 pounds. He has been clocked as fast as 4.68 in the 40-yard dash, so to say this guy is a physical specimen would be an understatement. Taylor would do well to add a little bit more bulk to his tall frame, because while he can often manhandle college offensive linemen, that may not be the case in the NFL. If not, he will have to improve his around-the-end speed. Despite lackluster stats, Taylor should still be a first-round selection (assuming he leaves early for the 2012 draft) and he could be one of the first few DEs off the board.


 

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Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU

A native of Ghana who signed on with BYU as a member of the track team and with aspirations of one day turning his unique combination of size and athleticism into a chance at the NBA, Ansah entered the 2012 season completely off the radar of NFL scouts.

 


It isn't difficult to understand why. Ansah had only joined the BYU football team two years earlier and entered his senior season with zero career starts and just 10 total tackles.


 


Fast-forward a year and Ansah is routinely mentioned as the hottest NFL prospect in the country and a legitimate first-round contender, perhaps even a very high pick.


 


Playing in all 13 games (but starting just nine of them), Ansah registered 62 tackles in 2012, including 13 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Ansah likely would have registered more sacks (he had team-high eight quarterback pressures) if not for the Cougars boasting another terrific pass rusher in junior outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy (13.5 sacks).


 


Taking full advantage of Ansah's ability to create mismatches, the BYU staff moved him all over the field in 2012, lining up as an stand-up rush linebacker (left, right and middle), a classic defensive end (left, right) and even as a nose guard, at times.


 


A creative NFL defensive coordinator will likely find Ansah's versatility, size and power similarly useful.

 

 

STRENGTHS: Rare combination of size, athleticism and natural power. Has a long, well-distributed frame with room for additional muscle mass without a significant loss of quickness. Flashes an explosive initial punch to the offensive lineman to gain space.

 


Possesses rare balance that allows him to maintain his feet despite taking long-strides that gobble up space between he and the quarterback with surprising speed. Balance and surprising lateral agility is also evident in changing directions. Has good -- not great -- strength but very good natural explosiveness to bull rush his opponent into the pocket.


 


Slips off blocks when the ball-carrier is near, latching on with his long arms and big hands for the drag-down tackle. Seemed to improve nearly game to game in 2012, especially when it came to locating the football. Began to sniff out screens and draws as the season wore on, demonstrating good awareness and hustle to complement his physical traits. Already shows excellent recognition and use of hands in pass defense, getting his hands up to knock down nine passes in 2012.


 


Possesses significant untapped potential and is an ascending talent whose best football is ahead of him.


 


WEAKNESSES: Lacks elite first-step quickness off the snap. Relies too much on his speed, size and an explosive first punch to shock his opponent with his initial surge, struggling to break free if the blocker grabs a hold of Ansah's jersey or chest plate.


 


Must learn to chop with his hands most consistently and powerfully to break free once engaged. Allows his pad level to rise and can be pushed back in the running game. Has only played football since 2010 and has just one season as a starter.


 


COMPARES TO: Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants -- Ansah is not the same terror-off-the-edge pass-rusher that Pierre-Paul was coming out of South Florida, but he's similarly gifted and plays with greater commitment to the run. Like there was with Pierre-Paul, there is some risk factor with Ansah, but his upside is through the roof.

 

 

Brigham Young University's Ezekiel Ansah had big shoes to fill with his namesake and he probably has that covered physically. Ansah is a huge prospect who will pass the eyeball test with no problems and matches that with elite athletic upside.

Ansah is originally from Ghana and had never played football in his life prior to 2010. Naturally this means he is a project and will need time to be groomed. Luckily for him, his physical tools are so obvious that he may start in his first game as a rookie.


Versatile athlete that can play all over the field with a knack for pass-rushing. Violent short burst, sharp change of direction, flexible in bending the corner. Good strength, but lacks a thick base given his long frame.


Not a great run defender since he can be pushed back. May begin his career as a pass-rush specialist only. His long arms can initiate contact and hold ground. Lack of lower half power can be driven off the ball.


Ansah is a natural athlete that brings an outstanding effort and rarely seen, almost unheard of high ceiling to the table. Could fly up draft boards after the combine or could fall slightly if teams have serious concerns about his play against the run. He projects as a first round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

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